ICMM x Innovayt // EIC Pathfinder

The seamless conversion of information between the electronic and optical domains is critical in today’s rapidly evolving information technology (IT) landscape. While the electronic domain deals with traditional electronics that use electric signals, optical systems use light signals for data transmission. Efficiently converting electrical signals to optical ones, and vice versa, enables faster data transmission and more efficient information processing for various applications, including in the Internet backbone, data centres, telecommunications, and other industries that heavily rely on IT. Photonic integrated circuits (PIC) are crucial in achieving this critical information conversion. However, the photonics industry remains fragmented, hampered by a myriad of chip designs and chip-to-fiber interfacing methods. The lack of a universal PIC platform that spans the entire spectrum from nanotechnology to advanced manufacturing hindered progress, resulting in application-specific, expensive, and unsustainable solutions.

To address partially some of the challenges of the field, the Materials Science Institute of Madrid (ICMM) will lead and manage the NEUROPIC Project where, together with consortium partners, they will develop an innovative programmable photonic chip architecture. This breakthrough has transformative potential for data centres, autonomous vehicles, quantum information processors, and much more. By leveraging recent advancements from the consortium partners in nanotechnology, the NEUROPIC will embark on scaling programmable photonic chips to thousands of nodes, paving the way for transformative advancements.

The NEUROPIC Project encompasses a range of ambitious objectives, including sustainable and high-performance silicon nanomachining, the establishment of a scalable platform for ultralow-power nanoelectromechanical programmable silicon photonics, and the development of massively parallel optical interconnects. The ultimate goal of NEUROPIC is to utilise an interconnected network of independent and fully controllable nodes for neuromorphic computing, effectively quantifying the role of complexity in artificial intelligence (AI). By addressing fundamental scientific and technological questions, NEUROPIC will generate significant scientific impact and set the stage for future commercial breakthroughs.

NEUROPIC brings together a consortium of world-leading researchers and companies in the fields of nanotechnology, photonics, advanced manufacturing, and complex systems. This highly interdisciplinary research initiative is driven by the shared ambition to establish a new paradigm of programmable silicon photonics. With a strong focus on innovation and collaboration, the project aims to transcend existing limitations and revolutionise the field of photonics, forming the foundation for attractive business cases with varying risks and market sizes.

Innovayt assisted ICMM in coordinating the development of an EIC Pathfinder project proposal, securing €3M in funding. The European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder, supported by Horizon Europe, encourages the exploration of bold ideas and radical new technologies, enabling technological breakthroughs that pave the way for powerful new innovations by embracing high-risk, high-gain, and interdisciplinary collaborations. The NEUROPIC Project’s innovative approach to photonics, combined with Innovayt’s application assistance, aided the funding success, allowing NEUROPIC to pursue visionary thinking and open promising avenues toward powerful new technologies.

Working with Innovayt on the project was just what gave us the differential to go through it. Carlos Costa’s experience and advice enabled us to tackle the weak points and address the last details in a robust way. I think Innovayt’s contribution to the project was significant, from start to the final outcome. It was really worth working with them.
Dr. P. David García, Researcher at ICMM and NEUROPIC Project Coordinator.

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