and optical components and subsystems,
to advanced communications systems.
They are also leading PiFAS (Photonic
Integration from Atoms to Systems)—a
strategic research cluster funded by SFI.
This combines the activities of several
research groups across Ireland to develop
and apply competitive photonic integration and packaging capabilities.
The PiFAS industry partners include
Intune Networks, whose flexible and
tuneable network equipment products
underpin Ireland’s Exemplar Smart
Network, Eblana Photonics and Tyndall spinouts SensL and Firecomms.
Firecomms develops high-speed optical
components. This company made history
last year, becoming the first-ever Irish
high-tech firm to be bought by a Chinese
corporation, when they were acquired by
the ZJF Group, a leading manufacturer
of transceivers for consumer plastic optical fiber networks. Tyndall also has key
collaborations with major multinationals
such as BT, Alcatel-Lucent and Intel.
After Tyndall, the largest academic
research groupings are in the Dublin
area, and Galway, on the west coast. In
Dublin, all three Universities—Trinity
College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin and Dublin City University—have optics research in both physics
and electrical engineering. TCD hosts a
world-class center for nanotechnology,
CRANN, which has a strong photonics
strand, including a graduate school that
provides a structured Ph.D. program.
At the National University of Ireland, Galway, there are more than 60
researchers in the fields of laser machining, applied optics and vision science and
biophotonics. My own group’s research
spans many aspects of imaging science,
with a special focus on adaptive optics
and vision. We have had numerous interactions with industry, with seven active
collaborative industrial projects.
Most of the funding for basic science
comes from SFI, but there is significant
funding for students and postdocs from
the Irish Research Council for Science,
Engineering and Technology, and for
The author’s group at The National University of Ireland, Galway. Warner Photography/SFI
At the National University of Ireland, Galway,
there are more than 60
researchers in the fields of
laser machining, applied
optics and vision science
applied research focused on industry and
innovation from Enterprise Ireland. The
latter funds both R&D with existing
companies and the direct commercialization of research to produce spin-outs or
licenses. Irish photonics researchers have
also been highly successful in securing
European Union funding.
The indigenous Irish photonics in-
dustry is still relatively small at this stage
of development. However, if we include
companies who use photonics in some
way, then there are more than 50, mainly
multinationals, with particular strengths
in the areas of pharma, ICT and medical
technologies. These companies include
all the household names such as IBM,
Microsoft, Google, Intel, HP, J&J and
more, and together they use more than
100,000 people. To give an idea of the
scale of these operations, HP makes
millions of ink-jet cartridges a week in
their Dublin plant, and J&J Vistakon
produces more than a million contact
lenses a day in Limerick. Both of these
operations use optics in several ways.
I’m grateful to Alva O’Cleirigh (Science
Foundation Ireland) and Prof. Eoin O’Reilly
(Tyndall National Institute) for providing
input to this article. However, the opinions
expressed are solely those of the author.
Chris Dainty ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a
professor of applied physics at The National
University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the 2011
[ References and Resources ]
>> “Research strengths in Ireland: A biblio-metric study of the public research base,”
December 2009, www.forfas.ie/media/
>> Photonics in Ireland 2011: www.photon-icsirelandconference.ie.
>> Ireland’s Exemplar Smart Network: