Major national award for UofG semiconductor laser spinout

Published: 16 November 2021

A company established as a spinout from the University of Glasgow’s has won a significant national award for their semiconductor laser technology.

A company established as a spinout from the University of Glasgow has won a significant national award for their semiconductor laser technology.
The founders of Vector Photonics will receive the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Colin Campbell Mitchell Award at an event at the Academy’s Enterprise Showcase today (Tuesday 16 November 2021).The founders of Vector Photonics: l-r Prof Richard Hogg, Dr David Childs, Dr Richard Taylor
The Award, named in honour of one of Scotland’s most accomplished marine engineers, is made annually to an engineer or small team of engineers who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of any field of UK engineering.
Professor Richard Hogg of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering, Dr Richard Taylor and Dr David Childs founded Vector Photonics in 2020, based on technology developed at UK universities.
The winning team said: “We are honoured and humbled to receive such a prestigious award from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the world’s premier, learned society for engineering. The technology started as blue sky research in a university laboratory and, thanks to support from a range of funding sources and the wider team, we have been able to translate our technology to real world applications through commercial venture.
“We hope that the recognition that the Colin Campbell Mitchell Award brings will inspire others to study engineering and develop their entrepreneurship, both of which are at the heart of British culture.”
Professor David Cumming, head of the James Watt School of Engineering, said: “The Colin Campbell Mitchell Award is a fantastic achievement for any company, but for Vector Photonics to be presented with it less than two years after it was founded is a testament to the pioneering work that the team are doing.
“I’m proud to see a University of Glasgow spinout achieving such remarkable early success. As they continue to expand the team, build new commercial partnerships and further refine their technology I expect they will have many more successes to come.”
The team’s ground-breaking photonic crystal surface emitting laser (PCSEL) combines and improves upon the strengths of vertical-cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSEL) and edge-emitting lasers (EEL), involving a novel laser geometry that eliminates the compromise between speed, cost, and power inherent in previous semiconductor lasers.
Scalable and able to operate at any wavelength, PCSELs are a game-changing technology with applications in the datacoms sector but also offers a step change in performance for telecommunications, additive manufacturing, sensing and lidar. Many different types of lasers are currently on the market and businesses must choose the ones that will best meet their particular purposes. In future, the PCSEL may fulfil all requirements for diode laser manufacturing.
What makes Vector Photonics’ design approach particularly attractive is its compatibility with existing semiconductor device manufacturing processes, simplifying the build and delivery of their PCSEL devices.
Though in its infancy, the company has already secured more than £2.5 million in company grant funding, £1.6million in equity investment, increased its headcount to 16 people and generated enough international attention to have some of the world’s largest companies requesting samples and contracts.
Professor Bashir M. Al-Hashimi CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Committee, said: “A high-speed, high-power, surface-emitting laser operable at data communications wavelengths represents the holy grail and companies globally have committed decades of effort and money to address this problem, which the core team at Vector Photonics were first in the world to solve. With their varied, multi-disciplinary and complementary skillset, the team members are worthy winners of this Award. I am pleased the Academy is able to acknowledge and encourage engineering achievements, ingenuity and innovation in this way to ensure it flourishes in the UK and internationally.”

First published: 16 November 2021