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EU-wide outreach for promoting photonics to young people, entrepreneurs and the general public

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Photonics4All (EU-wide outreach for promoting photonics to young people, entrepreneurs and the general public)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Photonics technologies have an important impact on nearly every area of our lives, covering a wide range of applications in science and industry. Because of its importance, Photonics has been recognized as a Key Enabling Technology by the European Commission, but it is still not a well-known technology. To address this lack of awareness, Photonics4All, 9 partners, photonics specialists from Education, Research and Industry in 8 different EU countries, developed a project to promote photonics to young people, entrepreneurs and the general public throughout the EU. The project had 3 broad, long-term aims ; to encourage more students to study Photonics, to stimulate the development of innovative photonics applications by engaging more skilled industry professionals with photonics, and to increase the general public’s interest in and awareness of Photonics and light-based technologies. The project engaged with International Year of Light (IYL 2015) initiatives and partnered with other EU-funded Photonics Outreach projects.
"To meet its aims, Photonics4All created tools which were designed, tested and used with target audiences during 230 outreach events throughout the 2-year project (2015–2016). The following 7 tools and activities were developed for young people; a short animation ""The Stolen Cup"" entertained and informed children (5 years +) about Photonics applications. For older students (15 years +) a Photonics App taught basic photonics concepts and applications (available on Google Play Store and as a web application: A Photonics Board Game Competition “Fotonica in Gioco” was held in Italy, and a Photonics Quiz competition in France created an original 'ThinkPhoton!' flash game, as well as crossword puzzles available in 7 languages. Activities were developed for new and existing Children’s Universities. 2,000 EU physics teachers were trained using the Photonics Explorer kits developed by EYESTyzw in 35 Teacher Training Workshops. Lastly, a Study Photonics! brochure was published containing information about courses in 7 EU countries.

Five different types of outreach tools and activities were developed for the general public; photonics campaigns or light festivals proved extremely popular with large audiences; a prototype of a new Photonics Demonstration kit called the ‘OmniLight Laboratory’ (OLL) was developed for light-based scientific shows and shown to audiences of 120,000+,13 different promotional Bookmarks about photonics applications were produced and disseminated, several Video Expert Interviews and Articles were produced and lastly, a German Photonics Science Slam was organised for an enthusiastic audience.

Outreach to Entrepreneurs included; Innovation workshops organised by German regional photonics clusters including elements of Open Innovation e.g. business speed-dating, these successful activities generated follow-up events. A European Photonics Start-up Challenge was held between 8 competing businesses. We initiated dialogue between high tech photonics start-up companies and private investors during 4 Photonics for Investment events in France and Slovakia. Beyond business matchmaking, we coached start-ups to improve their business-pitching skills and introduced investors to photonics opportunities. Two Boot Camps fostered entrepreneurship and developed the skills of students aged 20+. Two publications were produced “Guidelines – Open Innovation in Photonics”, in which photonics stakeholders were introduced to Open Innovation methods, along with 'Create Your Business in Photonics!' with information from 7 different countries on technologies and related sectors needing photonics as a key enabling technology.

The impact of our project was evaluated in terms of reach i.e. the numbers engaged with, and significance of the activities on participants. We recorded participant change in knowledge, interest in photonics and engagement with photonics study and business. Longer-term evaluation was limited by the two-year duration of the project. All Photonics4All objectives were met and all activities successful, but to varying degrees. The most successful activities were those with young people and the general public in which, due to their popularity, the number of participants were far in excess of those planned. Entrepreneurs were considered the most challenging target audience. Open Innovation was hindered by issues of trust, confidentiality and difficulties in finding the right contacts, and fewer people than expected wanted to attend dedicated Photonics Bootcamps despite a very successful first event. Working with partner organisations and embedding photonics into existing industry events and activities proved the most effective way to lower organisational risks and burden, while increasing the potential reach.

To enable further impact, the most successful Photonics4All tools and activities were described in three Best Practice Handbooks produced for all those interested in science outreach. Our tools are now available for re-use as part of the open data research pilot, on the ZENODO data repository, as well as online platforms such as Photonics21, ECOP, Scientix and YouTube. The OLL shall be commercially available within two years for a target price of 5-10,000 Euros."
Photonics4All developed many new tools for photonics outreach: A Photonics animated video, an App, several quizzes and board games, teacher’s video training tutorials, brochures about where to study photonics and business opportunities in photonics, video interviews of photonics experts, 13 bookmarks, three best practice handbooks for outreach in photonics and the ‘OmniLight Laboratory’. In the long-term Photonics4All could successfully increase awareness and recognition of photonics as a result of the work done with the three different target audiences:

YOUNG PEOPLE: 140,000 children took part in awareness-raising, inspirational events. It is hoped that encouraging these young people to study photonics, through game-based learning and hands-on activities in Children’s Universities, will lead to an increase in the number of qualified academics for the engineering/scientific sector. 2,230 physics teachers were trained on the Photonics Explorer Kit corresponding to a further 111,500 children reached (according to EYEST).

GENERAL PUBLIC: More than 200,000 people took part in photonics campaigns with light installations, demonstrations and experiments at which brochures and bookmarks were disseminated. An additional 2 million were probably reached through media communications (videos and professional articles).

ENTREPRENEURS: About 850 photonics professionals were actively involved in our events (including 350 SMEs) and about 10,000 photonics professionals from industry and research were reached in 50 further events (including at least 1,000 SMEs). It is hoped that this engagement will lead to new start-ups and innovative applications in photonics.

Please visit the project website for further information: