At an event hosted by the Irish Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to celebrate and build scientific collaboration between Ireland and the United States as part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, announced today that Rockley Photonics will establish an Irish R&D Centre at Tyndall National Institute, Cork, which will support Rockley’s growing global activities, in particular their Silicon Photonics research programme. The announcement, which is a part of a three year collaboration with the SFI funded Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC), based at Tyndall, represents a joint investment of €3.4M by Rockley and SFI to advance silicon photonics from the lab to market, addressing the growing demand for faster and more energy efficient data communications in data centres. Rockley intend to initially hire 5 highly skilled employees at their new R&D Centre.

Speaking at the event, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD said: “This investment and collaboration showcases the strong scientific and industrial links between our two nations. By establishing partnerships between companies such as Rockley Photonics and Ireland, we continue to grow our competitiveness in the area of ICT, while also forging strategic partnerships which will lead to the development of breakthrough technologies which have the potential to deliver huge societal and economic benefits.”

With the extraordinary growth in internet traffic combined with the non-stop demand for cloud-based services, datacentres play a critical role in meeting the data explosion requirements. Integrated optical technologies that enable datacentres to operate faster, more economically and at greater scalability are necessary for the industry to continue to satisfy the demands of the new digital economy. Today’s market is shifting to transport rates of one-hundred gigabit per second (100GB), and is expected to jump to 400GB in the near future – creating a major increase in energy usage as well as scalability issues unless new technologies, such as silicon photonics, are developed and deployed.

Dr Andrew Rickman, founder, CEO and chairman of Rockley Photonics, explained: “Our highly innovative silicon photonics technology is designed to address the optical I/O challenges facing next generation data centres – allowing network architects to take advantage of new high-density, low-power connectivity solutions and explore new network topologies and equipment design. This investment with IPIC will enable us to combine our expertise and utilise Tyndall’s state of the art facilities to develop ground breaking early stage technologies which will not only have a huge impact on the future architecture design of large data centres but will also improve the power and computational capacity of new consumer devices and provide robust sensing solutions in the autonomous vehicles and consumer device sectors as well as others. We’re grateful for the support we’re receiving from SFI.”

IPIC & Tyndall Photonics Centre Manager Dr Patrick Morrissey, said: “The Rockley-IPIC partnership enforces Ireland as a leading location for technology companies to efficiently develop and advance their technology. The investment will not only advance IPIC’s optical modulator and photonics integration technologies into products designed for volume production, but will also strongly position both IPIC and Rockley to take competitive advantage in the datacomms market which is expected to reach $6.4 Billion by 2023.”

Director General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson concluded, “SFI Research Centres such as IPIC are the driving force for connecting leading edge industry with world class researchers in Ireland.  I strongly welcome this partnership as it continues to elevate Ireland’s international reputation for research excellence with impact. Furthermore, by including a PhD training programme in the collaboration, IPIC is helping address the global demand for high skilled trainees in the area of photonics while developing a competitive edge in the global photonics market. We look forward to the significant opportunities and outputs that this collaboration will create.”