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Adventures in Light: Bidding Farewell to Professor David Richardson

Published: 26 April 2023

Professor David Richardson, Deputy Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, has recently moved to Microsoft after they acquired the ORC spin-out company Lumenisity in December 2022. David was one of the founders of the company and now holds the role of Chief Technical Officer in the Microsoft company.

For 34 years, David has been a pioneering figure in photonics, having joined the ORC as a Research Fellow in 1989. In recognition of his achievements in the field of ultrafast fibre lasers, he was awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 1992 and has since forged an internationally respected reputation. He is best known for his work on optical fibres and their applications. David has played a leading role in improving the data-carrying capacity of optical communication networks and has also extended the performance limits of fibre lasers, contributing to their commercial success and making them strong competitors to conventional lasers.

In 2000 David was appointed Deputy Director of the ORC, overseeing the Fibre and Laser Group based here and playing a major leadership role throughout this period. Since then, he has won 69 UK and EU funded grants amounting to well over £100 million in funding, won 40 industrial research contracts, published over 550 journal papers and produced over 25 patents. He was made a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 2016, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2009, and most significantly a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018. Alongside these professional achievements, David has played a key role in education at the ORC, acting as supervisor for over 70 PhD students and an even larger number of postdoctoral research fellows  – with many going on to establish highly successful careers of their own in academia and industry.

David co-founded two successful spin-out companies: SPI Lasers in 2000 and Lumenisity in 2017. SPI Lasers successfully commercialised high power fibre laser systems and, as a result, was sold in 2008 to Trumpf GmBH, the world’s leading industrial laser processing company. David and his team then turned their attention to developing hollow-core fibres (HCFs) which allow data to travel 50 per cent faster than in traditional solid-core fibres. Recognising the role that HCFs could play in addressing the bandwidth demand in high-capacity communications systems, David and his colleagues looked to commercialise their research. With the help of Chairman and CEO, Dr David Parker, the company was established in 2017.

Since then, Lumenisity has firmly established itself as a world leader in the development of HCF for communications and its success culminated in its acquisition by Microsoft in December 2022. As a result, David decided to join the company he co-founded. This decision will enable him to fulfil his dream of unlocking new capabilities in communication networks through the remarkable properties of hollow-core fibre.

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