A roadmap to end roadmaps

July 25, 2023
In this column, Optica CTO Jose Pozo suggests a manufacturing roadmap for the photonics industry.

HIR. INEMI. IOWN. IPSR-I. IRDS. SEMI. SRC. Other than serving as an alphabet soup of acronyms, what do these various entities have in common? They all are on a quest for the Holy Grail of a photonics industry manufacturing roadmap.

So, what’s driving this friendly coopetition for “the” solution? At the highest level, the photonics industry is undergoing a massive scale shift where demand is outpacing supply. Automotive, consumer, and datacenter markets all increasingly rely on cost-effective, efficient photonic technologies, and responding to those growing demands has proven to be a significant challenge. From simply producing enough product to meet order needs to creating solutions that address cost barriers, photonic suppliers are in a tailspin to determine how to proceed—a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

As I mentioned in my last article, we’ve all known for years that the photonics industry will be unable to successfully scale up in the same way as semiconductors, unless it adopts a semiconductor production process. This means shared manufacturing platforms and standards for both semiconductors and photonics to enable cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing. But just because we know what needs to be done doesn’t mean we have a clear path to how to do it.

And thus enters the era of the roadmap. While well-intended, the wide berth of individualized roadmapping activities is creating more confusion than solution. We can’t have a series of disparate, but related, strategies in individual corners of the market; we need a comprehensive, thoughtful approach that unites key ideas under one umbrella—and we need it now. Because without a defined, collaborative plan for 2030 and beyond, we will not match the cost reduction expectations demanded by automotive, consumer, or datacenter markets—which is bad for the industry and bad for business.

So, in June, when I attended the IPSR-I roadmap meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I co-moderated a discussion panel with representatives from SEMI, IOWN, and INEMI looking to identify common ground between roadmaps. The discussion focused on each one’s individual strengths, and where we can combine and conquer in our vision for addressing the rising need. In these discussions, I came to a revelation: We need a roadmap to our roadmaps.

It got me thinking that we need an organization to serve as facilitator of these discussions, to help us find common ground from divided efforts which will culminate in an approach for the betterment of the industry. With Optica’s corporate members involved in each one of these roadmapping activities, it strikes me that we are uniquely poised to serve in that capacity.

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we create another roadmap, but rather, like a spider spinning its web, we would draw together the strongest threads of each report to create a cohesive, singular approach to address the future of photonics manufacturing—with input from the stakeholders on each. Our goal would be to find common ground between the different roadmaps and guide the industry in the most efficient, effective, and forward-looking approach to photonics manufacturing.

In convening this community, we would be diving deeper to explore important business considerations including the objectives and potential benefits for manufacturers; a reasonable timeline, be it five years, 20 years, or somewhere in between; and the roadblocks, including the current geopolitical situation. In addition, we would look at the more granular needs, such as the format of the roadmap and how broadly accessible and translatable it can and should be, particularly as it relates to the politicians who will need to be briefed.

I see this approach as a win-win for the industry. Optica, as a neutral third party, can help aggregate the most important aspects of each of the existing roadmaps and unite them into a playbook that serves the industry at large—and expedites time to implementation. It can get us to a place of agreement faster to ensure business keeps climbing, and our manufacturing not only keeps pace with, but anticipates, future demands. After all, isn’t that the hallmark of a good roadmap?

What do you think? Contact me at [email protected] and let me know how you feel about my proposal for a roadmap to end roadmaps.       

About the Author

Jose Pozo | Chief Technology Officer, Optica

Jose Pozo joined Optica in March 2022, and has spent more than 25 years working in photonics. He earned a PhD in quantum physics from the University of Bristol (U.K.), and an M.Sc. and B.Eng. in telecom engineering from UPNA, Spain / VUB (Belgium). Prior to joining the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) in 2015 as CTO, Jose was a Senior Photonics Technology Consultant with PNO Consultants, with some of the main accounts such as CERN, Thales, and TE Connectivity. He has worked at TNO, The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he contributed to the early development of EFFECT Photonics.

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