Skip to main content

The International Year of Light in Europe 2015

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LIGHT2015 (The International Year of Light in Europe 2015)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-06-30

The science of light is applied in the technological field known as photonics, which has tremendous impact in areas such as medicine, communications, and energy. Photonics plays a crucial role in our modern society. Light pulses and glass optical fibre cables form the backbone of the global Internet. Satellite telephones and wireless technologies allow even the most remote areas of the world to have access to communications, information, and services including advanced medical care. Light technology is essential to issues such as energy independence. They allow for the innovative developments for the efficient conversion of sunlight to other energy forms (e.g. heat, electricity), and the development of other low cost and energy efficient green lighting solutions. Moreover photonics technologies are economic drivers. According to the report from the Photonics Private Public Partnership Photonics21, with the global photonics market growing at twice the world economic growth rate, from €350 billion in 2011 to a predicted €615 billion in 2020, photonics technologies have a major impact on the world economy. For this reason, governments around the world have identified the importance of developing large scale plans to help boost a global knowledge-driven economy, and to tackle issues that will make real differences in people's lives. For instance, the European Union has recognised photonics as a Key Enabling Technology and has invested over €700 million from the European Commission's Horizon2020 programme for the period 2014-2020.

Light science and technologies provide solutions to meet many of the urgent challenges currently facing the world, such as providing food to a growing population; developing clean sources of energy that can promote growth whilst having a low carbon footprint; improving education; reducing poverty and inequality; improving healthcare and quality of life for all. In this sense, photonics technologies can make a fundamental contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These are published as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” and are an intergovernmental set of goals and targets developed by the United Nations that cover a broad range of sustainable development issues. Photonics provides important tools to end poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, promote gender equality and quality education, ensure healthy lives and tackle climate change.

Despite the key importance of photonics in our society its benefits are largely unappreciated. Perhaps this is not surprising, however, because one of the great successes of photonics is how it has embedded itself seamlessly and invisibly behind interfaces that are centred on simplicity for the user. Yet it is clear that the scientific community needs to bridge this gap urgently, especially in view of the fact that photonics will become a prevailing technology in the coming decades and will impact all areas of life worldwide.

In this context, the United Nations declared the year 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015). The IYL 2015 brought together hundreds of national and international partners in a multidisciplinary consortium. The year long series of events and activities highlighted to the citizens of the world the importance of light science and optical technologies in leading to an improved quality of life and for the future development of society. IYL 2015 has reached over 100 million people around the world.

The International Year of Light in Europe 2015 (LIGHT2015) project was coordinated by the European Physical Society (EPS). The EPS was also one of the leading institutions of the IYL 2015, thus ensuring smooth communications channels between the European and global activities. LIGHT2015 carried out events and actions planned throughout 2015-2016 to raise the profile of photonics in European region leveraging the enhanced visibility
The LIGHT2015 project raised awareness of the importance of photonics in 61 European cities in 29 European countries, including 22 EU Member States. In addition, the project has also organized activities outside the EU in Mexico as part of the global IYL2015 programme. The project organized 154 different activities reaching out to over 5 million people, including over 34 thousand participating directly in project activities. The project was organized to highlight the importance of photonics among European citizens as well as to increase the visibility of Europe as a Photonics hub. The EU recognised the importance of a strong European presence in leading activities in Europe in the framework of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015). LIGHT2015 was the project that reached the highest number of countries in Europe, is among the top five initiatives worldwide that have reached the most countries for all IYL 2015 activities.

The LIGHT2015 activities can be classified as follows:

● LIGHTtalks: 50 high-profile inspiring public lectures in 27 countries directed to students, entrepreneurs, members of the industry and the general public.
● iSPEX-EU: 30 events in 10 countries related to first pan-European citizen science campaign to measure air-pollution using smartphones.
● Photonics Explorer Workshops: 48 workshops for teachers in 11 countries to leverage their science lessons and stimulate the interest of young students in STEM subjects in general and photonics in particular.
● Photonics Flagship Events: support the organization of three of the most important international congresses in photonics during the IYL 2015: the IYL 2015 Opening Ceremony, the LASER World of Photonics Congress and Trade Fair 2015 and the IYL 2015 Closing Ceremony.
● LIGHT2015 Awards: organization of two awards to highlight young female researchers and young entrepreneurs in photonics
● Conferences: participation in 12 events sharing information about LIGHT2015 project

The main resources produced by the project are classified as follows:

● Videos: 2 videos with subtitles in 24 EU languages focused on career profiles of prominent scientists around Europe as well as the endless power of photonics that shape our daily lives.
● Educational material: 100 Educational Activities about Light and Photonics e-book, a freely available resource for teachers to be used all around the world.

