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European Commission publishes ICT 2015 call

24 Jul 2014

Photonics element of Horizon 2020 focuses on data centers, laser-based manufacturing and photonic integrated circuits.

Faster, more energy efficient data centers, new laser manufacturing techniques and photonic integrated circuits are the primary focus of a new call for photonics-related research and innovation proposals just published by the European Commission (EC).

Part of the Horizon 2020 “industrial leadership” pillar, the call for photonics projects falls under the more general theme of information and communication technologies (ICT).

ICT 2015 has a total budget of €561 million and the window for proposals is scheduled to open on October 15. The deadline for submitting those proposals is April 14 next year.

Under the “photonics KET (key enabling technology)” section of the call, the EC states the following as the specific challenge:

“Further major science and technology progress and research and innovation investments are required for sustaining Europe's industrial competitiveness and leadership in photonic market sectors where Europe is strong.”

“Europe needs also to strengthen its manufacturing base in photonics to safeguard the further potential for innovation and value creation and to maintain jobs.”

“Finally, Europe needs to better exploit the innovation capacity of the more than 5000 existing photonics SMEs and the innovation leverage potential of the more than 40 existing innovation clusters and national platforms.”

Under the Horizon 2020 funding, the EC wants to see application-driven developments of core photonics technologies with a focus on some specific areas. One of those is “exa-scale” data centers, where the goal is to develop optical components to drive a ten-fold reduction in power consumption and cost.

The rising energy demands of data centers is regarded as a serious issue in Europe, while in the US the likes of Apple are deploying dedicated solar farms to help power their centers in a more sustainable way.

According to the UK’s Carbon Trust, data centers represent one of the main growth areas of energy consumption – perhaps as much as 10 per cent per year – and are responsible for as much as 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The photonics KET call asks for “low-cost, energy-efficient photonic devices supporting radically new system and network architectures driven by the emergence of exa-scale cloud data centers”. It specifies that actions should focus on optical inter- and intra-data center transmission, switching and interconnects, facilitating Tb/s interface speeds and Pb/s network throughput.

Industrial commitment key
The second key area is laser-based manufacturing, with a focus on high-throughput production. It calls for: “High-power, high-efficiency laser sources (both continuous wave and pulsed); novel technologies and devices for beam delivery and for processing of multiple beams from laser source arrays; high-performance optical devices and systems; fast synchronisation of laser source and high-speed scanning devices.”

The third highlighted application is photonic integrated circuits (PICs), with the EC document stating that actions may also cover electronic-photonic integration, as well as heterogeneous and hybrid integration technologies for PIC-based high-performance or high-density modules.

In support of one of Horizon 2020’s key aims – bridging the so-called “valley of death” between laboratory development and commercial exploitation – the call stresses the need for strong industrial commitment to the projects.

“All RTD actions should…be driven by user needs and concrete business cases supported by strong exploitation strategies, and cover the value/supply chain as appropriate,” states the EC document.

Cross-cutting opportunities
Photonics technology also appears prominently in the "Cross-cutting KETs" element of the ICT 2015 call.

It highlights opportunities in the healthcare and food sectors, and is specifically targeting a pilot production line for manufacturing organic LEDs on flexible substrates, another for mid-infrared microsensors, and a foundry service for making complex PIC designs.

For full details of the photonics KET, cross-cutting KETs and wider ICT 2015 call for proposals under Horizon 2020, visit the EC’s participant portal here.

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