Subsidized innovation in photonics for EU-based companies

17 April 2020

Photonics, or the manipulation of light by means of optical fibers and chips, has become a crucial technology in today’s society. High-speed internet, LCD and OLED screens, optical computer mouses and many sensors could not exist without photonics. Also in industry, photonics is gaining importance every day. Optical inspection enables reliable quality control, not only on completed products but also during the fabriation process. Dimensions, shapes and surface quality can be measured at nanometer resolution, and spectral techniques can identify material composition and contamination. Mechanical stress can be made visible using polarization, and infrared detection systems can see through materials which are opaque to the human eye.

It is likely that many companies can use photonics to optimize their production process, or to improve and expand their product portfolio. However, not many companies have the expertise to explore the potential of photonics for their business. The EU program ACTPHAST offers companies a fast and low-threshold opportunity to find out what photonics can do for them, and guides the companies to commercial application. The bureaucratic overhead is minimal, and projects are up to 100% subsidized.

How does it work?

ACTPHAST is a consortium of 25 European research institutes and universities, each having a specific expertise in photonics. A company can register at the ACTPHAST website, after which a contact person is selected from a group of senior experts. This contact person arranges a ‘scouting’ meeting for a first analysis, and appoints a project leader. The project leader organizes a mini-consortium consisting of one or more ACTPHAST partners that have the required expertise, and takes the lead in writing a short project proposal. The proposal is reviewed at one of the bi-monthly review meetings, and if approved, the project can start. The maximum project budget is 100 kEUR, it typically takes three to six months from registration to project start.

ACTPHAST support is mainly technological: the company gains access to a huge expertise in different disciplines in photonics, and to advanced production- and test facilities that are not available in the market. Furthermore, ACTPHAST provides business support to make sure that selected solutions are realistic and attractive from a business perspective. The company is expected to make a reasonable in-kind contribution, depending on the scope of the project and the expertise of the company. Also, the company can contribute to the cost of consumables and components for a demonstrator which remains property of the company. The company should be able to motivate the business case: will this project ultimately lead to increased revenue and to the creation of jobs.

An overview of companies that have received support from ACTPHAST is available here.

Dutch partners in ACTPHAST are amongst others TNO, SMART Photonics, LioniX International and the TU/e. ACTPHAST maintains a close relationship with PhotonDelta and DOC.