The International Year of Light celebrates its closure in Mexico

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) celebrated its closing ceremony on 4-6 February 2016 in the city of Mérida, Mexico. During three days, over 300 participants reviewed the activities and major outcomes of the IYL 2015 as well as discussed potential legacies of the Year. The LIGHT2015 project supported the organization of the ceremony and participated on the outreach programme with the support of the IYL 2015 Film Festival.


The IYL 2015 Closing Ceremony was openened with messages from both the Secretary General of United Nations Ban Ki Moon and UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Flavia Schlegel who highlighted them importance of IYL 2015 to raise awareness of the importance of photonics for offering solution to solve problems of global impact.

John Dudley, Chair of the IYL 015 Steering Committee and a key member of the LIGHT2015 Project, gave an overview of the activities developed during the Year. Most notably he highlighted the international coverage of the year with the organization of over 5,000 activities, including scientific conferences, art projects and exhibitions, active learning workshops, festivals and many more, in 148 countries. The international impact was also shown by the over 150 partners involved on the organization of the IYL 2015 and more than 15,000 media mentions in 120 countries.

Lluis Torner at the IYL 2015 Closing Ceremony
Lluis Torner at the IYL 2015 Closing Ceremony

The programme of the conference included lectures and panel discussion by eminent specialists, comprising two recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics: Shuji Nakamura and John Mather. The different sessions during the closing ceremony addressed the many ways in which light touches us, and of its centrality in our lives. Topics included health and life science, architecture and urban environments, new light sources for research, optics and phototonics, cultural heritage, light pollution awareness and science education.

One of the panel sessions comprised the state-of-the-art on Research in Optics and Photonics including the participation of Lluis Torner, Director of ICFO and key member of the LIGHT2015 Project, who gave an overview of the Photonics Research in Europe and the role played by the public-private-partnership established between the European Commission and the European Technology Platform Photonics21.

Among the potential legacies discussed for IYL 2015 were the initiative to request the designation by the United Nations of an International Day on Light and Light-based Technologies, the commitment to keep the successful UNESCO’s Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP) programme running in the future and the strengthening of the collaborations between the organizations involved in the organization of the IYL 2015.


The involvement of the City of Mérida was also of great importance during the Closing Ceremony. Cultural and educational activities for the general public were organized reaching an overall audience of 14,000 people.

The outreach programme also comprised the IYL 2015 Film Festival, supported by the LIGHT2015 project, where a selection of videos/documentaries inspired by IYL 2015 were showcased. The highlight of the Film Festival was the participation of over 1,500 students on the educational programme comprised by short videos focusing on the major themes of  the Year followed by an interactive discussion about the topics.

The ceremony was officially closed with a visit to the archeological site Chichén Itzá, where participants learnt about the ancient Mayan culture and its knowledge of the Universe with two talks from prominent archeoastronomers as well as a light and sound show over the Temple of Kukulcan.

Even though the IYL 2015 is officially closed, its spirit is very much alive. With many activities still happening around the world, for instance France is organizing activities until the end of June to match the school calendar, it is essential to take advantage of the momentum generated and keep walking through the path illuminated by the International Year of Light to ensure a better tomorrow for all.

About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.

About LIGHT2015

LIGHT2015 is a European project funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Commission. It aims to promote the importance of photonics to young people, entrepreneurs and the general public in all Member States of the EU during the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

LIGHT2015 activities will include LIGHTtalks, a series of inspirational events, which will take place throughout the European Union in different cities at different times for the whole duration of the project in order to bring photonics closer to students and entrepreneurs. A specific series of events targeted to local industry and entrepreneurs, will take place during the period 25-28 September 2015 to take advantage of the international “100 Hours / Weekend of Light” of the global IYL 2015 programme.

Another highlight of LIGHT2015 will be a community experiment on smartphone photonics where thousands of participants from throughout the EU will carry out optical measurements of the sky to yield information related to air pollution. To aid teachers and to inspire student, Photonics kits will be distributed to schools around Europe to support the scientific education at secondary schools.

LIGHT2015 Partners include the European Physical Society (EPS), the European Optical Society (EU), the Institute of Photonics Sciences (ICFO), Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI), Universiteit Leiden and EYESTvzw.


Jorge Rivero González
LIGHT2015 Project Officer

David Lee
LIGHT2015 Coordinator