Inpho Venture Summit: Europe is brimming with innovation

Technological innovation and entrepreneurship is on the rise in Europe, say panelists at INPHO Venture Summit, a financial investor and strategic business partnering event focused on growth market investments.

"This year's conference provided a productive forum on the convergence of hardware technologies, such as photonics, and software capabilities, such as big data analytics, to open up new opportunities for startups," said George Ugras, chairman of the 2016 edition and managing partner at IBM Ventures.

Thales sponsored this year’s conference, hosting attendees from a range of industries and the international financial community. The event engaged investors and leading industrial players in discussions on high investment opportunities in growth markets.

For many who attended InPho, it was a “thrill to see photonics impacting fields other than telecom, such as connected cars and digital healthcare,” said Steve Alexander, CTO of Ciena.

The Telecom Panel pointed to the regulatory environment as a challenge in competing for new revenue streams. Nevertheless, Julian Lucek, Juniper Networks, said that as capacity grows, within five years products will need to offer eight times the performance. Amongst areas offering opportunities for growth he listed the need for new ASIC, memory bandwidth for packaging forwarding, new physics and silicon photonics.

Predicting disease was highlighted as an area where digital technologies could play a major role, in particular in devices that "understand" how our bodies "react to the daily treatment," said Mark Lightowler, CEO of Phorix Ltd. Inaki Gutiérrez-Ibarluze, knowledge manager at HTA, raised digital issues concerning privacy, data accuracy and security and interoperability.

The IoT and Smart Grid Panel talked of the rising trends in converging energy and digital technologies. The two market drivers are: decentralization, where the scale of economies will be reached with distributed energy such as solar PV or windmills; digitization, where flexibility and dispatchable energy sources linked to renewable energy growth will be required to provide a digitally controlled and stable supply.

The autonomous car offers unlimited opportunities for sensors and other smart system technologies. However, due to the requirement for the right infrastructure to be in place the horizon for truly self-driving cars is likely to be another 20–30 years away.

Europe is a good environment for developing innovation according to the panel led by Nitan Pathak, partner at the European Investment Fund (EIF).

Europe is now focused on “bridging the gap between the end of the research phase, when the financial system of subsidies and grants are no longer available, and the period enabling startups to scale-up,” said Willy van Puymbroek, head of the Unit, Competitive Electronics Industry at the EC.

Private money can "bring the breakthrough in enabling European startups to migrate to the next stage," said Jean-Louis Malinge, investment manager at Arch Venture Partners. "But there is the need for more European blockbusters to motivate the financial community," added Christian Reitberger, partner at Wellington Partners.

The next edition is planned for October 11–12, 2018 (Bordeaux) with the support of the cluster ALPHA-RLH, the CEA, BLUMORPHO and the CCIBG.

Carol Leslie, Andrew Lloyd & Associates

Read Photoniques special EOS issue, march-april 2017.