Integrated Photonics & the future of innovation

This is a cross post from the Infinera boards for the benefit of those here that follow Infinera. For those that doesn’t know, I am very long INFN.

This is a white house press release. It is a few weeks old, but telling information on the future of state of microelectronics. Infinera is extremely well positioned. I’ve highlighted some of the key paragraphs below.…

The new institute the Department of Defense is awarding today will focus on cutting-edge research in integrated photonics —using multiple units of light, on a single platform, to improve the performance and reliability of telecommunications, radar, lasers, and other technologies.

Photonics is the science of using and controlling photons—the smallest unit of light—to convey information and images. By shrinking electronic components like lasers and optical sensors to a scale hundreds of times smaller than a single living cell—and putting these components on a single platform—integrated photonics could advance technology in ways never before possible, including by:

o Revolutionizing long-haul telecommunications, enabling much more resilient fiber with much greater bandwidth

o Creating dramatic energy savings at high-performing data centers, which across the country now consume almost as much power each year as the entire state of New York.

o Dramatically improving medical technology—from “needleless” technologies for monitoring blood sugar levels, to cameras smaller than pills that travel within arteries, to substantially faster and lower-cost human genome sequencing.

o Improving security operations, with applications in radar, electronic warfare, imaging, sensing, and communication systems used across the entire spectrum of land, air, sea, and space-based platforms.

The new photonics institute is the sixth of nine announced as part of the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI).

Bridging the gap between applied research and product development, each institute brings together companies, universities, other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key emerging technology areas that can encourage investment and production in the U.S.

This latest institute, a new public private partnership led by RF SUNY, will bridge advanced research and commercial product development, yielding critical defense and telecommunications advances—while also investing in education and workforce development to train and position the next generation of manufacturers in integrated photonics.

Just as integrated electronic circuits allowed for advanced processing in computers and cellphones, integrated photonic components can pack even more processing power into a single chip, creating new possibilities for computing and telecommunications. An emerging technology for carrying light-waves, integrated photonics has the potential to revolutionize entire industries—from increasing the carrying capacity of broadband communications ten-fold, to creating needle-free tests for common conditions like diabetes, and to improving imaging capabilities in defense operations.

The winning team, led by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (RF SUNY) and headquartered in Rochester, NY, includes the following 75 key partners and 49 additional consortia members:

The press release goes on to list all the parties involved in the consortium. No surprise, Infinera is one of the partner companies.

If we are to take stock in the significance of this public/private venture, the future state of microelectronics is the Photopic Integrated Circuit (the PIC), and its use in application will serve as the next hallmark of American innovation.

With hundreds of patents, trade secrets and their own US-based foundry, Infinera is by leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. All I can think of is the potential leadership role for Infinera in the industry of the future… and wow.



Hi Kevin
Sounds promising although I have to say I get the impression everyone is working on this area of research. Encouraging none the less but I wouldn’t take Infinera’s involvement amongst one of 75 players being awarded a Government contract alongside every other research programme as necessarily a freehold lock on the industry’s future or necessarily ahead of the curve.

In other Infinera news…
They hit a 52 week high and have secured the Transmode acquisition:-…


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Hey Ant, thanks for the comments.

Just a couple of points of clarification and some ideas to consider.

The first is this isn’t really a government contract, but rather a consortium of thought leaders chosen carefully from both the industry and academic institutions to give shape and direction in this emerging field. Think more in terms of a public/private partnership that performs research activities and identifies areas that may require further study, investment and standardization. Here are a few of the things the consortium will do:

o Developing an end-to-end photonics ‘ecosystem’ in the U.S., including domestic foundry access, integrated design tools, automated packaging, assembly and testing, and workforce development.

o Creating a standardized platform currently lacking in the integrated photonics space, making it easier to scale the technology across multiple markets and drive performance, cost, and scaling requirements.

Note that Infinera is already executing on these two points.

