What does Smart Photonics do?
Smart Photonics makes chips based on a new technology. Existing chips work with electrons that are sent through chips, for example to make them count. But the chips that Smart Photonics makes work with photons, or light, and that is much faster. Compare it to fiberglass, which is also faster than copper cables.
As a result, depending on their application, chips can become 10 percent to ten times faster. Eventually they could become much faster with further development, says Geert Appeldoorn, commercial director of Smart Photonics.
Smart Photonics does not design chips, it only makes them for customers who make the design themselves. He cannot say who those customers are, says Appeldoorn.
What can those new chips be used for?
The chips that Smart Photonics makes can be used in data centers, for 5G and for autonomous driving. Some of those markets can become very large, after all, we continue to send more and more data, 5G is coming and the same applies to self-driving cars.
The advantage of photonic chips is also that they require less energy, between 10 percent and a factor of ten less.
What is the money needed for?
The total of € 35 million that Smart Photonics now receives is intended to increase production capacity. The company still makes a limited number of chips. This will soon be ten times as much. By the way, it is still not large quantities.
The company now employs about 70 people, which will increase to about 120 within twelve months. We can move forward over the next two to three years with the investment of EUR 35 million, says Apeldoorn.
Why does the Dutch government invest?
It was feared that foreign parties would put money into Smart Photonics and that knowledge abroad would disappear. In fact, Smart Photonics is working with a number of other companies and in a foreign takeover that entire cluster of cooperating companies could disappear to another country, according to State Secretary Mona Keijzer in a letter to the House of Representatives.
Photonics, as the technique is called in which chips work via light signals, are seen by the European Union as an important technology for the future, explains Merijn Doggen, tech journalist from Bright and RTL Nieuws.
The government even aims to have at least 25 companies achieve a turnover of 1 billion euros and 4,000 jobs in 2026 within an ecosystem that will eventually generate further activity and employment for the Netherlands, according to Keijzer in her letter.
Earlier, Dutch photonics companies were bought by foreign companies.