ARCHIVED - The Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre: Lighting the Road to Photonics Commercialization

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June 05, 2005— Ottawa, Ontario

Two scientists working under controlled environmental conditions in a new NRC-CPFC facility
Two scientists working under controlled environmental conditions in a new NRC-CPFC facility

Canadian industry has gained a valuable ally in technology commercialization, as the National Research Council's Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (NRC-CPFC) is now officially open for business. Photonics is the science of generating and harnessing photons, the building blocks of light.

"Photonics overlaps many of the most important industrial markets in this country," said Dr. Sylvain Charbonneau, Director of Applications Technology at the NRC-CPFC, which is housed within the NRC's Institute for Microstructural Sciences in Ottawa. "Photonics finds opportunities in several market segments; the telecom market being important, of course, but there are also biomedical, environment, energy, consumer products and national security applications."

Examples of applications of photonics include fibre-optic communication systems, new solid state lighting for the automotive industry, flat-panel computer displays, optical disc information storage (CD and DVD), optical sensors, medical diagnostics and imaging, optical interconnects, illumination systems and laser printers.

Official NRC-CPFC ribbon cutting ceremony, from left to right - David McGuinty - MP Ottawa South representing the Government of Canada; Richard Patten - MPP Ottawa Center, representing the Government of Ontario; Dr. Pierre Coulombe - President of the NRC; and Dr. Richard Van Loon President of Carleton University
Official NRC-CPFC ribbon cutting ceremony, from left to right - David McGuinty - MP Ottawa South representing the Government of Canada; Richard Patten - MPP Ottawa Center, representing the Government of Ontario; Dr. Pierre Coulombe - President of the NRC; and Dr. Richard Van Loon President of Carleton University

The NRC-CPFC was created to bridge the gap between the invention and commercialization of photonics-based products by offering prototyping services to researchers from academia, industry and government. Researchers take their photonics-based inventions to the NRC-CPFC, which uses its leading-edge infrastructure and expertise to design and fabricate a prototype. The prototype can then be used to generate further funding to manufacture the product on a larger scale and potentially start a new company.

"The main value proposition of the NRC-CPFC can be summarized in two lines; de-risking technology and de-risking investment opportunities," explained Charbonneau. "There are no photonics centres in Canada of this sort. So a lot of start-up and more mature companies are looking to get their prototyping done. We have de-risked the technology and the investment because we have absorbed the cost of the fabrication plant."

In 2000, 42 percent of all photonics-related telecom components came from Canada. After the telecom decline, Canadian photonics industry groups decided that building a fabrication plant was the best way to capitalize on its leadership position in photonics research and development. The NRC-CPFC was born of a partnership of industry, academia and several levels of government. In addition to the National Research Council, other NRC-CPFC partners include the Province of Ontario, Carleton University and the Ontario Innovation Trust.

NRC technical officer working on the creation of optical waveguides.
NRC technical officer working on the creation of optical waveguides.

The NRC-CPFC has a dual mandate; in addition to building photonics-based devices, the centre is actively involved in developing the highly qualified personnel needed to grow Canada's photonics industry. The NRC-CPFC is working with Carleton University to establish a cross-disciplinary curriculum to train future photonics workers in engineering, physics, chemistry and biology.

Another way that the NRC-CPFC will generate economic return from Canada's investment in university research is by helping professors commercialize their inventions. In partnership with the Canadian Microelectronics Corporation, the NRC-CPFC will put out regular calls for proposals from university researchers to compete for a chance to develop and prototype their photonics-based inventions.

"To be able to grow and start the industry in the field of photonics is very important," said Charbonneau. "If I can have six to seven globally competitive companies, which, without the NRC-CPFC, would not have started, a multiplication factor will come into play. Yes, revenue is important for the NRC-CPFC, but the success of our client base is as important to us as revenue generation."


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Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
613-991-1431
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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