Industry leaders speak up for photonics at Year of Light event in parliament

28 April 2016

Photonics industry leaders met MPs and peers on 20 April to highlight the importance of the sector and call for action to maximise its strengths in a legacy event of the International Year of Light (IYL).

Industry leaders speak up for photonics at Year of Light event in parliament

The meeting at the House of Commons was organised by the all-party Parliamentary and Scientific Committee on behalf of the UK committee for IYL, under the title “The Light Industry: a UK Success Story”. It was also supported by the IOP, the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), the Photonics Leadership Group and The Future Photonics Hub.

While noting that the sector contributes £10.5 bn a year to the economy and directly employs more than 70,000 people, industry representatives were keen to see measures that would enable it to grow even more and to encourage take-up of innovations in photonics. It was recently announced that the research councils and Innovate UK will be integrated into a new Research UK umbrella body. In the light of this, they particularly wanted to see more industry insights brought into research council decisions and more awareness within Innovate UK of opportunities opened up by research.

During the meeting it was also clear that industry leaders would welcome clarity about how Innovate UK’s new funding mechanisms can support investment at a later stage in development of innovations and in a wider range of companies.

Around 50 people attended the event, where there were opportunities for networking and talks by Anke Lohman, head of photonics and quantum technologies at the KTN, Chris Dorman, vice-president and general manager of Coherent Scotland, and Nick Martin, innovation and growth leader at BAE Systems.

Dr Beth Taylor, chair of the UK national committee for the IYL, said: “One of the main objectives of the IYL was to raise awareness of the importance of photonics, both to our economy and to our quality of life. It was always one of my ambitions for the IYL to communicate that message to politicians and opinion formers. In the end, it took a bit more than a year to organise this but I’m delighted that we were finally able to host this breakfast discussion.

“I believe that a supportive, informed network of parliamentarians is one of the best legacies that the IYL can leave for the photonics sector in the UK. I’m grateful to all those who took part, especially Carol Monaghan MP who chaired the discussion.”

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