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Smart Photonics hails €100M funding

18 Jul 2023

Semiconductor firms including ASML lend support to Netherlands-based InP chip foundry.

Smart Photonics, the indium phosphide (InP) photonic chip foundry in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, says it has secured an additional €100 million in funding.

The latest finance comes from a combination of major players in the semiconductor industry, as well as local banks and the Dutch government.

It follows earlier rounds of support, including €35 million of venture finance in 2020, a €13 million loan the following year, and a €75 million grant via the “PhotonDelta” growth fund.

Strategic industry support
According to Smart Photonics, the new funding will be used to extend its manufacturing capabilities and accelerate the development of InP-based photonic integrated chip (PIC) technology platforms and process design kits (PDKs).

PDKs provide fabless customers with standardized chip functions that can be combined in multiple ways, for applications across a broad range of end-markets.

Smart Photonics, which has a current capacity of 5000 wafer starts per year, produces PICs for telecom and datacom, including quantum-encrypted links, as well as lidar and biophotonic sensing. The plan is to expand capacity to 50,000 wafer starts per year.

Company CEO Johan Feenstra said: “With this round of funding, we receive strong support from the Dutch ecosystem including strategic lenders and financial institutions in our ambition to become the globally leading foundry for PICs.”

The latest group of supporters include a number of strategic players from the semiconductor industry including the lithography giant ASML, headquartered in nearby Veldhoven, alongside Philips’ former chip manufacturing division NXP, and industrial conglomerate VDL Groep.

Additional finance was provided by ING, BOP Impact Ventures, and the Deep Tech Fund, part of the “Invest-NL” scheme created by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

Previous investors including Innovation Industries, BOM, PhotonDelta, and KPN Ventures also took part in the latest round, with the Netherlands government said to be providing €60 million through PhotonDelta.

“With this new round of funding, Smart Photonics will be able to strengthen its role as the leading manufacturer of next-generation chips in a growing, resilient European photonic value chain,” commented the firm, which is also involved in the recently announced "photonixFAB" project to commercialize silicon photonics that is being led by silicon chip foundry X-FAB.

Brainport Eindoven
A joint statement from ASML, NXP, and VDL Groep, added: “Financial support from the three fellow-Brainport region companies gives Smart Photonics the best opportunity to take the essential next steps to further mature the organization, strengthen technical capabilities and extend their manufacturing base.

“Our additional funding will help strengthen the Brainport and wider Dutch and European Photonics ecosystem. Smart Photonics becoming a strong and versatile foundry can greatly benefit the growing number of fabless photonic chip design companies in the Brainport region.”

“Brainport” is the name of the innovation campus in and around Eindhoven that revolves around several former Philips facilities and related spin-offs, as well as the Technical University of Eindhoven.

It is focused on a number of future technologies that incorporate photonics, including extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography developed by ASML, PIC production and integrated photonics, high-precision microsurgery, and indoor farming with artificial lighting.

Micky Adriaansens, a minister in the Netherlands government’s department for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, said:

“We believe in the Netherlands as a leading international hub for the development of the fast-growing integrated photonics industry. That’s why we invest both through the National Growth Fund project PhotonDelta in the whole ecosystem and through our dedicated Deep Tech Fund with specific funding for start-ups and scale-ups who focus on innovative complex technology such as Smart Photonics.

“For the prosperity and economic growth of the future and to maintain our competitiveness, it is necessary that we develop innovative key technologies like integrated photonics within the European Union.”

LASEROPTIK GmbHIridian Spectral TechnologiesMad City Labs, Inc.CHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.ABTechHyperion OpticsTRIOPTICS GmbH
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