The University of Southampton

Half a million people discover the power of light through photonics outreach project

Published: 3 February 2017
Festival of Light, Bratislava. Image credit: Dusan Chorvat

A €1 million European project, driven by outreach expertise from the University of Southampton, has reached close to half a million people with the science of light.

The Photonics4All project delivered 230 events for European audiences across a two-year period and produced an extensive toolkit of outreach resources that have now been made available for general use.

The programme, which was funded by the European Union to promote photonics and light-based technologies, brought together partners from nine EU countries to inspire young people, entrepreneurs and the general public with the growing potential of the scientific study.

Academics, postgraduate students and members of the Optics and Photonics Society from across the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre and department of Physics and Astronomy played a major part in the success of the EU project.

Public Engagement Leader Pearl John, a UK Project Partner, said: “Photonics plays a crucial role in many global industries so it is essential we relay its importance to the next generation of scientists and engineers. It has been very exciting to work on the many innovative hands-on activities, workshops and start-up challenges that have been generated through Photonics4All and I would encourage others to replicate its success with the free tools that are available online.”

Photonics4All ran until December 2016, using 11 distinct types of activities to reach its different target groups. Outreach tools developed during its operation include an Android photonics app, animated video, brochures, games, best practice handbooks and an OmniLight Laboratory for live photonics experiments and demonstrations.

Children’s Universities, led by the University of Southampton, reached young people in Great Britain, Germany, Austria and Sweden and introduced classes to the topic with experiments and educational games from resources including a Photonics Explorer Kit.

Entrepreneurs were also engaged in the programme through boot camps, innovation workshops and a European Start-up Challenge, in which business models of candidate start-ups were evaluated by a jury of photonics and business experts before a final event where entrants could pitch their idea to a wider professional audience. Specific Invest Events then matched upcoming photonics companies with private investors.

Photonics campaigns were used to increase awareness of the topic with the general public in Britain, France, Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and Slovakia. The project targeted existing events such as science and light festivals while also organising special events with interactive exhibitions, city lighting, displays, light shows and marketing giveaways. Highlights included a laser installation created by the OmniLight Laboratory for the 2016 Festival of Light in Bratislava, Slovakia, and a ‘Photonics Science Slam’ in Germany.

Photonics4All received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Most of the outreach tools are accessible through the Photonics4All website and replicable for free.

For further information please contact Pearl John:

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