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More photonics projects get Europe's SME funding

07 Apr 2015

Low-noise infrared camera and free-space optics among winners in €117.6 million Phase 2 round.

More photonics companies and development projects have won backing for “Phase 2” innovation thanks to Europe’s new Horizon 2020 funding instrument aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

A total of 74 projects were selected under the “innovation activities and business plans” scheme, which focuses on technology demonstrations and deployments. They are set to receive a total €117.6 million investment, with UK companies proving most successful this time around as 15 won support.

As with earlier SME funding rounds, a number of photonics-related efforts have benefited, with European money going towards infrared imaging, free-space optical communications and new optical transmitter components.

This time around, the winners include France-based First Light Imaging, which is working on what it calls “the world’s fastest low-noise infrared camera.” The company’s “C-Red ONE” product, based on avalanche photodiodes, operates across the 1.3-2.5 µm range. It was originally designed for astronomical use, but First Light Imaging is now targeting other applications in biomedicine and defense.

The company, which exhibited at the SPIE Photonics West event earlier this year, reckons that the fast (more than 2000 frames per second) short-wave IR (SWIR) camera could revolutionize the infrared imaging market. Its other products include a Shack-Hartmann wavefront monitor, which is based around a CCD light sensor provided by e2v Technologies.

Free-space optics: up to 250 meters
The Norwegian firm Polewall is another winner in the Phase 2 round, with backing for a project on free-space optical (FSO) communications going under the name “Streethopper.”

Kristiansand-based Polewall has previously said that it intends to get around the disadvantages of the free-space approach – which requires a line-of-sight connection, tends to be sensitive to weather like fog and snow, and has raised concerns over eye safety – by limiting its application to “short-haul urban densification.”

“We completely avoid the shortcomings of FSO known from past attempts to commercialize the technology,” says founder Jay Eide. The company is focused on providing wireless gigabit-speed links over a distance of up to 250 meters.

In earlier tests with a “top-tier” US operator, Polewall says that the Streethopper technology provided a reliable and consistent link with a throughput of 1 Gb/s.

Meanwhile Berlin, Germany, headquartered VIS is receiving support for new VCSEL-based optical transmitter components designed for use in data centers, supercomputers and the home, in a proposal dubbed “PhotoniX.”

In its latest call for SME funding proposals, which closed on March 18, the European Commission said that it received more than 2000 applications – 1569 for Phase 1 proof-of-concept work, and 614 for Phase 2 demonstrations.

Companies in Italy have been the most active in seeking that funding, accounting for close to 500 applications across both phases, while the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) topic is the most popular among applicants.

The next deadline for SME Instrument funding towards ICT projects closes April 14 – Phase 1 funding provides a lump sum of €50,000 towards feasibility studies, while Phase 2 backing offers up to €2.5 million per project for development and demonstration activities.

• The Photonics21 industry group will be hosting its annual general meeting at Hotel Le Plaza in Brussels, Belgium, on 28-29 May. For more information, click here.

InfraTec GmbHAlluxaJENOPTIK  -  Optical SystemsBoston Electronics CorporationBRD Optical Co., LtdSacher Lasertechnik GmbHDataRay Inc.
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