A couple of weeks ago, I attended the second of two roadmapping workshops at the IOP’s London offices, in my capacity as the chair of the Quantum Electronics and Photonics Group.
This workshop, and the one that preceded it in January, are pivotal steps in a roadmapping process that the IOP is undertaking for photonics, with the aim to eventually roll out the same process across all the special-interest groups.
So what is a roadmap, and what is it for?
Roadmaps are widely used in industry as a tool for enabling communication between stakeholders, and for strategic planning. The IOP sees them as a means that can help interest groups identify ways in which they can promote economic growth and other societal benefits through current and potential applications of physics.
By laying out the route to future benefits – from initial idea, through basic and applied research, to development and finally deployment – a roadmap helps stakeholders determine where they can best fit into this chain. This allow them to identify opportunities – for research, development, and for business.
Also, where support and resources from government are need, it helps persuade funding bodies that valuable public money should be spent in this way, by setting out a closely argued case and a clear route to the eventual benefit. The IOP itself can be part of this persuasion process: as the UK’s learned society for physics, its voice can be used to make the case for investment in physics for the national good, both to policymakers and to the general public.
Roadmapping is a new initiative for the IOP, and photonics has been chosen as the pilot interest group. The Institute of Manufacturing based at Cambridge University has a long track-record of roadmapping for industry, and has been engaged to run this exercise.
The process for photonics started in the autumn with the workshops being designed and stakeholders from industry and academia identified and recruited. The purpose of the first workshop was to share perspectives and generate a landscape for photonics. From this landscape were identified the needs and drivers that will shape photonics over the next 20 years or more, the scientific and technical outcomes required to address those needs and produce those benefits, and the resources needed to achieve those outcomes.
The second workshop was used to prioritise and organise the results of the first. The final product of the whole process will be a report to be launched in the early autumn – the actual roadmap itself.