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Photonics foundry gets $22m injection

Extra government support will help CPFC, the foundry at the center of the Ottawa photonics cluster, expand upon its reputation in optical communications.

The Canadian Photonics Fabrication Center has gained a C$22.3 million ($22 million) governmental funding boost, rewarding it for helping Canada s photonics industry bounce back from the telecoms crash.

“CPFC has been a success really beyond the dreams of most people four or five years ago when it was first started,” said Brian Ventrudo, the foundry s business development officer.

“We see this as a vote of confidence for what we ve done for the industry and the business model that we have.”

Made at the end of January, the new money will be predominantly spent on “leading edge” stepper and electron-beam lithography systems, and establishing a second shift at the foundry.

The increased output targets reflect the high level of interest in CPFC s services, built around demand for InP and GaAs fabrication from the strong photonics community in Ottawa.

Further to this traditional expertise, CPFC has recently experienced an increasing demand for its services to manufacture devices for solid state lighting and photovoltaics. The foundry is also now considering proposals to move away from its photonics background and begin work making GaN devices for high-power switching applications.

The funding emphasizes CPFC s role as the fulcrum that allows Ottawa to operate as the dedicated Canadian photonics cluster. In the past year, this cluster has thrown up photovoltaic firm Cyrium and optical networking business BTI Photonic Systems, each propelled by multi-million dollar venture backing.

According to Ventrudo, venture capitalists are particularly keen on the kind of business models that CPFC enables its customers to use.

“We have a lot of VCs coming through here to look at the fab and they just love this model, because their companies will just pay for what they need,” he said.

“A couple of million dollars to develop a new device, then the technology could be validated on that. The risk is much, much lower than in the past, when they might spend $40 million building their own fab.”

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