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Photonics impact and skills shortage highlighted to UK government

A group advocating photonics with the UK government has emphasised the innovation-driving role of light-based technologies – and the need for workforce training in the field – at its recent meeting in London.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPGP) was set-up by the UK government in October 2016 to facilitate regular discussions with members of the optics and photonics community in the UK. SPIE Europe is serving as Secretariat.

During its meeting on 4 July in London, the group established the need to bridge the technical skills gap as well as highlight the enabling role of photonics in ongoing parliamentary business, such as legislation on driverless cars.

The APPGP is working towards a sector deal in photonics that would allocate budget from the government to the field. While this would be one desirable outcome, the group is also looking to ascertain whether a horizontal sector deal covering many industries would be welcome.

Communications with the government will highlight the fact that photonics bridges and enables likely vertical submissions for funding, underscoring the technology’s relevance.

As part of their strategy to reduce the technical skills gap, the group will advise on the Technical Education Bill before Parliament, suggesting that:

•         Technical education should be defined as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
•         The bill should address the lack of skills in the photonics, identify where potential skill gaps will appear, and acknowledge that qualified technicians are widely missing across the industry.

During the 4 July meeting, the group reconstituted after the recent UK general election on 8 June, re-electing Carol Monaghan, MP Glasgow North West, as its chair.

Also re-elected were:

•         Vice chair: Steven Pound, MP Ealing North, Labour
•         Secretary: Chris Green, MP Bolton West, Conservative
•         Officer: Stephen Metcalfe, MP South Basildon and East Thurrock, Conservative.

John Lincoln (CEO, UK Photonics Leadership Group),  Anke Lohmann (M Squared Lasers) and Karin Burger of SPIE Europe also attended.

At its inaugural event last February, the APPGP connected MPs with representatives of Qioptiq, Leonardo Systems, Cobalt Light Systems, M Squared Lasers, the University of Southampton, the Knowledge Transfer Network, and other entities who provided information about products, services, services, and opportunities offered by photonics.

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