Silicon photonics national action plan develops in Canada

Nov. 7, 2012
Quebec City, QC, and Kingston, ON, Canada--The CPIC and CMC Microsystems are creating a national action plan to exploit the commercial potential of silicon photonics.

Quebec City, QC, Canada and Kingston, ON, Canada--The Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium (CPIC; and CMC Microsystems (which enables and supports the creation and application of micro- and nano-system knowledge by providing a national infrastructure for research and a path to commercialization by delivering industrial tools, technologies, and support services to post-secondary institutions across Canada), along with members of Canada’s photonics R&D community have taken critical first steps towards a national action plan that will help companies exploit the commercial potential of silicon photonics.

The organizations co-hosted the Workshop on Silicon Photonics from September 10-11, 2012 in Ottawa, creating a 'think tank' on the topic. With participation from Canadian, European, and Asian innovators, this dynamic session facilitated discussion on Canadian R&D strengths, industry needs, and key opportunities in silicon photonics. Workshop outcomes will contribute to the development of a national roadmap that will help Canadian firms capitalize on the global silicon photonics market which is expected to grow to more than $2 billion by 2015.

Silicon photonics technology combines laser and silicon technology on the same chip, creating the potential to dramatically increase the data processing speed, power and performance of computers and other applications. With a focus on these and other benefits, this interactive workshop brought together more than 70 representatives from industry, government and academia. This included more than 20 leaders from Canadian SMEs and multinational companies such as Ericsson, Huawei, Cisco, and Ciena that represent end-users of silicon photonics. It also provided a platform for scientists from five Canadian universities and the National Research Council Canada to promote photonics concepts and research programs. In support of these interests, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), which allocated more than $16 million to optics and photonics projects last year, presented funding programs for industry-academic collaboration.

Given the opportunities presented by global technology partnerships, leaders from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) provided an overview of international collaboration programs. The value of such global R&D cooperation was reinforced by the participation of international delegates from the IBM T.J. Watson Research Centre in the US, the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a silicon photonics R&D foundry based in Singapore.

Workshop participants concluded that Canada has significant capabilities in silicon photonics, but noted that concerted R&D collaboration among universities, research institutes, component companies and multinational network equipment suppliers is required to harness the true potential of this technology. Given the early stage of silicon photonics, there are many complex technical challenges to be addressed. And as a nation, Canada does not have the scale and scope of resources required to address all facets of silicon photonics. For example, the country lacks packaging and prototyping facilities that enable components to be tested in applications and systems quickly and efficiently. Participants emphasized that industry-academic, national and global R&D partnerships will be essential to overcome such hurdles, if Canada is to fully exploit silicon photonics.

"This workshop generated new ideas on how to further develop Canada's capabilities in silicon photonics, and help to establish Canada as a global leader in this emerging technology," said Robert Corriveau, president and executive director of CPIC. "Silicon photonics opens-up new research and commercial opportunities in many sectors, and Canada is starting to establish distinct R&D strengths in this field. We aim to help Canadian companies to exploit the capabilities of this technology, and develop new applications that increase Canada's share of the global silicon photonics market. This includes connecting our firms to some of the best photonics research talent and capabilities in the world."

"TeraXion is making a strategic investment in silicon photonics to further reduce the footprint, power consumption and cost of our products," said Michel Cyr, Research Director of TeraXion. "This workshop provided a valuable overview of the photonics research landscape in Canada, including potential R&D collaborators and capabilities. These linkages are invaluable as we continue to develop our next-generation silicon photonics platform, and seek new ways to increase our competitive advantage in the global marketplace."

The Canadian Photonic Industry Consortium (CPIC) is an industry-led organization that aims to increase the competitiveness of Canada's photonics sector by accelerating the application and adoption of novel Canadian photonics technologies across the economy. Founded in April 2012 following a merger of the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations (CIPI) and the Canadian Photonic Consortium (CPC), CPIC strives to improve the productivity and profitability of Canadian photonics companies by facilitating knowledge exchange and business collaboration; linkages between university researchers, technology developers and end-users; and the identification of new domestic and international market opportunities.


About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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