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Science and innovation

Shaping the debate on the most important physics topics to our science and innovation community in the UK and Ireland. 


Our new strategy, Physics for our Future, sets out our purpose to make a meaningful difference for physics, for the economy, and for society.

As such, we are building our capacity to address the most important physics topics to our members and the wider physics community in academia and business across the UK and Ireland in order to influence and drive impact. This means developing an ongoing programme of high-impact projects informed by community priorities. These impact projects complement the longer-term policy goals of our R&D blueprint and aim to provide specific near-term insight and action to make a difference. 

Our impact projects have already stimulated debate and influenced investment into physics topics such as the £2.5B quantum technologies strategy, the £1B semiconductor strategy, and articulated physics central role in green technologies including nuclear, renewables, energy storage, hydrogen, and CCUS.

Purpose of impact projects

Every year, IOP will typically run three impact projects. These will involve convening community debates, gathering evidence, setting out recommendations and facilitating action, that may, for example:

  • influence national science, innovation and technology strategies and investment
  • create roadmaps that set out how physics can address sector or global challenges
  • address business innovation and growth issues
  • showcase important but less understood areas of physics and the difference it can make
  • explore international best practice and collaboration opportunities

See examples of IOP science and innovation impact projects below

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Who should get involved

You should get involved by submitting an idea, or indicating you’d like to help, if you are a member, physicist, researcher, innovator, engineer, or business leader.  We need the ideas and expertise of IOP members like you to bring our impact projects to life.  

Members will have opportunities to join our impact project teams, either as partners or secondees, to strengthen our knowledge and capacity and help us deliver tangible results for the community. Please send an email to [email protected] if you would like to get involved in any current impact projects – or make a submission if you have an important idea that’s not being worked on.

Wide and effective membership engagement is critical, and we want to make sure all members can participate, inclusive of: 

  • women, people from ethnic minorities, disabled people, LGBT+ individuals and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as they are currently under-represented in the physics community
  • members across all parts of the UK and Ireland
  • universities and other research and innovation organisations, including national R&D facilities
  • businesses of different sizes and at all stages, working across diverse sectors and technologies 

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Make a submission

IOP members and the wider physics community are able to submit ideas for physics topics that could potentially be a focus for impact projects. 

2023 was the first time an open process has been run in this way. In total, there were 26 submissions covering a wide range of topics from biological physics, cosmology and magnetism through to national facilities, epistemology and systems thinking.

The outcome of the 2023 consultation is published in the following report: Shaping the debate - Summary of 2023 submissions and next steps (PDF, 100KB). The report details the submissions received and outlines how the IOP will harness this useful community information.

The call for submissions to shape the debate for 2024 is now closed, however the portal remains open for submissions so that topical physics topics are considered.

Complete the submission form

Please enter your name
I am submitting this topic on behalf of an IOP special interest group
I am an IOP member
Please describe in one sentence.
Word limit: 500 words. This could include the following:
  • What are the strengths and opportunities of this subject being the focus of our work to shape the physics debate? 
  • How is this an issue that is important to the physics community and wider society?  
  • What change is desired? 
  • How might this align with the IOP's work?  
  • What UK/Ireland excellence does this build on?
Which IOP groups should be involved if we select this topic?

By completing this form, you are submitting a topic or matter of importance to be considered as a focus for the work of the Institute of Physics to shape the physics debate. Please note that any information you include in this form may be viewed by IOP colleagues, Vice-Presidents and other IOP members. It may be used to inform IOP’s work and may be included, on an anonymous basis, in materials prepared by IOP for this purpose. Therefore, you should not include any information which is confidential, commercially sensitive or which could identify any other person. You should also not include any information which you do not have the right to share or in which patent or other intellectual property protection may be sought.

For any queries please email [email protected] 

The IOP takes your privacy seriously and is committed to protecting the personal information you share with us. For more details about how we handle your personal information, and your rights, please see our Privacy Notice

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Selecting impact project topics

Submissions are reviewed by IOP’s Vice-presidents for Science and Innovation and Business, along with an advisory panel of members who help to identify physics topics where the IOP can influence and drive impact.  

The IOP aims to take forward typically three physics topics to form impact projects each year. While not all submissions will be taken forward as impact projects, all topics raised will be considered as part of wider organisational focus and planning.

Please note, this is not a funding call to support external projects and is not connected to the IOP Challenge Fund. This call is to seek community views on issues impacting physics, where the IOP is well placed to convene community discussions with stakeholders to drive change.  

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Our impact projects

2024

The following impact projects and pathfinders are being developed. Please send an email to [email protected] if you are working in any of the physics topics below and let us know if you would like to get involved.

  • Green economy (phase two)
  • Venture capital investment in physics-powered businesses
  • Space technologies

Physics Powering the Green Economy – phase two

We will build on our recent report showing physics' role in key green technologies like nuclear, renewables, energy storage, hydrogen and clean fuels, and carbon capture use and storage (CCUS). Discussions with advisors in academia and business, along with Government Chief Scientific Advisors and other senior representatives are shaping the next phase of this work. Ideas being explored include developing roadmaps and impact pathways for enabling green technologies, or an exploration insights piece on disruptive technologies such as reversing global heating using geoengineering and superconductivity energy transmission.

With the launch of IOP Publishing’s (IOPP) Sustainability Science and Technology international open access journal, and Green Economy (phase two), we are continuing to work with the physics community to advance the net zero energy transition.  

