European Photonic Integration Forum 2021

Missed the 12th edition of EPIF? No worries! This recap will get you up to date in no time.

The European Photonic Integration Forum (EPIF) embodies influential stakeholders of the international photonic integration ecosystem. Every year, JePPIX and ePIXfab join forces to organize EPIF with the support of its members and partners. This year’s edition of EPIF was held on October 29, 2021.

Highlights of this year’s forum

Peter Winzer (Founder of Nubis Communications) and Tom Collins (former Senior Director of Huawei Technologies) on the career achievements they are most proud of:

Peter: “For me, this constitutes transferring cutting edge research into real products with direct product impact. Together with my team at Nokia Bell Labs, we held almost all high speed optical transmission records from 2005 onwards. What triggered me to found my own start-up company despite a successful career with several companies and societies, was a decreasing possibility to transfer research into meaningful products. Starting my own company enables me to fully carry out my passion. At Nubis, we are working on highly integrated optical transmission solutions with a multidisciplinary team.”

Tom: “”My proudest achievement is that 3 out of the 4 start ups that I have been involved in have been sold successfully. Additionally, I am proud to have achieved two outstanding contribution awards during my time working for large, multinational companies. The first was quite early in my career for an individual contribution, and the second was more recently by Huawei, as recognition of the work that the Caliopa team had done in silicon photonics that year. Huawei has introduced silicon photonics products in the telecom and datacom domain as early as 2014/2015. Based on volumes for 2020, I believe Huawei can be counted as one of the top three silicon photonics manufacturers today. Around 80% of those products came out of the Caliopa Belgium team. Having highly skilled candidates available, identifying them and recruiting them is what made this team so successful.”

Question from Peter to Tom: Where has it been more rewarding to execute on your vision – in start ups or in big corporations?

Tom: “Start ups have the advantage that you can make decisions very quickly, you can be incredibly agile. The issue is however that you don’t have the resources that a big organization has. The ideal situation for me is when you have a start up that has done enough to be rewarded with a big injection of cash, without the person injecting the cash deciding that they want to control it too closely. In the early days of Caliopa we had exactly that. Huawei had just bought into us and was providing enough resources while letting us get on with it.”


Iñigo Artundo (CEO of VLC Photonics) on what has been happening in PIC development the last 10 years:

“Many things have changed but others have remained pretty much the same. In the case of VLC Photonics, we are a pure play design and test house. This is how we started 10 years ago and this is still our core business. But of course, over the years we have learned a lot. We have been bought by Hitachi, our expertises have grown to all kinds of material platforms, we have been working with more than 20 foundries, we have been growing our components libraries, circuit lay-out has become easier and more reliable with the help of mature PDK’s from the foundries, et cetera. What hasn’t changed in those ten years, is the need for custom building blocks for the circuits we design. Eventually, the foundry PDK’s are not covering all possible needs.”

Francisco Soares (Founder of Soares Photonics) on leaving behind the opportunity to customize building blocks by transitioning from a fab environment to fabless:

“This is actually both limiting and liberating. By going fabless, I can explore different foundries and concentrate more on design and on really getting the PIC’s to the customers. On the other hand, I am very technology-oriented so I like to work in the cleanroom and develop new processes. Now and then I miss working in the lab and developing something new, but at the same time I have a lot of new opportunities and technologies to explore, which is also what I can help my customers with.”

Iñigo and Francisco on what they see as the big PIC products of the future and whether the PIC technology will live up to the growing expectations:

Iñigo: “That is a complicated question. What I see is that there is a lot of funding coming to this field, which is enabling many businesses to grow. At the same time, these investments are pushing and pulling the technology towards the market, while some markets are developing faster than the technologies itself. This puts a big pressure on the foundries, the software providers, the packagers. PIC technology is approaching a moment of truth, which will decide whether it can live up to the expectations in many markets beyond the traditional telecom and datacom. I’m talking about, for example, LIDAR applications and health sensors in wearables.”

Francisco: “I still consider photonic integration to be the technology that will bring society forward. I don’t see any other technology that has this much potential. In the past, the industry has been a bit cautious with investing in the technology but I think that moving forward, there is no other option. So many applications are coming up, like sensing, LIDAR and quantum communications. In order to deliver on its promises, the whole ecosystem, including design houses, packaging, and system integration, needs to scale up. Only that way can photonic functionalities eventually translate into real products that companies and customers can use to improve their systems and provide new services.”

Interested in the full recording of EPIF? Click here to watch it (access code: QQp?gt2j). See you at ECOC 2022 for the next round-up of the latest news in photonic integration!