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Europe's 'Horizon' challenge targets optical communications

18 Mar 2015

€500,000 prize on offer for radical new technologies to maximize fiber-optic transmission capacity.

The European Commission (EC) has published details of the €500,000 “Horizon Prize” challenge through which it is hoping to break technological barriers facing optical communications.

Designed to stimulate a revolutionary increase in transmission capacity, the contest is one of five set up in tandem with Europe’s Horizon 2020 innovation program. It is open to SMEs and non-profit organisations established in a European Union Member State or non-EU countries associated with Horizon 2020, like Switzerland.

“This contest aims at incentivising radical breakthrough solutions, as opposed to incremental progress, in the area of point-to-point optical fiber transmission,” state the rules of the contest. “An entry should present solutions beyond a 'proof of principle' to demonstrate that its solution is achievable within the next decade(s).”

In essence, that equates to a scaled-down system or sub-system demonstrator that can prove a candidate's claims. Any purely theoretical submissions or simulated technologies will not be deemed competitive.

The EC is hoping to find a breakthrough solution to overcome existing limitations of long-distance fiber-optic transmission systems, surpassing the 1 Tb/s per wavelength channel that it expects will soon be introduced at the commercial level, and well beyond the 400 Gb/s systems currently being deployed.

Contest rules
Its contest rules state that the winning solution must show a significant improvement over state-of-the-art technologies in terms of:

• Capacity per single fiber, beyond 50 Tb/s already achieved in labs;
• Spectrum range and/or spectral efficiency;
• Reach (without optoelectronic re-generators), target at least 1000 km

Any winning technology will have to be highly practical. As well as improving fiber capacity, any ideas submitted are also expected to meet requirements relating to energy efficiency and economic viability.

The contest comprises two phases, the first of which is an optional registration period. It calls for a short, one-page summary. After that, any entrants need to file a maximum 40-page summary of their technology, before all the entries are considered by an expert panel.

The EC says that it will begin accepting registration for entries from May 28 onwards. The deadline for registrations is December 16 this year, and the closing date for full submissions is March 15 next year. Any award winners will then be chosen on September 13, 2016.

The four other Horizon Prize challenges include a €1 million contest focused on better use of antibiotics; a €3 million prize to cut particulate levels in urban areas; a €500,000 incentive to find better ways to share the radio spectrum; and a €1 million challenge to make a mobile technology capable of rapid analysis of food composition, including details of nutritional content and any allergens present.

LaCroix Precision OpticsSPECTROGON ABCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Iridian Spectral TechnologiesHÜBNER PhotonicsECOPTIKBerkeley Nucleonics Corporation
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