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Irish photonics center launches with eye on ICT and medicine

24 Jan 2014

€30 million Tyndall-led research center for photonic integration aiming to create hundreds of new jobs.

Ireland’s minister for research and innovation, Sean Sherlock, has officially launched the new €30 million Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC).

The center, led by Paul Townsend from the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, is a collaboration that also includes University College Cork (UCC), the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and Dublin City University (DCU).

First announced nearly a year ago as one of seven different centers of excellence in the country, IPIC brings together more than 100 researchers from the four institutes to develop new photonics technologies.

With a strong focus on commercial exploitation, that research team will work with no fewer than 18 industry partners, ranging from multinationals including Intel, BT and Verizon to photonics specialists including Finisar and smaller Irish companies and high-tech start-ups. The commercial partners will provide €10 million in funding to add to the Irish government’s €20 million backing.

In fact, the center already has one new high-tech company, in the form of X-Celeprint, committed to base its headquarters in Tyndall with the intention of creating up to 20 jobs in the next two years.

Speaking at the IPIC launch, Sherlock said: “This investment of €20 million of taxpayers’ money, with an additional €10 million from industry, is further proof of the Government’s commitment to Irish research. IPIC represents one of the strongest research teams in Europe. The Centre is in prime position to achieve further funding from the Horizon 2020 funding round and to attract new companies and talent to Ireland”.

He added, “Tyndall has an impressive and diverse industry partner list, including Intel, Stryker and X-Celeprint”.

Illinois lab spin-out
X-Celeprint is a subsidiary of XTRION, a Belgian holding company specializing in semiconductor start-ups, and is looking to commercialize a micro-transfer printing technology first developed at the renowned laboratory of founder John Rogers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Christopher Bower, who has spent the past seven years working on that micro-transfer printing technology for Semprius - another Rogers start-up – is X-Celeprint’s chief technology officer. Applications of the potentially revolutionary manufacturing process include the ability to mount optoelectronic materials and devices like LEDs and lasers on flexible substrates.

Targeting the ICT and medical devices sectors primarily, IPIC is aiming to work with industry to develop future generations of miniaturized photonics technologies. Over the coming six years, it has ambitious plans to help create 200 new jobs through 30 research projects and the commercialization of new photonics technologies.

Development efforts will focus on improving data transfer speeds, creating new energy-efficient devices and delivering “smart” medical components for disease diagnostics and treatments.

Vision of economic impact
Outlining the vision for IPIC, Townsend said in a statement: “The launch of IPIC represents an exciting new chapter in photonic research in Ireland, which aims to achieve both measurable economic impact and global scientific recognition for Ireland in this sector.”

“The Centre brings together a full research ‘value chain’ with expertise that spans from semiconductor and bio-materials, through integrated photonic and microelectronic circuits, to fully-packaged photonic systems. As a result, IPIC will be uniquely placed to drive new advances in photonic science and technology and to harness these innovations to solve some of the key challenges facing our industry partners.”

Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government, added: “The launch [of IPIC] is an important development as both of the major sectors it will support are showing significant growth in Ireland.”

“This is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration between industry and academia that we will continue to encourage: excellent science with impact. IPIC’s collaboration with X-Celeprint demonstrates the importance of continuing to strengthen the links between academia and industry in a way that supports innovation and the creation of important new jobs and enterprise.”

“I am confident that IPIC will contribute to future growth in jobs and prosperity, that it will highlight the cutting-edge academic and commercial research talent in Ireland and Ireland’s share of the global photonics market will increase.”

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