Send us an email to register your interest
Astronomy and space

Space technologies

One of our new focuses will be space technologies. In 2020/21, the UK space industry income grew by 5 per cent to £17.5bn, outpacing the growth of the global space industry. We plan to build on the strategic discussions that we’ve been having with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. In 2024, we will deliver an impact project to demonstrate the economic potential of space technologies, of which physics plays a critical role, to help create new markets and develop new projects and services. With the launch of the IOP’s new Space Special Interest Group, we have the opportunity to mobilise the physics community to help shape and inform national strategies that will drive further economic growth.

Send us an email to register your interest

Venture capital

One-third of physics-powered businesses in the UK have said they face difficulties accessing finance that they need, especially at the scaleup phase. Venture capital (VC) investment is critical for helping such startups get products and services to market. Through the IOP’s Accelerator we provide affordable workspace to physics-powered businesses, along with business support. We also recognise excellence in business innovation through our Business Awards

And through this project, we will build on this work to elevate the opportunities for VC investment into physics-powered businesses and the issues faced by investors, to encourage more private investment across key markets.

We are currently asking for views to help inform a report out later in 2024.

Find out more and complete the survey now

Impact project pathfinders

Beyond these three physics topics, we will also be working with the community to build the case for action for potential impact projects in 2025 in the following topics:

  • The convergence of physics with AI.
  • Medical physics and bridging the gap between invention and exploitation in clinical translation.
  • Commercialisation and exploitation of metamaterials for applications such as ICT, sustainability, health, defence and security.

2023 

Physics Powering the Green Economy

The IOP set out the central role that physics innovation and physicists have played in realising the green economy of today, and the equally key part they will need to play in scaling up a sustainable, internationally competitive green economy in the UK and Ireland for the future – in particular as a ‘systems challenge’ how the skills that physicists have, and their way of thinking, is important in solving such a problem.

Targeted support for physics R&D, and business innovation, as part of a long-term systems approach to leadership, coordination and delivery to unlock more of the contribution physics can make, is vital to realising a thriving green economy in the UK and Ireland.

The IOP and the physics community are a partner in this grand challenge. We will conduct further work on this topic in 2024.

Read the Physics Powering the Green Economy report

2022

A Vision for Quantum Technologies in the UK

The IOP shaped the debate on quantum, engaging with experts in business, academia, finance and intermediaries to set the ambition for growth of the UK quantum sector.  

This resulted in our ‘Vision for Quantum Technologies in the UK’ report that called for a long-term approach, with innovation roadmaps.  Recommendations from the report included scaling up the UK quantum research and innovation community across business, academia and finance; investment in skills; and support for international partnerships.  

The impact of this work can clearly be seen in the National Quantum Strategy, which sets out a ten-year ambition for the UK to lead the world in quantum technologies, delivering jobs and opportunities in advanced manufacturing and engineering across both hardware and software, as well as applications across the economy. The strategy is supported by a commitment to invest £2.5 billion in the sector, with the aim of attracting significant additional private investment on top of that. 

Another legacy from this impact project has been the formation of a new IOP quantum Business Innovation and Growth Group (qBIG) for IOP members involved in quantum commercial applications. Find out more about the qBIG group.

Read A Vision for Quantum Technologies in the UK report

UK Semiconductor Challenges and Solutions

The IOP, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, engaged semiconductor experts in business, academia and intermediaries around the key issues of access to skills and electronic design tools.   

The resulting report summarised their views to inform government strategy development, suggesting a number of solutions to the issues raised by the community, including addressing visa issues; funding for equitable internship schemes; funding for an information campaign to raise awareness of the semiconductor industry; a coordinated approach to skills challenges across technology areas with common needs; taking decisive action to break down stereotypes about physics, science and apprenticeships; and a new ‘semiconductor institute’ to provide a range of essential functions to support the sector.  

Following the report, the UK Government published a public invitation to tender for a feasibility study into the need for a set of new semiconductor infrastructure capabilities within the UK, including a strategic coordination function to provide institutional leadership for the sector’s academic and innovation ecosystem.

Read UK Semiconductor Challenges and Solutions report

2020 

Materials for Energy Transition

The Henry Royce Institute (Royce) for advanced materials, in collaboration with the IOP, convened the academic and industrial materials research communities to explore the increasingly critical role of novel materials and processes to deliver affordable, reliable and above all, green energy. The output was a series of detailed technology roadmaps that set out how UK materials science can contribute to the UK’s low carbon energy transition. 

View the roadmaps

2018 

Cover image for The health of photonics

The Health of Photonics

This project brought together business leaders from large, medium and small companies from  different sectors, as well as innovators in academia, to articulate how photonics ties together their sectors and how physics can support industrial growth. The result was a report that recommended further research and investment in photonics and emphasised the role that physics will play in maintaining the UK’s status as a global leader in light-based technologies.

Read The Health of Photonics report

2017 

The Health of Physics in UK Food Manufacturing

This impact work was driven by IOP members in collaboration with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, Food and Drink Federation, and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). It resulted in a report on the health of physics in food manufacturing, looking at the role of physics in enabling global competitiveness and productivity.  Report recommendations were discussed at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee on 5 December 2017, and the output from the meeting included a letter to the BEIS Minister reinforcing the case to boost funding to research and innovation in food manufacturing.

Read IOP Food Physics Newsletter

Read The Health of Physics in UK Food Manufacturing report

2015 

A Review of UK Astroparticle Physics Research

This project, commissioned by the Science and Innovation Committee of the IOP, reviewed the health of UK academic astroparticle physics.  It reviewed, in an international context, the support for and progress of UK astroparticle physics over the past decade; assessed UK astroparticle physics in light of the scope of Research Councils UK (RCUK) and other funding sources; and recommended a broad strategy for UK astroparticle physics for the next 10 years. 

Read A Review of UK Astroparticle Physics Research report

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