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IEEE UK and Ireland Section Vice Chair Ballot | Meet the Candidates – Richard Pitwon

Talk Title

“How optical, photonic and quantum interconnect are driving our digital society”


Richard will introduce and discuss the increasingly pivotal role of optical communication in hyperscale data centres running the “Cloud” environments that are intrinsic to our digital society.

In particular he will show how optical links are now migrating from the “factory floor” into the boxes housing modern server and switch systems and right into the chips themselves as part of so-called “co-packaged optical assemblies”. This migration is enabled by an emerging technology eco-system, which includes optical circuit boards and photonic integrated circuits. Quantum technologies are progressing to market faster than anticipated with commercial and consumer applications starting to emerge. In future hyperscale data centres will also increasingly adopt quantum computer and communication capabilities to offer “Quantum as a Service”.

Richard Pitwon Lecture | How Optical, photonic and quantum interconnect are driving our digital society

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Richard Pitwon Vice Chair Candidate Pitch

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Related Technical Achievements & Experience

Dr Pitwon holds 54 patents in diverse technology areas, authored over 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications including conference and journal papers, 5 international standards and a book. He has given over 90 public talks. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE, Chartered Engineer, Fellow of IET, Fellow of Institute of Physics and Senior Member of SPIE. He serves as chair, secretary and principal UK expert on behalf of the UK to the IEC on standards for emerging technologies including optical interconnect, optical circuit boards and photonic integrated circuits, for which he was awarded the IEC 1906 award in September 2017.

Leadership Experience

Dr Richard Pitwon is a director, scientist and engineer with more than 20 years transformational expertise in optical and photonic system interconnect, integration and architectures for hyperscale data centre, HPC, 5G and IoT data-communications applications. He has extensive experience in managing international, multi-million-dollar collaborative research and development programmes, skilled in building multi-disciplinary teams to deliver advanced system solutions and coordinating across multiple geographies. He is currently the CEO of Resolute Photonics, a design consultancy company he formed in 2018. Prior to that he led the photonics research and development groups in Xyratex and then Seagate for over a decade.

In addition to chairing the IEEE UK&I Photonics Chapter and Quantum Group (provisionally), he is the current chair of the IEC standards subcommittee on optical connectors (IEC SC86B), one of the largest subcommittees in the IEC. He is also a key contributor to EU and UK government strategy on optical communications and photonic integration through Photonics21 and the UK Photonics Leadership Group, regularly liaising with government committees.

Position Statement

Overview of Key IEEE roles and engagements

Richard Pitwon has chaired the UK&I Photonics Chapter since 2017 making it the most active chapter in the section by 2021. He also founded and ran the flagship British and Irish Conference on Optics and Photonics (BICOP), for two consecutive years (2018 and 2019) prior to a two year hiatus due to COVID.

In August 2021 he formed the UK&I Quantum Group, which was announced at SPIE Photonex and the kick-off meeting for the UK&I IEEE Nanotechnology Council. He also organised the first cross-standards development organisation (IEEE/ITU/IEC/ETSI) symposia on quantum technologies:

  • IEEE/ISO/IEC/ITU-T Joint Symposium on Standards for Quantum Interconnect on 23rd March 2021
  • IEEE/ISO/IEC/ITU-T Joint Symposium on Quantum Transport Technology on 28th April 2021
  • IEEE/ISO/IEC/ITU-T Joint Symposium on Harmonisation of Terminology in Standards for Quantum Technology on 23rd June 2021
  • He is currently organising the IEEE/ITU/IEC Joint Symposium on Quantum Photonic Integrated Circuits to be held on 2nd November 2021

He has been an active IEEE member for over 9 years and is currently a member of the Photonics Society, Electronics Packaging Society and Nanotechnology Council. He is also strongly active in the IEEE Standards Association and is a member of 802.3.

Vision for the Section

This is a particularly critical time for the UK and Ireland. It is now more important than ever that we promote the virtue and value of collaboration in engineering, science and technology at the highest levels. Over the next few years, there is an historic opportunity for the UK to restore or strengthen its reputation as a world centre of excellence in science and engineering. This rare window may be brief, so it is crucial that we exploit it while it is a political priority. In particular, through the unique position of our section, we can help establish the UK and Ireland as a dyad in global science and engineering through increased collaborative and joint activities. In the process we can also help reinforce a positive relationship with the EU.

As Section Chair I will bring the same vigour and passion that I have demonstrated in my other leadership roles in and outside the IEEE to promote science and engineering as a force for societal good e.g. for green technologies and a pivotal discipline that the UK and Ireland are well placed to exploit. To that end I will seek to increase the impact, contributions and profile of the UK and Ireland section throughout the IEEE and worldwide through the following policy initiatives.

Key policy initiatives and action plan

Building on the advances that have been made over the past 10 years, the section will continue to strongly pursue initiatives to promote increased diversity and gender balance in STEM, in particular encouraging more females to enter science and engineering at a young age through national outreach activities.

The section will lobby through its members for more UK and Irish companies to adopt Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) and provide support and advice, such as GEP templates. This will also improve company profiles and company competitiveness.

The section will spotlight emerging areas with high societal impact, such as green technologies, AI, IoT, 6G and quantum technologies. Where possible and appropriate we will seek opportunities to increase collaboration with parallel, even traditionally competing, organisations (e.g. IET) in order to create a “united front” in defence of science and engineering. Where appropriate, this will include assistance to and collaboration with government committees, which promote science and engineering policies e.g. UK All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) such as the APPG on Photonics led by Carol Monaghan MP, or the Irish Houses of Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

The section will also engage with the European Commission Horizon Europe framework programme.

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