2013 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Dr Simon Poole and Dr Steven Frisken - Optical Communications

November 15, 2016
Dr Simon Poole, Director, New Business Ventures, Finisar Australia. Dr Simon Poole is an engineer/entrepreneur with more than 30 years’ experience in photonics in research, academia and industry. During his PhD at Southampton University he was a member of the team that invented the Erbium-Doped Fibre Amplifier, one of the key enablers of current optical communication systems. Moving to Australia in 1988 he founded the Optical Fibre Technology Centre (OFTC) at the University of Sydney and, subsequently, the Australian Photonics CRC. In 1995 Dr Poole founded Indx Pty Ltd to manufacture Fibre Bragg Gratings (FBGs) for the optical communications systems market. Indx was acquired by JDS Uniphase for $US6 million in 1997 and subsequently grew to more than 300 people with total exports in the period 1995-2001 of more than $200 million. In September 2001 he founded Engana Pty Ltd with Dr Steve Frisken to develop and manufacture Wavelength Selective Switches for telecommunications systems. He and Dr Frisken took the company from a product concept through to a successful sale to Optium Corporation in 2006. In 2008 Optium merged with Finisar Corporation and Finisar Australia (the former Engana) now employs 280 people in Sydney. Total exports of Finisar Australia’s Wavelength Selective Switches from its Sydney factory have now exceeded $300 million. Dr Poole has published more than 200 refereed papers in journals and international conferences and is an inventor on seven patents, including the initial patent on the Erbium-Doped Fibre Amplifier (EDFA). Dr Steven Frisken, Chief Technology Officer, Finisar Australia Pty Ltd. Dr Steven Frisken is a graduate of theoretical physics (PhD UNSW 1989). He joined the Research and Development group at OTC, researching the emerging field of subsea optically-amplified links. Given the opportunity of innovating beyond his immediate projects, he prototyped concepts and patented new transmission formats, fibre optic light valves, short pulse lasers and all-optical switches. In 1993 he founded a private “bootstrap” company Photonic Technologies Pty Ltd with his colleague Ralph Betts. As Chief Technology Officer, he successfully developed a range of products including laboratory gain-equalised optical amplifiers and “optical circulators”, but it was his inventions in electrically tunable filters for dynamically gain-flattening amplifiers which were viewed as critical to the next generation of optical transmission systems, leading to Nortel acquiring the company in 2000. Following the collapse of the Dot-com bubble in late 2001, Steve teamed up with Simon Poole and a founding team to form Engana. The Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) wavelength switching technology that he invented there has been acknowledged as the technology of choice for the next generation of optical networks and is already deployed in thousands of telecom exchanges throughout the world and has contributed to the creation and adoption of a new industry standard – “Flexible Grid”. Steve’s current research interests include coherent transmission systems, wavelength switching architectures and biomedical imaging. He has more than 20 patents granted in the US.
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