Photonics researcher Victor Torres Company's research regards the developing of a "chip scale frequency comb", a special type of ultra-fast high-precision laser with a wide range of different application areas.
"It can be used for fiber optic communication systems, which is the most interesting area for our research group. But the technology could also be used for distance measurements in self-driving cars, spectroscopy to diagnose diseases, and to calibrate telescopes used for finding exoplanets, that is planets outside of our solar system”, he says.
In 2018, work began within the five-year prestigious Consolidator Grant, which he received from the European Research Council for his research on developing the frequency comb. At that time, he was one of only 14 researchers in Sweden who received such a grant, the only one at Chalmers. As the grant approached its final stage ("time surely flies"), Victor Torres Company applied for a Proof of Concept grant, also from the ERC.
Supports possibilities of commercialisation
"The Proof of Concept grant provides support to test and evaluate the steps required to commercialize the research that has been carried out in the previous grant," says Victor Torres Company. “It can only be applied for by those who already have a previous grant from the ERC. I tried to apply for it last year, and now I tried again and succeeded.”
The support that the Proof of Concept grant can provide may, for instance, involve applying for patents or conducting market analyses. The grant is initially valid for one year, with the possibility of being extended for six months, and it will start in 2022.
Although he emphasizes that the grant is not a very large amount of money, the Proof of Concept grant will have a major impact on Victor Torres Company and his research group. In March 2021 he started the company Iloomina AB, together with PhD students Marcello Girardi and Oskar Helgason.
Opens future opportunities
"We want to commercialize and test the scalability of the technology we have developed," he says. “Once the company has started, I will leave it to the doctoral students so that they can continue to develop it. I see it as an opportunity for them to develop their careers. On my hand, I want to continue to do research and teaching.”
Receiving a Proof of Concept grant will not only help Victor Torres Company to take the necessary steps to commercialize his research. It will also open further future opportunities for him and his groups’ research. Last year, the European Union opened its European Innovation Council (EIC), an innovation programme to identify and develop breakthrough technologies, and one way that makes it possible to apply for an EIC grant is to have a prior Proof of Concept grant.
"It would be great to take a couple of steps closer to a final application, something that would be beneficial both for Chalmers and for Iloomina. But that lies further ahead – for now, we have to work on the steps required in the Proof of Concept grant," says Victor Torres Company.
Text: Robert Karlsson
Photo: Michael Nystås