This week I travelled to Strasbourg to make a presentation at the European Parliament. The STOA committee (Science and Technology Options Assessment) had organized a session and I thought it was a not-to-miss opportunity to reach out to politicians to inform them and to get them as excited as I am about our industry.
I called my presentation “Back To The Future”. If we were back 40 years ago when the semiconductor industry started, knowing the importance of the ICT sector today, wouldn’t Europe have invested more into the electronics industry? I said toc-toc-toc, the opportunity is knocking on the door again and Europe is very well positioned all along the photonics value chain. Does Europe as a continent want to lead in photonics? Will we remain in leadership as we transition from smaller to larger production volumes? We know that photonics is and will remain a pervasive and enabling technology. My presentation consisted mainly of pictures covering the wide spectrum of applications of photonics. I also presented some of or statistics: 5000 companies in Europe in photonics, mainly small but growing fast. Most companies manufacture in Europe, source in Europe, but export majority of their production, this is an ideal scenario for public authorities.
The event was triggered by O. Grasso from the European Parliament. She attended the EPIC 10th Anniversary celebration event on 13 December and was convinced of the need to spread the word about photonics.
2015 has been designated as “The International Year of Light.” I think that complementing that with an annual “Day of Photonics” may indeed be a good idea—a proposal that was suggested by Ms. Grasso and she was happy to see EPIC picking her idea. She had suggested it during the panel discussion at the EPIC anniversary in Brussels. EPIC is suggesting 21 October as a date that would fit. The celebration is not linked to any country or specific technology. The significance of that chosen date is that on 21 October 1983, the General Conference of Weights And Measures adopted the value of 299,792.458 km/s for the speed of light (the suggestion was made by a follower on LinkedIn).
After my presentation, Vittorio Prodi, a member of the European Parliament, came to thank me for my contribution and I had positive feedback from other members of the STOA committee. Also Campo Ruiz, Science Officer to the CEO of the European Science Foundation congratulated me. It was encouraging and heart-warming.
Carlos Lee, Director General at the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC).