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Rockley Photonics announces further $52M funding

03 Jul 2019

Latest investment round, the first close of its Series E investment round, takes the total raised by Rockley to date to $165m.

Rockley Photonics, a growing silicon photonics solutions provider, has announced the successful first closure in its Series E funding round. Investors in the additional $52 million funding include a key strategic partner, Morningside Technology Ventures and numerous private investors. This latest funding round takes the total raised by Rockley to date to $165m.

Set up by former Bookham Technology founder Andrew Rickman in 2013, Rockley is primarily targeting optical link applications in data centers, although the company also released a silicon photonics platform for sensing recently.

Mahesh Karanth, chief financial officer at Rockley explained: “With this latest round of investment, Rockley is strengthening its position as a leading integrated silicon photonics solutions provider. It will support the full execution of our business plan and continued growth as we make significant strides in co-packaging for optoASICs and data center connectivity, LiDAR and consumer electronic applications.”

Silicon photonics involves the micro-integration of optical functions on silicon chips and is the optical counterpart of micro-electronic integrated circuits. The innovative technology transforms applications that were once the domain of traditional, pure electronic chip technologies. It is evolving into a core enabling technology for numerous burgeoning markets including Web 2.0 data centers, 5G, AI, autonomy, machine vision and healthcare.

Market analysis firm Yole Développement estimated the global market for silicon photonics to be worth $500 million in 2018 with growth predicted to exceed $3.5 billion by 2025.

Andrew Rickman, CEO at Rockley, added, “Rockley is uniquely positioned having developed a proprietary photonics platform and manufacturing technologies, underpinned by a depth of expertise that goes back some 30 years. We are currently using our platform to address applications in the data center and high-performance computing, medical and life sciences, and 3D imaging/sensing verticals with the potential for additional verticals in the future.”

Coherent sensing capabilities

In mid-June, 2019, Rockley demonstrated the strength of its coherent sensing capabilities in its silicon photonics platform. At Sensors Expo, in San Jose, the company showcased its Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave LiDAR.

Integrated optical coherent sensor technology enables miniaturization, high sensitivity, eye safety and scalability to be delivered into all fields of LiDAR, spectroscopy and other sensor applications. Rockley says this approach is "broadly considered enabling for advances in a wide range of markets from automotive to healthcare."

The LiDAR market alone is estimated to be worth over $6 billion by 2024, with demand growing rapidly in advanced automotive safety systems (ADAS), vehicle autonomy and industrial machine vision. Rockly commented that its use, however, is "currently limited in price-sensitive markets because of the high cost and the precise manufacturing tolerances required."

Rickman said, "The silicon photonics platform is suited to solving the challenges faced by LiDAR technologies. Our platform provides the scalability to enable the low cost required to bring LiDAR imaging and other advanced sensing solutions into the mainstream.

"In an FMCW LiDAR system, only a single acquisition of data is required for coherent technology to measure accurate target velocity – a capability unachievable with most LiDARs in use today and an enormous benefit towards achieving full autonomy."

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