Photonics will play a vital role in addressing the key socio-economic challenges facing Europe in the 21st century. As examples, we may note the following:
- Facilitating healthcare through the instant diagnosis of major diseases
- Promoting healthy living while preserving the environment
- Facilitating accident and congestion-free transport
- Enabling 21st-century manufacturing using photonic tools and photonics-enabled digital infrastructure to create a million new jobs
- Promoting a high quality of urban life through smart homes and cities
- Ensuring that our digital infrastructure keeps pace with the integration of billions of new Internet-enabled devices, fulfilling our needs for information, business, finance and home infrastructure
- Maintaining the pace of research, innovation and education needed to keep Europe in first place for economic success and quality of life
The role of the Core Photonics activity is to ensure that the fundamental technological developments are in place to underpin these application-specific developments and thereby provide the solutions to the socio-economic challenges that we face.
During the last frameworks, a consistent and coherent vision for the enabling technologies was established and carried through by the Photonics PPP. A central element of this vision has been photonic integration, i.e. the realisation of high-functionality optical subsystems on a single chip or a small number of chips, as well as the establishment of sustainable technology platforms - manufacturing pilot lines - for selected technologies. These approaches have already paid significant dividends in providing the basis for the multi-hundred Gigabit per second communications systems on which the internet depends, opening up a wealth of opportunities in other fields and bringing ground-breaking technologies within reach of entrepreneurial SMEs. These themes will continue but should now be developed to embrace a number of distinct objectives:
- Enhanced functionality and spectral coverage, to facilitate new applications in biomedical, environmental, industrial and sensing fields
- Continuous development in performance to address the increasingly sophisticated requirements of communications, sensing and control systems, while enabling new applications based on quantum technologies and new computing architectures such as neural networks
- Emphasis on photonic circuits and systems, building on photonic integration technology in combination with other photonic devices such as imaging sensors, microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS), microelectronics and advanced assembly techniques to realise complete systems in the most effective way
- Continued investment in platforms and pilot lines, to match evolving performance expectations, close gaps in supply chains and strengthen the transition to volume manufacturing.
We should build on our strengths to develop the integrated photonic technology that is required. We see significant challenges in providing the technical basis for the full range of applications that we envisage, including 3D sensing, automotive LIDAR, communications above 1Tbit/s per wavelength and the myriad of opportunities to improve quality of life through improved healthcare. We emphasise a unified approach wherever possible to manage the costs of developing advanced technologies that are relevant in all of the key fields.
In particular, we wish to emphasise the following underlying themes:
- Systems, not just components: we must provide effective means for the combination of technologies to achieve overall systems goals
- Miniaturisation: Many applications require subsystems that are very small so that they can be integrated into other devices such as sensor elements and smartphones
- Cost-effectiveness: The power of photonic integration to achieve high performance at minimum cost will continue to provide major opportunities for innovative products
- Platforms, rather than individual solutions: This is the key to achieving maximum return on investment and reach the largest number of market sectors in the shortest possible time
- Robustness and reliability: Many photonic systems will be embedded in safety-critical systems where reliability and resilience are mandatory
- Power efficiency, to mitigate the environmental impact of large-scale electronic systems deployment and allow new applications which are self- or battery-powered
- Eco-friendliness, in line with European priorities, to preserve and improve the environment
- Accessibility: Key platform technologies should be made available to the broadest possible user base through measures such as sustainable manufacturing pilot lines.
The detailed Photonics21 Work Group Photonics Core Technologies research and innovation priorities are outlined in the Photonics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.
The Work Group Photonics Core Technologies further has a dedicated section in the Photonics21 member area.