The Tyndall National Institute is to lead a new €15.5m EU funded project aimed at supporting the creation of infrastructure for developing and manufacturing optical based circuits.

Photonics uses light rather than electrons to perform a wide variety of functions including high-speed communication over fibre optic cables, medical diagnostics and the control of self-driving cars.

Photonic Integrated Circuits or PICs are the processing devices on which several optical and sometime electronic components are integrated for use in such applications.

In order to support the development of Europe's capacity to service the photonics market, which is predicted to be worth €615 billion by 2020, the EU is investing in research into the technology. 

The international PIXAPP consortium will develop new technologies for producing PICs that are affordable and capable of being scaled up for production at large volumes. 

The technologies will be offered openly to those who need them through Tyndall National Institute in Cork, which will lead the project. 

This is important because up to four fifths of the cost of photonics components comes from the production of them. 

"Furthermore we plan to train and educate the photonics workforce of the future by creating a unique laboratory based training programme," said Professor Peter O'Brien, PIXAPP Pilot Line Director and Head of Photonics Packaging Research at Tyndall National Institute.

"This programme is a game-changer not only for the European photonics industry but also global photonics," he added.

Photonics has been identified by the EU as a key technology for the future as it offers a new level of speed and usage capacity far above traditional technologies which in many cases are nearing capacity.

The consortium also includes partners from the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Italy and Czech Republic.