The second is of those 75 players, only one other is a networking company, Juniper, and to-date they do not have a PIC solution. In fact, no other networking company offers a PIC solution. Going back a dozen or so years ago, many companies scoffed at the notion of a photonics integrated circuit and had publicly commented that it might be great in theory but too complex/cumbersome/unproven to be taken seriously. They continued to beat that drum in the early days to keep customers questioning Infinera’s technology as unproven/untested/unsuited for their mission critical systems. Infinera had an uphill battle to prove it could be done and show their solution was both fast and reliable. Being involved in this consortium is a form of public validation of their mission statement. This technology is for realsies, it is here to stay and it is the future.

My thoughts are Infinera can really influence the direction of the integrated photonics industry to grow the talent and research base, and become mentors in the process. Now, if you are a talented individual with an education in the integrated photonics industry of tomorrow and were able to glean many of your insights through the work of this public/private body of knowledge, with what company would you want to hook up with in the end as an employee? Talent and thought leadership beget talent and thought leadership.

Last, I have to disagree with the statement about being ahead of the curve. It took years for Infinera to perfect their process and develop a product. They are still perfecting and increasing their capacity/efficiency today. They have years upon years of research, trials and successes under their belt in this arena. No other optical transport company has a solution with PICs - and when they do it will be another notch for Infinera, showing they were on the right side of the future all along. And if I’m a company now evaluating which vendor’s PIC-based solution I want to implement, do I choose the new unproven technology from the vendor that just got here or do I choose a partner that has been perfecting and honing their approach over the last dozen years? Infinera can now use the argument of a competitor being unproven in this space to their advantage. My how the tables have turned?

Those are my thoughts on the subject and why I believe Infinera has a substantial lead in a solution they helped create, and will soon be in a position to lead the definition of a new field for the future and securing its place in the industry.

Tom Fallon had said in this emerging field the number of players will narrow with the winners beginning to separate from the losers. He predicted this to occur fairly soon. By the way, he intends to be one of the winners.



Just for fun, a pictorial of the activities and key people from the public announcement made on July 27.…

Mid way down, below Joe Biden in the center is a photo of the program chair, a rep from Infinera and U of C rep.

Here are the complete list of partners in the 75 (note that 55 are companies and 20 are institutions). I thought it fun to look at this list and compare with those who didn’t make it into a photo op.

55 Companies: 4D Technologies, Acacia Communications, Analog Photonics, Aurrion, Boeing, Cadence Design, Chiral Photonics, Corning, Freedom Photonics, GE, Harris Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Infinera, Intel, IQE, Juniper Networks, Keysight, Lockheed Martin, Mentor Graphics, Nistica, Northrop Grumman, Samtech, Synopsys, TE Connectivity, United Technologies, Adarza Biosystems, Advanced Glass Ind., ANSI, Axsun Technologies, FiconTEC, Honeywell, IBM, Imaging Solutions Grp., LGS Innovations, Lumerical, Micron, Morton Photonics, Navitar, New Scale Tech., Optimax, OptiPro, Patent Innovations, PhoeniX Software, Photon Gear, Promex Industries, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins, RPC Photonics, Seagate, SRI, Sydor Optics, Syntec Optics, TeraDiode, Texas Instruments, Vincent Associates.

20 Universities and Laboratories: Boston University, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Stanford University, State University of New York, University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley, University of California Davis, University of California San Diego, University of California Santa Barbra, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Delaware, University of Rochester, University of Virginia, Alfred University, Binghamton University, Drexel University, and Pennsylvania State University.

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I couldn’t resist… one more to show where Infinera “ranks” relative to the other contributors/collaborators of the initiative:…

I won’t say everything is going to be rosy going forward, but the outlook considering the evidence available certainly looks pretty good.

I really do believe Infinera has established themselves as significant collaborators and leaders in this initiative. But for now I’ll have to call it a hunch.


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