Dr Phil Mitchell (Vice Chair of Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster, Lumentum, SDC Associate Lecturer), Anthony Mangnall MP, Jason Buck (Torbay Development Agency), Laurence Frewin Principal and CEO South Devon College , Dr Andrew Robertson (Chair of Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster, Bay Photonics)

South Devon College suite named in honour of pioneers who sparked worldwide communications revolution

Jim Parker

South Devon College celebrated the official opening of its photonics training suite – an important facility within its Hi Tech and Digital Centre that is set to raise awareness of the career opportunities in this exciting and growing sector.

The history of this booming engineering sector, booming right here in Torbay, has surprisingly local story.

The event was attended by guests of honour Mary and Rachel Hockham, the wife and daughter of the late Dr George Hockham, a prize-winning scientist and pioneer in Optic Fibre.

Anthony Mangnall MP, Rachel Hockham, Mary Hockham and Laurence Frewin Principal and CEO South Devon College
Anthony Mangnall MP, Rachel Hockham, Mary Hockham and Laurence Frewin Principal and CEO South Devon College

Laurence Frewin, principal and CEO at South Devon College, told the story of Paignton’s history in the development of this technology.

He said: “Dr Charles Kao and Dr George Hockham were prominent scientists with a very local connection to the college and we’re really proud to name this facility in their honour.

“It all started back in 1966 when their paper ‘Dielectric-fibre surface waveguides for optical frequencies’ was published.

“This important piece of research established that long- distance fibre optic communication was a realistic possibility, and laid the groundwork for the systems that carry the telephone communications, internet and television today, that we all take for granted.

“In 1977, using laser diodes and receiver diodes manufactured right here in Paignton, the first fibre optic system was trialled and proved viable, all because the research by these two amazing people who came up with the first concept.

“This sparked a worldwide revolution in communication.

“We’re really proud to be part of that story here in Paignton and at South Devon College.”

The facility was officially opened by Anthony Mangnall MP, who is a committed supporter of this exciting sector through his role as co-chair of the Photonics and Quantum All Party Parliamentary Group.

Mr Mangnall said: “This is another example of South Devon College moving forward the further education sector to help a thriving industry, booming right here in South Devon.

“The Photonics and Quantum All Party Parliamentary Group is a sponsor of the Epic Centre just around the corner. The purpose of that group is to raise awareness of photonics.

“It’s also to see where the trade opportunities can be found and how we can help attract investment not just to this area but to the whole country.

“Today is an opportunity to send a clear message, that the South West is so much more than tourism.

“tech industry. We are an opportunity for people to live and work in the South West to have the careers they want but also to be able to create.

“I’m so pleased to be here to officially open this facility because quantum and photonics are areas that we know will have a skills shortage unless we can address that.

“As usual the team here have recognised that need and are taking an important step to be able to address that gap.”

The Kao/Hockham Training Suite is sponsored by the Getting Building Fund as well as generous donations from Hi Tech Cluster businesses, notably Davies and Bell, Lumentum, EFFECT Photonics and II-VI.

For more information on short training courses to degree level study in photonics, contact enquiries@southdevon.ac.uk