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NSF 23-054

Dear Colleague Letter: Research on Integrated Photonics Utilizing AIM Photonics Capabilities

February 10, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

With this Dear Colleague letter (DCL), the Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS) within the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) and the Division of Translational Innovation (TI) within the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) of the National Science Foundation continue to encourage submission to their programs proposals by academic researchers and small businesses to explore innovative exploratory and translational research in all aspects of integrated photonics that utilize the current silicon and silicon nitride photonics capabilities resident in AIM Photonics. Proposals supported through this program will leverage the AIM design tools, pilot photonics foundry, test, and packaging capabilities.

Please see below a brief introduction of AIM Photonics and examples of the research project opportunities that it can enable. Then follow the step-by-step instructions in the section on Project Preparation for use of AIM Photonics capabilities, and at the end of this document the Proposal Submission to NSF procedures. Note that the NSF small business community is now served within the recently established TIP Directorate.

AIM PHOTONICS - The American Institute of Manufacturing of Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) ( was established in July 2015 by the U.S. government under Department of Defense (DoD) leadership as a manufacturing innovation institute to advance integrated photonics. AIM Photonics was recently awarded a new $321 Million, seven-year cooperative agreement through 2028. Through a close partnership with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Military Services, AIM Photonics will continue to advance integrated photonics capabilities and the US ecosystem, enabling a wide array of next-generation semiconductor and microelectronics products while also seeking to grow into new areas. AIM Photonics is a public-private-partnership that focuses the nation's premiere capabilities and expertise to capture and mature critical manufacturing domestic capability for integrated photonics. The Institute's mission is to seek to advance integrated photonic circuit manufacturing technology development while simultaneously providing access to state-of-the-art fabrication, packaging, and testing capabilities for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), academia and the government; create an adaptive, integrated photonic circuit workforce capable of meeting industry needs to increase domestic competitiveness; and meet commercial, defense and civilian agency needs by building a commercially sustainable ecosystem in this burgeoning technology area.

Research projects utilizing the AIM Photonics fabrication process technologies via multi-project wafer (MPW) runs should have an objective to bring a specific innovation to integrated photonics circuits and components or to demonstrate a new approach that uses integrated photonics as its differentiator. Examples of such challenges may include:

  • Research into new applications of Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) that have promise of breakthrough performance due to the use of an integrated photonics component;
  • New devices that are realizable within AIM Photonics standardized integrated silicon photonics processes;
  • PIC implementations that have innovative contributions to advancements of photonics circuits (i.e., low power, greater bandwidths and dynamic ranges, better tolerances, new topologies, etc.);
  • Innovative design approaches and new models of integrated photonics devices/circuits; and
  • Materials and attachment technologies for incorporating integrated photonics into novel packages.


For researchers seeking to utilize AIM Photonics capabilities, the first step in engaging with AIM Photonics should start with filling out an Information Request Form that can be found at AIM Photonics offers access to multi project wafer (MPW) runs and MPW details and schedules are available through AIM Photonics at ( Information about the AIM Photonics process development kits (PDKs) are available on the website. The request form for PDK access can be found at

AIM Photonics offers quarterly MPW shuttles on current technology offerings: Base Active PIC (includes both active and passive) Base Passive PIC (passive only), and Nitride-Only Passive PIC. Test, Assembly and Packaging (TAP) services are also offered by AIM Photonics with details provided at

The step-by-step instructions located at will help interested parties understand what will be needed prior to submitting an NSF proposal for an integrated photonics project utilizing AIM Photonics capabilities. The steps include: (1) Process Design Kit (PDK) Access; (2) Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) Access; (3) MPW design size and cost; (4) Training; (5) Design Preparation; (6) Design Submission for MPW Fabrication; and (7) Test, Assembly and Packaging Services.

For proposals submitted to NSF and recommended for funding following merit review, the grantee's cost of the chip may be discounted by 50% of the stated cost by AIM, based on available space on the MPW shuttle run. Test, Assembly and Packaging Services may be discounted by 15% of the stated cost. Note that MPW shuttle runs at discounted rates are offered on a space available basis only. It is recommended that the grantee check with AIM Photonics for run scheduling well in advance of the design due date.


Academic researchers who plan on utilizing the capabilities of AIM Photonics may submit unsolicited proposals to the ECCS Electronics, Photonics, and Magnetic Devices (EPMD) core program via or at any time with no deadline ( Proposals responding to a specific solicitation must follow the solicitation's specified deadline date. Submission as CAREER proposals can be accepted by ECCS, with the solicitation deadline in July each year. All submitted proposals must adhere to the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG). Requests for supplemental funding to existing ECCS awards should first be discussed with the cognizant NSF program director and may be submitted at any time.

Startups and other Small Businesses that plan on utilizing the capabilities of AIM Photonics to conduct commercialization focused research and development may apply to the Division of Translational Impacts (TI) through the current Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) solicitations found at Requests for supplemental funding to existing SBIR/STTR awards should be in response to the active supplemental funding opportunities posted and described at

Titles of proposals submitted in response to this DCL should begin with "PIC:". Proposals should clearly define in the Project Description the AIM Photonics capabilities to be used and include in the Budget Justification the AIM processing costs to be incurred. All proposals will be subject to the NSF merit review process and will be reviewed solely by NSF. If the proposal or supplement is granted, then the Principal Investigator should contact AIM Photonics, schedule for the next run, and proceed with AIM Photonics processing.

For further information, please contact the cognizant NSF Program Directors:

  • Dominique M. Dagenais (, Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
  • Lawrence S. Goldberg (, Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
  • Premjeet Chahal (, Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
  • Elizabeth Mirowski (, Division of Translational Impacts (TI)

The NSF ECCS and TI Division web sites can be accessed at:


Susan S. Margulies
Assistant Director, Directorate for Engineering (ENG)

Erwin Gianchandani
Assistant Director, Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP)