Carol Monaghan

Microsoft’s acquisition of Lumenisity

The Future Photonics Hub has played a significant role in growing the photonics sector in the UK and Lumenisity is one of its greatest success stories. Lumenisity’s position as a global leader in hollow-core fibre (HCF) technology led to its acquisition by Microsoft in December 2022.
Lumenisity was spun out from the University of Southampton in 2017 and has become the global leader in HCF for telecommunications. HCFs allow data to travel 50 per cent faster than in traditional solid core fibre. With increasing global volumes of data and requirements for faster speeds, the increased bandwidth and enhanced network quality of HCF provides a basis for next generation communications.

Lumenisity’s core founders – Professors David Richardson, Francesco Poletti and Marco Petrovich – spent over a decade developing HCF at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and began looking to commercialise their research. With the help of a seasoned Chairman and CEO, Dr David Parker, the company was established in 2017. Academics from the ORC worked with Lumenisity to commercially develop HCF technology through the Future Photonics Hub. The challenge was to improve the fibre manufacturing process. By the time of Microsoft’s acquisition in December 2022, the company had grown significantly, successfully commercialised their product and built a dedicated facility in the Southampton area.

2022 was a landmark year for Lumenisity with the company being recognised in a number of international awards. Professor David Richardson, former Deputy Director of the ORC and Co-Investigator of the Hub, was recognised for his role in founding Lumenisity in The Photonics100, a newly-launched international initiative by Electro Optics that celebrates the industry’s most innovative people. He said: “I am delighted to have been recognised in this way by my peers for my enterprise and research contributions. The fact that three members of the ORC have been included in this top 100 list highlights the important role that Southampton plays within the international photonics community.” Furthermore, Lumenisity won the Best Fibre Component Product for their NANF® CoreSmart® HCF cable in the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) Exhibition Industry Awards for two consecutive years, indicating the strength and singularity of HCF technology.
The development of Lumenisity’s new fibre fabrication facility in Romsey (UK) was also completed in 2022. It is the world’s first dedicated HCF manufacturing facility and it will enable the company to scale up the manufacture of HCF. With the support of Microsoft, this will benefit a broad range of industries including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail and government and consolidate the company’s place as the leading name in HCF technology.
The year culminated with the acquisition of Lumenisity by Microsoft in December. The acquisition will enable Microsoft to install HCFs to further optimise its cloud infrastructure and to serve their customers with strict latency and security requirements. In return, Microsoft’s support will enable researchers to fulfil this technology’s full potential by continuing to unlock new capabilities in communication networks.