Optoelectronic devices and circuits

Design, modelling, fabrication and processing of new or improved devices and systems that use electrons and photons, including ultraviolet (UV), visible, infrared (IR), terahertz (THz) and microwave radiation. This research area focuses on active semiconductor-based structures and example technologies include: low-dimensional structures (e.g. quantum dots, wires and wells) to realise device platforms such as lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) (including organic LEDs), photodiodes, amplifiers, modulators, detectors, photovoltaics, receivers, switches and sensors; in addition, novel or extended hybrid and monolithic integration strategies (e.g. compound semiconductors on silicon or germanium) to realise multifunctional (active and passive) component solutions such as combined photonic, magnetic and electronic integrated circuits.

We have a high level of investment in this research area, mostly in the form of large and long term grants. The argument for maintaining this at the expense of other parts of the EPSRC portfolio, however, is not sufficiently strong. Our aim is therefore to reduce the size of the area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio, to allow other areas to grow. Nevertheless, we would like to maintain a strong, substantial portfolio of funding for high-quality research in Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits.

This high level of investment, across all career stages and across the technology pipeline, means the community is well-provisioned for current and future needs. The strategy of reducing the level of investment in this area balances the demands of this large research area against competing needs from other areas of science. By the end of the current Delivery Plan period, we aim to:

  • Have a portfolio that continues to take a systems approach, to foster more informed design and enable the community to continue to address challenges beyond their domains. This typically requires interfacing with other disciplines (e.g. quantum technologies, communications) and is particularly important as the range of advanced materials and device fabrication technologies has grown and diversified. This approach will allow the area to have more impact, particularly in responding to future challenges/priorities (e.g. emerging quantum technologies, the Internet of Things) and supporting developments in manufacturing technologies
  • Continue to support a strong capability in equipment and cleanroom facilities, which are instrumental to current UK success in this area
  • Have a substantial portfolio in Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits which includes a mixture of projects and programmes ranging in scale and scope and fostering a healthy balance between support for earlier and for more established researchers

Researchers continue to take advantage of the opportunities to contribute to the advancement of research in areas such as quantum technologies and photonic and electronic integration, and sectors beyond electronics and communications.

Highlights:

We support a large, internationally leading UK academic community with an extensive reputation for research excellence in semiconductor-related fields (Evidence source 1,2). Much of our funding supports critical-mass investments, which have contributed to this world-leading position (Evidence source 1,2,3,4,5,6). UK research also benefits from external factors and investment, such as access to commercial European foundries (e.g. Oclaro, CST and IQE) and to EUROPRACTICE. (Evidence source 6,7)

This area is also seeing significant activity from EPSRC and external large-scale investment in higher Technology Readiness Level (TRL) initiatives, such as the UK Photonics Manufacturing Hub, the UK Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics and a South Wales compound semiconductor cluster (including the announced £50 million Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult) that intends to consolidate and extend the UK supply chain (Evidence source 6,7).

As a result of these investments, we expect to see significant demand for the outcomes from fundamental research, with this pull-through drawing on key UK strengths (e.g. photonic device expertise across a range of technologies, such as advanced semiconductor laser devices, and developments in applied and fundamental III-Vs technologies). A specific opportunity is in smart lighting, which could become an important component in the Internet of Things and benefits from a strong UK research effort in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and flexible electronics.

We recognise that, as well as being relevant to traditional Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sectors such as communications and electronics, this area is relevant to non-ICT sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, energy, defence and construction (Evidence source 3,4,5,6). This reflects the ability of semiconductor technologies to play a major role in overcoming today's societal challenges, and we anticipate direct medium-term impact from this research community on, for example, emerging quantum technologies and the Internet of Things. (Evidence source 8)

The contribution this area can make to the Prosperity Outcomes and Ambitions, and EPSRC cross-ICT priorities, is, however, insufficient to justify the proportion of the EPSRC portfolio it currently accounts for. Its contribution is strong but can be delivered by a smaller, still substantial level of support. The bulk of the portfolio also consists of large, long grants and, while these have contributed to the UK's international standing in this research area, we need to ensure this approach does not compromise the long-term health of the area by limiting expertise to a few major research efforts or narrowing opportunities available to the next generation of research leaders (Evidence source 1).

This area contributes most strongly to the Productive and Connected Nation Outcomes, with specific relevance to the following Ambitions:

C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things

This research area contributes to devices for sensor networks and integrated processing.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This area contributes via development of novel devices and systems to underpin intelligent systems.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

This research area is relevant to the deployment of emerging technologies (e.g. quantum technologies).

  1. Input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team and Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists.
  2. EPSRC Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits portfolio data.
  3. Photonics Leadership Group.
  4. Photonics Leadership Group, UK Photonics: Future Growth Opportunity Roadmap (PDF), (2015).
  5. A. Hamacker and G. Jordan, Photonics Revolutionising our World, (2014).
  6. Photonics21, Photonics Landscape Europe.
  7. Roadmap: UK III-V Community Engagement with Industry.
  8. Policy Exchange, Eight Great Technologies (PDF), (2014).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Reduce

We aim to reduce this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Optoelectronic devices and circuits (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: ICT Team
Department: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC