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SMART Photonics, the independent foundry for photonic integrated circuits, today announced a €35M Series C investment from a Dutch consortium led by Innovation Industries. More than half of that amount is funded by the Dutch government, in a rare move to help the company and the sector. “To ensure that this company and the ecosystem for integrated photonics is preserved for the Netherlands, I have decided – in addition to contributions from various other parties – to make an amount of 20 million euros available as a loan to meet the financing needs of SMART Photonics”, writes State Secretary Mona Keijzer (Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) in a letter to parliament.

According to Keijzer, there was interest from investors from other countries and they were prepared to make substantial investments, but “the access of local ecosystem partners to the production facility of Smart Photonics is essential for the success of the ecosystem”. The importance of SMART Photonics for the ecosystem is mainly in the role of partner and supplier for local startups in photonics Keijzer says. “Production process and product design with this key technology are so closely intertwined that physical proximity and face-to-face consultation between engineers is required”. That is why the State Secretary is also convinced that SMART Photonics must continue to fulfill its role in the Dutch ecosystem if it is to avoid the risk of the production and research facilities relocating.

SMART Photonics, founded in 2012, will use the funds to expand its capacity for wafer manufacturing at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, accelerate the development of its photonic integration technology, and help establish the technology in the marketplace through its customers.

Lead investor Innovation Industries is one of Europe’s most active independent photonics investors and holds numerous investments across the photonics value chain. The contribution from the Ministry is offered through the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). Other participants in the investment are KPN Ventures, PhotonDelta, and existing shareholders, thereby reaffirming the position of SMART Photonics as the central player in the European photonics ecosystem.

SMART Photonics’ ambition is to be the leading independent foundry for photonic integrated circuits, which provide small-scale integration and high performance combined with low energy consumption. “Photonic integrated circuits will play a key role in our lives by enabling new and radically improved applications that make our world better, greener, and safer”, according to CEO Johan Feenstra. SMART Photonics’ integration technology allows its customers to design chips for a variety of next-generation communication and highly accurate sensor applications in telecoms, healthcare, smart mobility, and sustainable industrial processes.

SMART Photonics - equipment

Since its inception in 2012, SMART Photonics has attracted a global customer base. “We are very excited to have the new consortium on board and to be able to bring our foundry to the next level thanks to this investment. This will allow us to scale up our volumes as we support our customers in bringing their first commercial products using photonic integration technology to the market”, says Feenstra.

Europe’s leading position
Nard Sintenie, General Partner, Innovation Industries, comments: “SMART Photonics is perfectly positioned as Europe’s leading independent foundry for integrated photonics through its flexible production process of photonic integrated circuits, proprietary process design kit, and tremendous know-how. In order for Europe to maintain a leading position in the development of new technologies for the rapid-growing photonics industry, we believe it is essential to invest in infrastructure. We are confident that SMART will contribute to a strong and healthy photonics ecosystem that will drive cutting-edge technology development ensuring the continued formation of exciting start- and scale-ups in this attractive industry.”

Miriam Dragstra, CCO of the Brabant Development Agency (BOM), which played an important role in the deal sourcing, emphasizes the strategic importance of the deal: “Recognized as one of Europe’s key enabling technologies, Photonics has the potential to drive economic growth and provide solutions to some of the most pressing societal and environmental challenges of our time. SMART Photonics allows Dutch technology companies to play a leading role in the development of this promising technology. Therefore, BOM is committed to supporting the financial and strategic development of this game-changer.”

SMART Photonics - photonic integrated circuit