LIGHTtalks
The LIGHTtalks were 50 high-profile events in 27 different European countries that comprised public lectures directed to students, entrepreneurs, members of the industry and the general public that reached directly a total of 4,312 European citizens with a single, Europe-wide orchestrated multi-event endeavour. The events included speakers that discussed different relevant aspects of photonics, its career options and the benefits for the industry and tackling societal challenges. An important event within the LIGHTtalk framework was the public lecture by Nobel Prize Laureate Serge Haroche in Mulhouse, France. The high profile of the scientist attracted a large attendance and generated an important media coverage in the region.

To support the LIGHTtalks, the LIGHT2015 project produced two videos focused on career profiles of prominent scientists around Europe as well as the endless power of photonics that shape our daily lives. These videos have been translated in 24 EU languages and have been seen by over 7,000 people directly at events as well as at least 6,522 people on-line.

Photonics Explorer
The Photonics Explorer kit is a photonics educational hands-on kit with a class set of generic, durable and versatile optical components dedicated for secondary schools. The kit has a strong hands-on approach that give students more confidence and stimulates their curiosity and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, the Photonics Explorer links the physics to photonics applications in real-world situations and to the life o
The LIGHT2015 activities have produced strong impact among the communities targeted in the framework of the project.

Impact on Young People and Teachers

● The subjects of light and photonics are two of the most attractive areas of science with which to demonstrate the appeal of STEM education. These have been at the core of LIGHT2015 activities. Over 3000 students from 16 European countries attended the LIGHTtalks Careers in Photonics series, with a high rate of satisfaction in the events. These events have shown how photonics is associated with a wide range of professions and have demonstrated exciting career for the future. Furthermore, 90% of the 740 students that replied to our survey found that the activity might have an impact on their career choice. The production a video subtitled in 24 EU languages showing the experience of prominent scientists in different fields of photonics was effective at transmitting the message to students that photonics offers exciting career opportunities. The video will be a long-term legacy of the project.
● The Photonics Explorer kits distributions in conjunction with teacher workshops has a very high and lasting impact on students and teachers. These activities provided the opportunity to develop a hands-on appreciation of the science underlying photonics, reaching out to 19,000 students in the 2015-2016 school year, exceeding our expectations. The long-term impact is ensured since it is expected that 95,000 students will be reached over the next five years. The 22 new Local Associated Partners that provide the teachers trainings in local language teamed up with local sponsors to continue the distribution of the Photonics Explorer kits. During the project period, funding for an additional 166 kits has already been raised. This will continue also after the project duration.
● The publication of the 100 Educational Activities about Light and Photonics e-book for teachers has proven to be quite successful with around 1,000 downloads so far and around 30,000 views of the corresponding pages on the IYL 2015 website. In addition, the e-book has been incorporated into the resource materials of the Photonics Explorer kits that will ensure it will keep reaching European teachers in the years to come.
● The iSPEX-EU campaign was a great success to give young people an opportunity to gain improved understanding of how photonics technologies are embedded into devices used in daily life. In addition to the potential participation of the campaign, local organizers appreciated the strong potential of the iSPEX add-on to be used for educational purposes, which will make it a great asset to continue performing hands-on activities. Moreover, the large media exposure of the campaign has highlighted the importance of air pollution to many European citizens and how photonics technologies can help to offer solutions to other global challenges. This was the main goal of the IYL 2015 and is another example of how photonics technologies can work to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
● We have taken advantage of conferences and networking events to promote the interaction between students and scientists.

Impact on Entrepreneurs and Members of the Industry

● With the LIGHTtalks Lighting the Future and The Power of Photonics we have promoted the important role of photonics for businesses. The Lighting the Future events were not as numerous in comparison with the Careers in Photonics events but they were well received. The Power of Photonics events organized in 19 countries and aimed at industry proved to be excellent events that were very well received and in some countries served as platform for industry members to be in contact for the first time. We received a much larger participation in the events than expected, therefore reaching more people. The project has been a great asset in developing new relations with industry players and societies, as well as bridging
LIGHTtalk Career in Photonics in Brussels, Belgium
LIGHT2015 Award Laureates
iSPEX-EU Campaign measurements in London, UK
IYL 2015 Film Festival Poster
IYL 2015 Opening Ceremony
Photonics Explorer Teacher Training Workshops
LIGHT2015 Activities reached 29 European Countries