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European photonics gets EPIC boost

21 Nov 2003

The European Photonics Industry Consortium aims to develop a roadmap for optical manufacturing technology.

The newly formed European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) has a grand plan: "to build a more competitive European photonics industrial sector, capable of economic and technological growth in a highly competitive worldwide market-place". In short, EPIC aims to bring together key players in the photonics industry, including equipment manufacturers, component vendors and users of photonics components.

Set up by the European Commission, EPIC is an independent organization, owned and operated by its member companies and supported financially by annual membership fees. The consortium has five founding members: AIXTRON, Germany; Cambridge Display Technology, UK; OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Germany; Philips of the Netherlands; and SAGEM, France.

EPIC's main activities will encompass three areas: dialog with the European Commission, ownership of the European roadmap for photonic technologies, and maintaining and developing a workforce of photonics scientists and engineers in Europe.

By giving EPIC the thumbs-up, the European Commission hopes to benefit from a direct dialogue with photonic industries throughout Europe. The scheme will help the Commission determine the content of future R&D programs and improve access to these programs, particularly by small- and medium-sized enterprises. And firms that are members of EPIC will benefit from an opportunity to influence the content of European R&D funding.

The second activity sees EPIC members develop a roadmap for photonic manufacturing technologies. This roadmap will standardize fabrication processes and equipment, leading to lower capital and operating costs, and thus better profit margins for the component manufacturers.

"A roadmap for the development and performance of components is not possible, because the applications are too widely varied," explained Thomas Pearsall, EPIC's general secretary. "However, there are important issues related to cost of production - such as packaging, coupling, lithography, etching and thin-film deposition - that are common to large areas of the photonics sector where a technology roadmap can make a significant difference."

The third aim is to produce a trained workforce of engineers, scientists and technicians to work in Europe. EPIC's Advanced Components Cooperation for Optoelectronic Research and Development (ACCORD) program aims to help commercial vendors and university research laboratories work together.

The program will cover the costs when companies produce prototype devices and systems for evaluation by universities and research laboratories. The laboratories, meanwhile, will receive the prototype components for free. Crucially, ACCORD is open to all European companies and universities, membership of EPIC is not a requirement for participation.

•  Membership of EPIC is open to companies, research institutions, universities and financial institutions operating in Europe. Operations will begin in January 2004. For more information, contact EPIC, Espace Hamelin, 17, rue Hamelin, 75016 Paris, France; telephone: + 33 1 4505 7263; E-mail: pearsall@epic-assoc.com.

Author
Tami Freeman is technology editor of the FibreSystems group.

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