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Benedikt Baeuerle about Turning 5 – The co-Founders Take

Bene 5 years Polariton
Benedikt is a multi-talented technology enthusiast, displays strong patience and deep thinking on a daily basis, and also draws his internal energy from whispering to his bees and producing sweet honey.

“Turning 5 means looking back to a lot of achievements” comments Benedikt, co-founder of Polariton in February 2019. It has been a long journey, full of changes, starting as three colleagues in the same department, moving the operations to own offices, setting up own testing and manufacturing facilities, and running a company with 30 employees. “Today we master large portions of the value chain, starting with technology strategy, business development, product development, manufacturing, packaging, testing, and customer support. The constant specialization of the team has been a major engine of change”. In this journey numerous elements of external dependency have subsequently been removed enabling shorter development cycles.

Can you make an example for the mindset change inside the company? “We have own people for many aspects of the value chain, such as RF and optical simulation, efficient mask design for PIC fabrication, and we are able to produce devices with industrial quality. We introduced statistical monitoring, which is interestingly turning previous focus upside down. While in academia one chases the hero device, the entrepreneur chases the worst device that impacts the yield of the batch”, since the customer judges the supplier by the capability to reproduce the same result. Reliability has been the key for market acceptance.

What was the process increasing the reliability of the devices? “This was about setting the focus on customer expectation and market demand”, as an example while a research paper focuses on top data rates, the commercial application looks at the loss budget for the entire transmission and at the long-term stability of performance specifications under the influence of a variety of different environmental conditions. Today Polariton promotes standard high-speed modulators on the website and develops custom PICs for advanced applications. “The fun in doing that is developing customer specific products”. But this has certainly been harder than planned, because of the fragility of aspects of the semiconductor manufacturing.

Polariton’s roadmap comprises PICs that match customers’ specifications, in particular for the miniaturization and scaling of applications. “We see applications that need 50-100 high-speed purely photonic switches”, for which plasmonics is an ideal addition to the silicon photonics and silicon nitride platforms. Applications are going away from bulky implementations.

Benedikt’s motivation for the next few years will come from “collaborating with industrial partners and actively contributing to their value chain”, like licensing plasmonic IP into third party PDKs, and the participation in integrated transceivers for the next generation of telecom products (like for FLEX-SCALE), and also by developing the structures at Polariton. “We introduced agile aspects in R&D about a year ago, but there is still a lot of room for improvements”.

Interview by Stephan Koch.