Nobel Laureate Hiroshi Amano addresses importance of innovation for development with UNESCO Executive Board

On 8 June 2015, the UNESCO Executive Board was honoured to receive Professor Hiroshi Amano from the University of Nagoya (Japan), and 2014 Nobel Laureate in physics, for a presentation on the theme “Innovation as a driving force for development” followed by a fruitful exchange with Board members and other delegates. The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Professors Hiroshi Amano, Isamu Akasaki and Shuji Nakamura "for the invention of diodes emitting blue light allowing savings of white light sources", better known as LED. This session was part of the series of meetings under Decision 194 EX/31 "UNESCO 70 years and Future Prospects" and was in line with one of the key missions of UNESCO, namely bridging the gap between science and policy.

Professor John Dudley (left), Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr (center) and Professor Hiroshi Amano (right).
Professor John Dudley (left), Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr (center) and Professor Hiroshi Amano (right).

"For over a billion and half people, night announces darkness" stressed Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairperson of the Executive Board. Many people in the world still do not benefit from correct lightening and it is vital for countries that have developed new technologies to be aware of issues related to access. The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, recalled that the 70th anniversary of the Organization is an opportunity to celebrate the "S" in its acronym for Science. It is important to lay the foundations of applied science requiring quality education on science. To move forward, we need among other things to promote social cohesion and the effective implementation of public policies.

Professor Amano gave a presentation entitled: Development of GaN-based Blue LEDs: contributing to solving global issues such as energy, water, food, environment and health for a sustainable society. In his address to the Executive Board, Professor Amano said that before the 18th century, fire and candles were the only forms of illumination. In 1858, fluorescent lamps were invented, marking the beginning of quantum mechanics. After 1962, we witnessed the arrival of LEDs and in the 1970s, we used very complex non-native means. In February 1985, Professor Amano realized that aluminum nitride may be the solution to his laboratory research. The first production of gallium nitride was funded by other researchers, with his collaboration.

Today, video games and mobile phones are powered thanks to the increase in these diodes. We even go as far as talking about people’s addictions to their mobile phones. This proves that we are all, more or less, in contact with these diodes. In 1996, a filter was added to blue light diodes, producing white light. With this technology, the blue LEDs contribute to electronic devices, as well as all lighting systems. Moreover, blue LEDs provide considerable energy savings.

Finally, Professor John Dudley, Chair of the International Committee of the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, raised scientists’ concerns to on research projects. He said "The world needs long-term research" and urged UNESCO to raise the awareness of Member States to the need to fund programmes in this framework.

He also recalled that the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies crystallizes more than twenty activities and events every day around the world, exemplifying the international scientific community’s major responsibility.

An interesting and fruitful discussion followed the presentations, which focused mainly on the future of blue LEDs, South-South and North-South cooperation, funding and supporting research, collaborations with developing countries and international students, and collaboration with other research centers, particularly in developing countries. 

Take a look at UNESCO's Photo Gallery of the event here.

Read original UNESCO's Press Release.

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.


Maciej J. Nalecz
Director, Division for Science Policy and Capacity Building
UNESCO Natural Sciences Sector

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015