Rockley Photonics: bold plans in tough times

How an up and coming silicon photonics start-up plans to take on a soon-to-be multi-billion dollar industry. By Rebecca Pool.

Earlier this year, UK-based Rockley Photonics won $50 million in investment funds to grow its silicon photonics manufacturing technology, crucial for integrating III-V materials to silicon photonics integrated circuits. Investments now total more than $225 million, with the platform ready to take on large-volume production of high density photonics circuits, including optical fibre and datacentre communication transceivers.

As chief executive, Andrew Rickman, says: “The latest funds are testament to the strength of our technology… We’re on track for the big wave of 400G transceivers and believe we’ll be in a pre-eminent position for the further wave of 800G transceivers for data centres.”

The timing of the funding isn’t surprising. Over the next few years, the global silicon photonics market is expected to mushroom, with analysts unanimous that the market will be worth at least $3 billion come 2025 to 2027.

US-based Research and Markets predicts a mighty $3.77 billion by 2027, Global Market Insights, US, forecasts $3 billion by 2026, while Yole Développement of France, reckons the silicon photonic transceiver industry will be worth $3.6 billion come 2025. Market comes in at around $800 million.

Growth looks set to be largely fuelled by increasing demand for high-speed broadband services and deployment of 5G technologies and data centres worldwide, including developing nations, with applications such as LiDAR also emerging in the automotive sector. And like its competitors, Cisco, Intel, Macom, Mellanox, Neophotonics and more, Rockley Photonics is intent on capturing market share here.

However, Rickman and recently appointed chief commercial officer, Vafa Jamali, also believe the healthcare and wellness sector holds huge promise, with the company developing optical sensing chipsets for handheld and wearable devices.