CORNERSTONE 2

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)

Abstract

Southampton and Glasgow Universities currently contribute to a project entitled CORNERSTONE which has established a new Silicon Photonics fabrication capability, based on the Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI) platform, for academic researchers in the UK. The project is due to end in December 2019, after which time the CORNERSTONE fabrication capability will be self-sustaining, with users paying for the service. Based upon demand from the UK's premier photonics researchers, this proposal seeks funding to extend the capability that is offered to UK researchers beyond the current SOI platforms, to include emerging Silicon Photonics platforms, together with capabilities facilitating integration of photonic circuits with electronics, lasers and detectors. These emerging platforms enable a multitude of new applications that have emerged over the past several years, some of which are not suitable for the SOI platform, and some of which complement the SOI platform by serving applications at other wavelengths. Southampton, and Glasgow universities will work together to bring the new platforms to a state of readiness to deliver the new functionality via a multi-project-wafer (MPW) mechanism to satisfy significantly increasing demand, and deliver them to UK academic users free of charge (to the user) for the final six months of the project, in order to establish credibility. This will encourage wider usage of world class equipment within the UK, in line with EPSRC policy. We seek funding for 3 PDRAs and 2 technicians across the 2 institutions, over a 2 year period, to facilitate access to a very significant inventory of equipment at these 2 universities, including access to UK's only deep-UV projection lithography capability. During this 2 year period, we will canvas UK demand for the capability to continue to operate as an EPSRC National Research Facility, and if so, to establish a statement of need. We currently have 50 partners/users providing in-kind support to a value of to £1705,000 and cash to the value of £173,450.

Planned Impact

CORNERSTONE 2 will be the key enabler to enhance UK high impact research in Silicon Photonics using new materials platforms and fabrication process flexibility that is missing from current foundries. This grant will provide an effective fabrication capability via a multi-project-wafer service to increase productivity for users and partners alike to enable new research innovations via the new platforms made available in CORNERSTONE 2. Building on the success of the Silicon-on-Insulator platforms of CORNERSTONE, CORNERSTONE 2 will introduce new device and material platforms to address several of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund challenges from Quantum technology to Healthcare, big data processing and autonomous vehicles. New silicon nitride, suspended structures, germanium-on-silicon, packaging and integration platforms provide more options for users and allow them to exploit new scientific opportunities, hence spreading a wider network of collaboration. The first to benefit from this project are the researchers who will be trained in the art of device design and knowledge in sophisticated fabrication techniques. We are building a skilled workforce to retain UK research infrastructure and remain competitive worldwide.

Therefore the primary beneficiaries of the project will be CORNERSTONE 2 users, i.e. UK researchers, who will have the opportunity to demonstrate their ideas in practical terms, fabricating proof of principle devices and circuits, via industry-like processes.

Because of its industry compatible processes, CORNERSTONE 2 is ideally placed to facilitate commercial exploitation by taking conceptual design to production with our partner foundry at CompoundTek, Singapore who will assist in technology transfer, and Luceda Photonics Ltd., a premier software company, to provide Process Design Kit access and training. This close proximity collaboration with industrial partners will benefit users by providing the chance to fabricate their devices at industrial standards and quality. In addition, new intellectual property ideas will be protected in collaborative manner, including licensing of fabrication methods or device designs for industrial uptake. The noteworthy academic and industry partnerships within CORNERSTONE 2 allow greater engagement with other trade groups, the Photonics Leadership Group and user networks such as SEPNET, a direct access route to high value equipment and processes offered in this project. The immense opportunities generated in this project will be measured by its annual output in term of number of users, devices fabricated and publications. The mechanisms for greater academic and industrial collaboration in this grant demonstrate its potential to sustain itself beyond the project life.

Working together with our academic and industrial users, we anticipate high quality outputs from journal publications, trade shows, road mapping exercise, press releases, keynote and invited talks, and conference presentations. To increase our worldwide presence, we will chair a dedicated CORNERSTONE 2 symposium at Photonex Europe 2020, coordinated by Xmark Media. Further promotion will be made via our website, MPW brokers Europractice and CUMEC, China, to strengthen our place as one of the world leaders for photonic device design and fabrication. These dissemination activities will accelerate research in photonics technology by supporting EPSRC's national priority areas as a Productive, Connected, Resilient and Healthy nation.

CORNERSTONE 2 will bring the societal impact of emerging Silicon Photonics technology more rapidly to fruition. Accelerated routes to market for UK products at the cutting edge of technology benefit society via earlier adoption, better exploitation and greater market share for UK companies. Similarly UK IP can be more rapidly exploited via UK or multinational companies, and CORNERSTONE 2 will enable such exploitation via proof of principle operational evidence.

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