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Wave Photonics secures £4.5M; launches quantum PIC package service

25 Jun 2024

Cambridge, UK, startup aiming to mimic semiconductor industry's commercial foundry approach.

Wave Photonics, a UK-based startup company specializing in integrated photonics, says it has completed a round of venture funding totaling £4.5 million.

The Cambridge firm, which has close links with the Toshiba Quantum Information Group, is aiming to "unlock" emerging applications for photonics integrated circuits (PICs) by adopting a faster productization cycle, analogous to the approach that has proved highly successful in conventional silicon semiconductors.

"This investment will enable the company to take its technology from a research manufacturing line to a commercial foundry, with a particular focus on solutions for frontier applications such as quantum technologies and biosensing," it announced.

CEO and co-founder James Lee added: “The team has spent the past few years building and experimentally validating our design technology - it’s exciting to have the resources to begin deploying it to solve real industry problems.”

New design approach
The funding round, which has been complemeneted by an additional £0.9 million in research grants, was led by the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund and Cambridge Enterprise Ventures.

Also taking part were Redstone QAI Quantum Fund, Kyra Ventures, Parkwalk's University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund IX (UCEF IX), and Deep Tech Labs.

Commenting on the funding Christine Martin, the head of ventures at Cambridge Enterprise, said: “Integrated photonics is poised to disrupt high-value industries ranging from quantum computing to biosensing, and Wave Photonics’ team and technologies are in a great position to enable and accelerate the adoption of next-generation integrated photonics products."

Since its founding in May 2021, the company says it has worked to build and validate its core computational photonics design technology to reduce development time for PIC-based products.

"We believe that many obstacles integrated photonics technologies face can be removed using a combination of simulation, statistical modelling and optimization techniques, so we’re creating and testing a new way to approach photonics design," states the Wave Photonics web site.

QPICPAC service
So far, that has included participation in the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) project "Quantum Photonic Integrated Circuit Packaging” (QPICPAC), an effort that has now resulted in a turnkey packaging solution for PIC prototyping (see video below).

Developed with optical component maker SENKO and packaging expert Alter Technologies UK, the new approach is said to be easy to use, and to minimize custom development requirements and costs for quantum technology companies.

Jiangbo Zhu, a senior photonics engineer at Wave Photonics who led photonics design work on the effort, said in a company release: “We are thrilled to introduce our new packaging service for QPICs [quantum PICs], which is specifically designed to meet the needs of quantum companies requiring rapid prototyping and dependable packaging.

"Our service is meticulously verified, ensuring streamlined processes and high reliability, all while maintaining cost efficiency. With this offering, we aim to accelerate innovation and support our customers in pushing the boundaries of quantum technology.”

Liam Moroney, Alter's business development manager for photonics, added: “This represents a (quantum) leap towards the much-needed standardized approach to affordable complex PIC-based product realization.

"Demonstrated here is a full UK supply chain and workflow for an end-to-end PIC solution, beginning with manufacturing-compatible PIC design and layout guidance using process and assembly design kits (PDKs, ADKs), and finishing up with robust packaging and device characterization available in low to high volumes with a quick turnaround."

Wave Photonics has also launched a 1550 nm PDK suitable for the UK's "CORNERSTONE" 220 nm silicon photonics process. It is said to offer a wider range of lower-loss and fabrication-tolerant components to help designers focus on PIC design and functionality.

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