Optical interposer company NcodiN has successfully secured €3.5 million from Elaia, Earlybird Venture Capital, and OVNI Capital. 

NcodiN has developed an optical interposer that enables high-bandwidth, low-latency optical data communications between chiplets within a processor package.  

NcodiN’s on-chip integration of ultra-small nanolasers and nanodetectors enables ultra-high integration density – more than 10,000 components per cm2.

The company’s optoelectronic components originate from more than 15 years of research at CNRS Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology near Paris, one of the major European academic institutions for nanophotonics. 

I spoke to Francesco Manegatti, co-founder and CEO at NcodiN to learn more.

Why does this matter? 

This technology unlocks high-speed, reliable and energy-efficient data transmission for adopters, allowing the scaling of their high-end processor architectures dedicated to extremely heavy supercomputing workloads.

This makes it possible to scale processor performance to meet the needs of high performance computing and AI — meets the evolving needs of scalers like Nvidia, Intel and Qualcomm — without the limitations of traditional electrical interconnects. 

The power of nanolasers and waveguides

NcodiN’s optical interposer technology uses integrated semiconductor nanolasers to transmit data optically between chiplets. 

This offers several advantages over traditional electrical data transmission methods:

  • Optical links have a far higher data transfer capacity than copper interconnects. 
  • Silicon waveguides (the medium transferring light signals in integrated optical chips) allow longer reach and higher data rates compared to copper wires, where signal integrity degrades rapidly at higher frequencies.
  • The nanolasers used in NcodiN’s interposers consume significantly less power than traditional electrical interconnects, contributing to more energy-efficient system designs.
  • NcodiN’s nanolasers are 500 times smaller compared to state-of-the-art laser sources adopted in the industry, enabling higher density interconnects.
  • NcodiN tech paves the way to Petabit/second data traffic for a power budget of less than 100 fJ/bit. 

Accelerators bring connections and early financial support

Since its creation in March 2023, NcodiN has been supported by a distinguished incubator (Agoranov) as well as three accelerators (21st by CentraleSupélec, Wilco and Intel Ignite).

Manegatti shared that such programs helped penetrate the French tech ecosystem and provide some financial support via zero rate loans to enable the young company to start to pay its first expenses, and to pay its first employee last September — the company has since grown to seven. 

The company is currently focused on structuring the team while accelerating its R&D activity. 

“So as to be ready to commercialise the technology when it will be fundamentally necessary. Discussions with our clients reveal that our timing is perfect because of the long runway required for industrialisation” explains Manegatti.

I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering how a nascent startup can attract the interest of big established legacy companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia. 

Manegatti contends that while it’s a long road, “when your clients are just big players, I think that there’s no need to start with medium or small players of the market. 

“And ever since the beginning, it’s good to approach them and understand their requirements, and how they’re used to working with startups. And that’s what we did. So we had the chance to develop a pretty good network. 

Ever since the beginning, we saw a real interest in our technology and particularly our value proposition.”

It’s still early days on NcodiN’s path to commercialisation. The company has still several steps to industrialisation that include proof of performance showcasing, reproduction, and validation within microlabs, putting time to market at around five years. 

Manegatti explains:

“We’re proving that not only we can do it in our nice clean room with our facilities, but also that it can be exported and reproduced on a 300-millimetre wafer within a CMOS foundry, key to showcase the manufacturing scalability potential to address the high-volume production required by the market.

Because right now to build up fabrication is becoming more and more expensive as we’re dealing with more and more advanced nodes. So the costs are increasing exponentially. “

Therefore the company is keen to partner up with fabrication plants rather than compete with the manufacturers. 

In regard to any phasing out of copper in exchange for optical lasers. Manegatti detailed; 

 “It’s going to be a hybrid approach, where we have very short interconnects based on copper and longer ones based on light optical links”

Visionary investment 

NcodiN was fortunate to attract the attention of not only major manufacturers but some of Europe’s most prominent investors. When asked about the key to funding in the current climate, Manegatti advises startups “to take your time to properly pitch your value proposition and  in particular, your vision.” 

“And if I was speaking to an entrepreneur in the starting the fundraising process. I’d advise them to have a good margin because you never know how long it’s going to take.” 

According to Clément Vanden Driessche, Investment Director at Elaia:

“Francesco, Bruno, Fabrice and the NcodiN team have identified a unique opportunity in transforming the semiconductor industry with a new approach to photonic links.”

Dr. Frédéric du Bois-Reymond, Partner at Earlybird-X notes, “We’re convinced by their excellent research and excited about the commercial prospective it generates. Promising times ahead!”

This funding round will focus on accelerating the development of NcodiN’s integrated optical link prototype (MVP) while fueling the company’s expansion, enabling rapid growth to address the needs of industrial clients.

Lead image: NcodiN founders. Photo: uncredited. 

Source: Tech.eu