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The General Conference on Weights and Measures adopted the value of 299,792.458 km/s for the speed of light on Oct. 21, 1983. In honor of that event, the first international Day of Photonics will take place this Oct. 21 to help “bring to light” the impact of photonics on our day-to-day lives.

Photo courtesy of Epic.

More than 100 activities in more than 20 countries are planned, encompassing a variety of demonstrations and discussions on the theme, according to Carlos Lee, coordinator of the event.

Lee also is the director general of EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium), which promotes the sustainable development of organizations working in all areas of photonics: from LEDs to optical components to lasers, sensors and imaging displays.

Lee has a strong background in microelectronics, thanks to 15 years of management positions at the global industry association SEMI. His education includes a master’s in business administration from the United Business Institutes in Belgium.

Photonics Spectra recently asked Lee three questions about his work on the Day of Photonics initiative.

Q: What are you working on for the event?

A: For this inaugural Day of Photonics, we provide material that can be used by any company, university or organization that wishes to participate in this international initiative, [which] aims at increasing awareness of photonic technologies and the importance of this key enabling technology. It is very much a bottom-up approach, where industrial companies organize the events that they feel most comfortable with, taking into account their resources and product field of applications.

The resources we develop to aid the participating organizations are shared and made freely available on the website at A lot of the effort actually goes into convincing companies of the long-term benefit of engaging in advocacy and promotion of the photonics industry. The benefits of the photonics industry to reach a recognition equivalent to that of the electronics industry has impact on political, commercial [and] societal levels. As more people become aware of the importance of photonic technologies, more interest from citizens and more support from public authorities will follow. It is then up to the industry to leverage this interest to its direct benefit.

Q: What are the implications of the event for the industry and society?

A: Day of Photonics is an opportunity to promote photonics – both within the company and towards the general public. Keeping in mind that not all of us working in industry are always fully aware of the breadth of applications of photonics, it is also a good opportunity to launch an internal awareness campaign within the company of how its products and technologies find their way into an amazingly diversified range of applications.

The feedback I heard from several sales teams was that they would use the opportunity to discuss new potential markets. Some universities want to organize and reach out to a local school. Some other companies use the excuse to have a drink among colleagues or organize a corporate family day (some will invite the children to show the parents’ work environment).

Given the forecasted shortage of skilled engineers, it is also a good opportunity to motivate younger people to study a technology or engineering field that will be relevant to companies. It is really up to everyone on how they want to leverage the opportunity.

Q: What is next for the initiative?

A: Day of Photonics gains maturity and grows each day as we get closer to the event, so a lot of the current work is about compiling the activities on the website ( and clarifying the concept for those that want to support but are not sure how. There is no cost involved in participating, though we welcome sponsorship, and the organization of an event can be kept quite simple, actually.

After the 2014 edition, we will discuss if the next edition should be in 2015, given that many activities will already be organized on the occasion of the International Year of Light, of which EPIC is proud to be a gold associate sponsor. But, for sure, Day of Photonics will take place again in 2016 and every year or (every)other year after that until we are satisfied with the level of recognition of the photonics industry.

How are you celebrating Day of Photonics?

Carlos Lee, coordinator of the event, says his inbox has been flooded with proposed activities from many organizations, a few of which are listed here:

• Applied research company CSEM of Switzerland will hold an open house, combining the promotion of photonics with a 30-year company anniverary celebration.

• The University of Aveiro in Portugal will celebrate with an event involving lasers, holography and other photonics applications, which also will serve to usher in the International Year of Light’s Portuguese program.

• Amplitude Systèmes, a laser firm in France, is opening its doors to the company’s families and holding a laser drawing contest for the kids.

• Photonics consulting firm Tematys of France is offering a family day for all photonics-related enterprises in its building.

• In Sweden, laser company Cobolt has invited some middle school students for study visits to its facility, in combination with a family afternoon/evening.

• A manufacturer of advanced frequency conversion systems for laser tuning, Radiantis of Barcelona, Spain, has organized a group visit to Casa Batlló. The building was designed by Antoni Gaudí, who took his inspiration from natural organic forms. Its colorful facade appears to change color throughout the day, depending on ambient light conditions. “This change of color resembles the broad tunability of our optical parametric oscillators across the visible and IR spectra, and hence would be the perfect venue to celebrate the 2014 Day of Photonics,” Lee said.

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2014
AmericasAmplitude SystemesAsia-PacificCarlos LeeCoboltCSEMEPICEuropeEuropean Photonics Industry ConsortiumGeneral Conference on Weights and Measuresimaginglight speedopticsRadiantisspeed of lightTematysDay of PhotonicsOctober 21photonics eventsUniversity of AveiroAntoni GaudiCasa Batllolasers

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