Although physics can and should be appreciated for its own sake – for the pleasure of figuring out how the world works, and as part of our culture – it’s also of huge value to the economy.
It’s one of IOP’s aims that the contribution that physics makes to the economy be more widely recognised by the public and by the government, who will then be able to make better-informed funding decisions.
The latest of the Institute’s regular series of reports on physics in the economy showed that physics-based businesses account for 8.5% of the UK’s economic output and employ more than a million people.
Similarly, case studies such as those drawn from submissions to the Research Excellence Framework exercise, illustrate how physics research leads to innovations that meet policy challenges from national security and energy supply to improving economic productivity.
IOP’s Innovation Awards recognise and celebrate companies in the UK and Ireland that have successfully addressed a commercial need through physics-based innovation. Winners are presented with their trophies at a high-profile event, involving leading politicians, and supported by a range of promotional activities.
But more than this, IOP is beginning to take a more active role in linking up businesses and academics. The new Open Innovation programme began in June, the first workshop bringing together Durham University academics and business leaders from 14 companies – with half of those attending committing to working up project proposals as a result.
IOP’s new King’s Cross premises will also include an Innovation Launchpad – an affordable workspace for physics-based businesses. Under the same Launchpad umbrella, we’ll also be holding workshops four times a year for people interested in starting a physics-based business, covering subjects such as intellectual property and access to finance. The intention is to later establish other launchpads elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.
As ever, the benefits that physics brings to the economy will only be sustainable if there is a continual supply of physicists to do the work. IOP produces careers materials for school and university students, showing the opportunities that physics brings– to them and to us all.