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The Institute of Photonic Sciences

The Institute of Photonic Sciences

September 2013.- This August, the Max Planck Society has placed the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in the top position of research institutions world-wide in the area of Physics. This new ranking of research-focused institutions collects data from Scopus on publications and citations and projects an institute’s probability of publishing papers which belong to the 10% most-cited papers within their subject categories.

The Institute of Photonic Sciences is an independent, non-profit permanent research center based in Barcelona. Launched in 2002, ICFO conducts both basic and applied research in Photonics and works to the highest level to advance the science of light and develop advanced light-based technologies which would create new understanding, new solutions, and new tools to help industry and society.

Basic and Applied Research in Photonics

ICFO host 300 researchers and PhD students hired from around the globe, who work in 60 state-of-the-art laboratories that are equipped with the most advanced fabrication and characterization facilities. The Institute is based in a specially designed, 14.000 m2-building located in the Mediterranean Technology Park in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. ICFO currently hosts 12 elite ICREA Research professors and 13 European Research Council (ERC) projects, and hosts an IBM Faculty Awardee, a Corning Inc. Chair and a Nikon Center of Excellence.

ICFO is very proactive in fostering entrepreneurial activities and in creating spin-off companies. To date, ICFO helped create 5 start-ups. ICFO belongs to the elite Severo Ochoa program and is supported by important philanthropic contributions by Cellex Foundation Barcelona.

ICFO’s research interests are structured into three thrusts: Light for Health, Light for Energy, and Light for Information. More than 30 projects are currently running with industrial partners. Salient examples are the collaborations with Corning Inc (USA) in high-performance optical surfaces; Zeiss (Germany) in lithography; Alter Technology (Spain) in the aerospace sector; TFM Solar (Spain) in organic photovoltaics; FICOSA and AD Telecom(Spain) in displays and automobile applications; BBraun(Spain) in medical devices; COSINGO (Spain) in early cancer diagnosis; COMSA EMTE (Spain) in advanced sensors for industrial plants; and a long etcetera

Corporate Liaison Program

ICFO hosts an active Corporate Liaison Program that aims at creating collaborations between industries and the private sector and ICFO researchers and laboratories. With experience in both business and research, ICFO’s Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT) team develops a customized business plan that mutually benefits the company and ICFO. 

Corning Incorporated & ICFO

Drawing on more than 160 years of materials science and process engineering knowledge, Corning Incorporated -the world leader in specialty glass and ceramics- creates and makes keystone components that enable high-technology systems for consumer electronics, mobile emissions control, telecommunications and life sciences.

Corning Incorporated and ICFO started a small collaborative project on a very specific subject, triggered by personal contacts, and it evolved into a longer term effort to create surface technologies for several applications.

In June 2013 Corning Incorporated and ICFO started a collaboration that includes sponsored research projects of mutual interest, a multi-year sponsorship of a Chaired Faculty Professorship and a Corning Surfaces Laboratory, designed to host cutting-edge fabrication and characterization equipment.

The Chaired Faculty Professorship of the Corning-ICFO collacoration will be occupied by Professor Valerio Pruneri. Valerio Pruneri, Ph.D., is an ICREA Industrial Professor and group leader of the nano-photonics research team at ICFO. According to the company, the Professor’s knowledge of materials, physical principles, optics and nano-structures as well as his vast and unique experiences in photonic devices make him uniquely qualified to lead the collaboration. "Professor Pruneri brings a unique perspective, exciting technical data and a solid experimental approach. This collaboration enables us to drive to new fundamental knowledge.” says Cindy Giroux, division vice president and research director or Corning Incorporated.

Research in Health, Energy and Information

Photonics plays an increasing role in a variety of medical techniques and practices, including non-invasive diagnosis, advanced imaging and therapies. 

ICFO conducts research and development at the cutting-edge of biophotonics and nanophotonics, with a special focus on the variety of imaging modalities and techniques that aim at continuously breaking the limits of resolution (spatial and temporal). It hosts active programs in nanosurgery, neuro-intensive care monitoring, plasmonic oncology and dermatology 

Photonics is also at the core of all light harvesting concepts and technologies (photovoltaics and solar cells) as well as in efficient illumination and lighting. 

ICFO conducts research towards the challenges in energy efficient applications, developing disruptive approaches to renewable energies applications. Ongoing projects include different advanced low cost highly efficient transparent solar cells, organic LEDs, transparent photonics approaches, smart windows, energy efficient optoelectronic devices, photoelectric, thermoelectric and electromechanical transducers, and energy efficient sensors. 

Finally, photonic technology is central to the information. Optical fibers underlie high-speed communication and light is also at the heart of integrated optoelectronic devices for data modulation and routing, CDs and optical data storage, and all types of displays. 

ICFO conducts research in classical communications, covering areas such as integrated optics, optoelectronics, and optical fiber devices. It also investigates disruptive approaches based on nanophotonics and quantum technologies. Nanophotonics offers an unprecedented miniaturization potential. Quantum information systems represent a qualitative leap forward in the design of specialized communication systems for applications like high-security transactions of commercial or strategic interest.

A CERCA Centre

ICFO is one of the fifty Catalan CERCA Centres. The model for the CERCA research centres of Catalonia developed over the last ten years, and has reached levels of scientific excellence in various areas. 

CERCA is a model characterised by centres with fluid and self-governed management structures, the attraction of talent, and efficiency in obtaining competitive funding founded on scientific activity of the highest degree. They have been designed to have a research staff selected to ensure an international impact, divided into research groups headed by internationally renowned scientists from different fields and with a high turnover of post-doctoral researchers.


Our alliance with a global company with such a highest-quality and innovative spirit as Corning is truly fortunate for us. With the new lab and chair we bring our cooperation to a new level that I am convinced will greatly benefit both partners. Professor Lluis Torner, ICFO Director.

ICFO offers a unique opportunity to learn from leading edge professors who work on relevant topics in photonics and materials properties. Cindy Giroux, Vice President and Research Director at Corning.

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