From Basic Science to Innovation – An example from the new science of attosecond light

François Légaré


Funding agencies are increasingly asking scientists to work on projects that are linked with national strategic priorities, favoring applied research over basic science. While applied research is of crucial importance, basic science provides the best venue for scientists to express their curiosity. My own career began with being inspired by my mentors to follow a very basic research dream: using lasers to image and control materials with the highest spatial and temporal resolution, what has become attosecond science. But to realize this dream, I’ve had to work on the development of new laser technologies. Now, a former research associate of mine has started a spin-off company, Few-Cycle Inc., to market these new technologies as commercial products. If someone had asked me in 1999 if my research into attosecond science would lead to economic development, I would have answered “no”. The right answer should have been: “I don’t know”. It is difficult to predict what comes out of science. This is the beauty of curiosity driven research.

Dr. François Légaré is a professor at INRS (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique) in Canada, as well as director of Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) located in Varennes, Quebec. He is the recipient of the Canadian Association of Physics 2015 Herzberg Medal, and the 2016 Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics from the Canadian Royal Society.