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Swave Photonics gains US investors with €3M top-up funding

22 Jun 2023

Belgian startup company is targeting extended reality applications with its diffractive optics technology.

Swave Photonics, the spin-off from Belgium’s imec and Vrije Univeriteit Brussel, says it has raised a further €3 million to further develop its diffractive optics technology for extended reality (XR) applications.

The top-up brings its total seed funding to €10 million, following the €7 million previously provided by imec’s own “xpand” venture capital fund, alongside the Flanders Future Techfund (FFTF), and QBIC, a Belgian inter-university venture fund.

The additional funding has been secured from a combination of the original backers, plus two new US-based investors in the form of Seattle’s Acequia Capital, and Rochester’s Luminate NY photonics incubator fund.

“Their participation, even amidst a challenging fundraising landscape, amplifies the significance and potential of Swave's groundbreaking holographic and photonics solutions,” stated the company.

“This seed round positions Swave well to execute on its augmented reality roadmap and engage future customers, partners and investors interested in driving true holography for spatial computing.”

Luminate NY's investment is a result from Swave's recent selection as a finalist in its photonics-focused accelerator program and competition, while the firm also won SPIE’s Startup Challenge at Photonics West earlier this year.

Vote of confidence
Swave’s CEO Mike Noonen, who took over the lead executive role from co-founder Theodore Marescaux last October, added: “This collective vote of confidence in our groundbreaking technology and dedicated team underlines our commitment to revolutionize augmented reality through true holography.”

Noonen brings a wealth of experience from the semiconductor industry, with his LinkedIn profile listing past roles at National Semiconductor, Cisco Systems, NXP Semiconductors, and GlobalFoundries, among others.

Swave chairman Pieter Vorenkamp commented: “We are exceptionally proud of the progress the team at Swave Photonics has made to date. The innovative holographic technology developed by Swave is the result of their technical leadership and shared dedication to driving forward the boundaries of what's possible.

“I am confident this technical prowess will soon translate into operational excellence as we transition the technology into products, enabling mass-volume augmented reality applications. The future of holography lies in the hands of this outstanding team, and we're excited to be a part of this journey.”

HXR chips
That technology was the result of initial research by Xavier Rottenberg and his team at imec, and is referred to as “holographic extended reality” (HXR).

“HXR projects lifelike holographic images that eliminate today’s AR/VR/XR challenges of focal depth and eye tracking, so viewers can easily focus on nearby and faraway objects,” claims the firm.

“Most importantly, the HXR chips are manufactured using standard CMOS technology, which enables cost-effective scaling.”

When it raised the initial tranche of its seed funding last year, Swave said that was expecting to begin sampling its HXR chips in 2023. The chips are set to be made available in two formats - a large (2 cm x 2 cm) version for high-end, immersive displays, and a smaller design (0.5 cm x 0.5 cm) aimed at ultra-lightweight wearable devices.

Target applications include metaverse platforms, 360-degree holographic walls, 3D gaming, AR/VR/XR glasses, collaborative video conferencing, and head-up displays for automotive and aerospace systems.

Swave also thinks that the technology will play a key role in the future of remote working, by providing much more immersive video conferencing capability than is currently possible.

Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationUniverse Kogaku America Inc.Optikos Corporation AlluxaLaCroix Precision OpticsMad City Labs, Inc.SPECTROGON AB
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