All eyes on £2.8m spin-off team

September 28, 2001

A team of researchers at the University of Southampton has won £2.8 million in commercial funding to help spin off a company that will deliver optical networking components for broadband internet.

The seven-strong team, led by Greg Parker from the Microelectronics Research Group in the department of electronics and computer science, will form the core of Mesophotonics Limited.

The initiative is being funded by BTG, a stock exchange-listed technology commercialisation company, and the university, which will hold equity in it.

Apart from the financial investment, BTG will contribute to the "base intellectual property", which it will own, and will advise Mesophotonics on IP and commercialisation.

Professor Parker, who leads the team, said the company would develop components utilising photonic crystal technology.

"We have been researching photonic crystal technologies for a number of years, and while we were well aware of the potential demand for components based on the technology, we had neither the resources nor investment to develop commercial applications.

"With BTG's financial backing and IP expertise, we are confident that we will now be able to develop a commercial application for the technology," he said.

The team includes device theoreticians, computer modelling and optical characterisation specialists and experts in materials, fabrication and measurement.

Professor Parker said that the team's breadth of skills would allow it to create and develop a range of applications based on photonic crystal technology.

The company will bring to market a technology that has the potential to allow light to be bent, routed and processed at a sub-millimetre scale along optical fibres, enabling multiple optical functions and complex systems to be implemented at high density on a single strand of silicon.

Greater demand for broadband internet access and other high-volume data transmission has led to a growth in the demand for optical networking components.

Anthony Lando, BTG's executive vice-president of electronics, engineering and information technologies said: "This is a significant initiative in the optical communications and component field, an area that we have focused on for several years."

Mesophotonics will concentrate on developing components for use in dense wavelength division Multiplexing systems, a technique that allows optical networks to transmit vastly increased quantities of data by using light of different wavelengths to carry multiple data channels down a single optical fibre. This market is predicted to grow by nearly 50 per cent over the next three years.

BTG has commercialised innovations including magnetic resonance imaging, interferon and wide-spectrum cephalosporin antibiotics.

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