Every now and again Optician gets invited to participate in a project that really shows the passion that runs through optometry and showcases some of the young, up-and-coming talent the profession enjoys.

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on the finals of Coopervision’s Future Ocular Research Creativity Event (Force). The competition is in its seventh year and has become well-recognised by its Force acronym. Better still what started off as a UK-based student competition, designed to bring the contact lens giant closer to the brightest students of the day, has grown into an international competition. This sees students from around the world pitted against one another in a battle to present the most compelling university research covering contact lenses and anterior eye. The finals will take place in Budapest this May and see students compete from around Europe and as far afield as India.

The local finals saw two optometrists at the start of their careers presenting projects they carried out in their final year at college. Both were connected to dry eye but tackled very different topics. Despite the event being attended by experienced clinicians and university lecturers the group appreciated the background discussions. The senior people in the room were happy to learn from their young colleagues.

The third year of a university degree is far from the ideal time to carry out research as the pressures of available clinic time and suitable patients mount. What projects like Force do well is to provide a taste for research, enthuse young people and push back thinking in new areas of practice.

It was evident that both finalists had developed a passion for their topics. If the profession’s future is in clinical practice and extended services as so many predict, Force is playing its part in opening up new opportunities for the next generation.