Kymata, one of the white hopes of the Scottish opto-electronics industry, was targeting a $1billion flotation before the dotcom crash.

But 10 years and three owners on in November 2008, its West Lothian factory had been shut and 250 workers sacked by California’s Gemfire.

For Bardia Pezeshki, the opportunity to buy Gemfire two years ago was a breakthrough moment that may help him build a billion dollar company, and ideally establish a sadly rare US-owned research and development centre in Scotland.

“They couldn’t make it work, and ended up borrowing a lot of money they couldn’t pay back, so some rich people from California ended up getting the company for very little and tried to do something with it. By the time we got on the scene I think they were considering relatively low-value deals.”

The Scottish optronics industry grew on the promise of demand from consumers and the telecoms industry for the technology needed to increase bandwidth. That demand has now mushroomed but from a new source – the datacentres needed to make internet connections across the globe.

Dr Pezeshki says: “The people that started Kymata were 15 years ahead of their time, and a little bit wrong about the applications. They thought photonic integrated circuits were going to be in everyone’s home bringing the internet, the right application is in datacentres distributing the information. We are building on the dreams of the guys that built the company back in 1998.”

The Iranian-born engineer was at boarding school in Cambridge from nine to 16, finished his schooling in America, and emerged with a doctorate from Stanford University. He now has 30 patents and over 100 peer-reviewed publications and presentations, about which he says modestly: “I come from a technical background.”

After a spell with IBM in New York, he returned to California and worked for SDL, now Viavi Solutions, then started his first business Santur where he developed the tunable laser. That enabled one laser to be tuned to any channel, rather than having to use separate lasers.

“We grew it to $100m a year in revenue but it wasn’t a big financial success the way it was structured.”

The company was sold for $40m to NeoPhotonics - but Dr Pezeshki says offers of $200m had been turned down by the board and his own rewards were scant.

“I made some money when I worked at SDL during the bubble days and I didn’t really deserve it but at Santur I worked really hard - nearly half the world’s internet goes on lasers we built at Santur. But my goal here is to deserve anything I do get, it’s about making a difference, changing the world, doing something really cool.”

With fellow optronics wizards, the entrepreneur started Kaiam in 2010 and soon had another cool invention. Optical connections cannot be wirebonded like electronic chips, they have to be very carefully aligned. Kaiam’s MEMS microelectronic technology enables automatic alignment of connections which were previously being hand-assembled.

Dr Pezeshki explains: “Rather than needing Chinese women with microscopes, the parts move, align and lock themselves automatically.”

That enabled the transfer of some production from China to Livingston, and helped swell the workforce there from 65 when Kaiam arrived 30 months ago to approaching 400 now.

The technology is critical to the explosion of the internet and of its most powerful forces such as Facebook and Google – though Kaiam cannot name its customers.

“Electronic chips are getting faster and denser and much more powerful, the connection between the chips is not. So the bottleneck will move to the connections between computers, which need to be optical as photons are better for carrying information.”

He explains: “When you search for say Kaiam and up it pops on Google, you have engaged 1000 to 10000 computers which personalise the information and send it back to you. That means a massive bandwidth requirement – Google is rumoured to have something like five million servers, that’s the population of Scotland. Servers need to be linked together with high-bandwidth fibreoptic, it needs all sorts of technologies.”

In August Dr Pezeshki moved his family, with two teenage children, to Edinburgh. “I think it’s really fun, a fantastic city to live in, you don’t have to drive everywhere like California, and the weather doesn’t bother me that much. So far so good.” He has committed to staying at least two years, and admits to having noticed that further education could come a lot cheaper than at home.

Meanwhile the emigre is busy tapping into the connections already established between Stanford and Scottish universities with the aim of bringing high-quality jobs to Livingston. “I would love to be able to do a lot more R & D in Scotland, that is where the line is and Scottish engineers are really good and hard-working. If I can’t find really good people here, we will have to do more over in California.”

On how big the company could become, Dr Pezeshki says he cannot forecast the pace of growth but it could even be “billions of dollars”.

But he says : “If you look at what datacentres are providing for the world, the level of connectivity and sharing that never existed before, the way you can friend people in different countries. I think we are making the world a better place with communications technology, and that is really important to me.”