The Duke of York launches the International Year of Light in the UK

29 January 2015

The UK launch of the International Year of Light (IYOL) was hosted at St James’s Palace in London on 28 January by HRH the Duke of York.

Credit: Paul Burns
HRH the Duke of York with staff from the National Physical Laboratory

The Duke, who is patron of IYOL in the UK, said: “The International Year of Light is about how we have used light over the centuries; it is about how we are applying light, photonics and various other aspects in order to make the world a better place, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.”

The reception marked the official start of IYOL in the UK, following the international launch in Paris on 19 and 20 January, and commenced a series of events and activities that will continue throughout 2015.

As well as a speech by Greg Clark, universities, science and cities minister, there were contributions from industry leaders and from Kat Harrison, director of research and impact at the UK-based charity SolarAid, which is helping to catalyse a market for portable and affordable solar-powered lights for people living without electricity. She said: “At SolarAid we believe that universal access to energy holds the key to a fairer and more just world. Clean, safe lighting is the first step towards that ambition for rural families in Africa. We know just what an impact lighting has on people’s everyday lives and opportunities.”

The event brought together representatives of light-based industries, research, policy and non-governmental organisations. It aimed to raise awareness of IYOL and the opportunities it offers, as well as to celebrate UK achievements in light-based science and technology, with exhibitions at the venue showcasing advances in research and applications ranging from astronomy to healthcare.

The organisers of IYOL worldwide aim to promote the crucial role of access to solar lighting in the developing world, to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers and to celebrate the role of women in science. More than 40 UK institutions are currently working together to co-ordinate plans for the year and are represented by the IYOL UK national committee.

Beth Taylor, who chairs the committee, said: “I believe this year offers a unique opportunity to make a significant impact, bringing together communities from across different scientific disciplines and from the world of art and culture, to celebrate the importance of light in all of our lives. We have ambitious plans for a programme of activities and events to increase public awareness of the year’s objectives, to enthuse young people with the excitement of science and to champion the benefits of light in the developing world.”

There is to be a launch for Wales in Cardiff on 5 February, for Scotland on 23 February in Edinburgh and for Northern Ireland during the first ever NI Science Festival from 19 February to 1 March. In the Republic of Ireland, a number of light-based activities to see in IYOL 2015 were offered by the IOP in Ireland at an exhibition space at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin on 7-10 January.

There is now a website for IYOL in the UK which has information about events and activities related to the year.

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