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The University of Southampton

Singapore lights up photonics research with $100 million institute

Published: 30 October 2014

The next generation of ultra-fast Internet or ground-breaking electronic circuits, powered by light instead of electricity, could very well be built on research done at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in conjunction with the University of Southampton.

To establish Singapore as a powerhouse in photonics and optics research, NTU today launched The Photonics Institute, one of the most advanced institutes in the field today. The Institute has developed from a partnership between NTU and the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at Southampton.

NTU also unveiled Singapore’s first high-tech fibre optic research manufacturing facility today. It is housed at one of the institute’s five research centres.

The national-level Photonics Institute at NTU will focus on research involving light technology, such as those found in fibre-optic cables, lasers and consumer products like DVD/Blu-ray devices or remote control devices.

The ORC is is one of the largest university-based research groups entirely devoted to optoelectronics in the world and the birth place of the ubiquitous fibre-optic Internet now found in most homes.

Over four decades, the ORC has maintained a position at the forefront of photonics research. Its long and well established track record in the fields of optical fibre, lasers, waveguides, devices and optoelectronic materials has fostered innovation, enterprise, cross-boundary and multi-disciplinary activities.

The ORC has built strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world, from informal collaborations to large-scale funding. Several spin out companies, including Fianium, SENSA, Fibercore and Stratophase have commercialised the fruits of ORC research; while its extensive outreach programme has brought lasers and optical fibres into schools across the country.

The $80 million SGD Photonics Institute at NTU is funded and supported by industry partners and various national agencies, including A*STAR, DSO National Laboratories, the Economic Development Board Singapore, the Ministry of Education and the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore.

The Guest-of-Honour at the launch ceremony was Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, who witnessed NTU signing a research partnership agreement with Southampton to formalise the setting up of The Photonics Institute.

NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson said photonics is an enabling technology with applications that span many industry sectors, from communications to manufacturing, and even space technology.

“We have already seen examples of how photonic technologies, such as optical fibres networks and lasers, have changed our society through the Internet,” Prof Andersson said. “Together with Southampton, our new institute aims to be become a focal point for photonics research in Singapore and to drive innovations on a global scale.

“This joint initiative is an important conduit for the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge, breakthroughs and industrial innovations between Singapore and United Kingdom.”

University of Southampton Vice-Chancellor Prof Don Nutbeam said, “Our partnership with NTU is symbolic of Southampton’s strategy for internationalisation - working closely with world class universities to achieve mutual benefits in research, education and enterprise.

“The University Southampton has been at the forefront of research and development in photonics for several decades and continues to be a significant contributor to the growth of the photonics industry in the UK and internationally. This pioneering work on the optical fibres, fibre lasers and amplifiers that power the internet today has been driven by our world-leading researchers such as Professor Sir David Payne and Professor Nikolay Zheludev, both of whom have major roles in our dual-centre with NTU.”

The Photonics Institute will comprise five different research centres, all related to the field of photonics and optics:

  • Centre for Optical Fibre Technology
  • Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies
  • LUMINOUS! Centre of Excellence for Semiconductor Lighting and Displays
  • Centre for Optical & Laser Engineering
  • OPTIMUS! Photonic Centre of Excellence

The Photonics Institute will be headed by three co-directors. They are NTU professors Tjin Swee Chuan and Nikolay Zheludev; and Professor Sir David Payne, the director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre and Zepler Institute at Southampton.

Professor Nikolay Zheludev, who is also the director for the Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies, said the new institute will be a new model which spans both universities in Singapore and the UK, aimed at “developing disruptive ideas in next-generation photonics.”

“The Photonics Institute will be a cradle of knowledge and intellectual property, as well as a focal point for developing ground-breaking applications of light-enabled technologies,” he said.

The new institute will have a total of 120 scientists and staff from its five research centres, with a combined floor space of 4,000 square metres.


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