SPIE is committed to the success of its members who are making the world a better place with innovative optics and photonics technologies. Funding opportunities for optics and photonics businesses, researchers, and students are available via SPIE, the National Science Foundation (USA), the European Research Framework Programme, the U.S. Small Business Technology Transfer Program, the European Space Agency, and other organizations.
A sampling of some of the funding opportunities available is listed below, as is general information about funding programs in the United States and Europe. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.
(Updated 12 March 2012)
• A special government funding session at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing on 25 April in Baltimore, MD, will assist those developing technologies needed by U.S. government funding agencies. Moderated by SPIE Fellow Paul F. McManamon of Exciting Technology, the session will include presentations from Col. Anthony S. Lombardo, deputy director, Agency Acquisition Oversight Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Programs Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Portfolio, Programs, and Resources Pentagon; Donald Woodbury, director, Strategic Technology Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); A. Fenner Milton, director, U.S. Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate; and Richard S. Matlock, Program Executive for Advanced Technology, Missile Defense Agency. More
• The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF), intended to facilitate the rapid insertion of innovative technologies into military systems or programs that meet critical national security needs, has funding for small businesses. The department seeks proposals to facilitate innovative technologies that show a clear transition path to fielding the technology into existing Acquisition Category (ACAT) programs or other defense acquisition programs. More
• The DoD also has funding available for environmental technology demonstration projects through the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. The ESTCP program promotes the transfer of innovative environmental technologies through demonstrations that collect the data needed for regulatory and DoD end-user acceptance. Projects conduct formal demonstrations at DoD facilities and sites in operational settings to document and validate improved performance and cost savings. ESTCP is seeking proposals for funding beginning in fiscal year 2013. Pre-proposals are due 15 March. More
• DARPA will host a Proposers' Day 27 March for its program on Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe)." The agency seeks expertise from mobile phone, medical pneumatics, the optics community and others to build on-demand satellite emagery for the U.S. military. More
• The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is spending $1.25 million to connect 100 U.S. university grantees with industry members to help convert academic research into marketable technologies, products, and processes. The initiative, called the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, is a public-private partnership to identify scientific and engineering discoveries that have practical applications from among the NSF's recently financed projects and provide researchers with additional resources and networking opportunities outside the lab. Each of the university grantees will receive up to $50,000 in support. Press release
• The NSF also has grant opportunities for academic liaison with industry. The GOALI program promotes university-industry partnerships by making project funds or fellowships/traineeships available to support an eclectic mix of industry-university linkages. Special interest is focused on: faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to conduct research and gain experience in an industrial setting; industrial scientists and engineers to bring industry's perspective and integrative skills to academe; and interdisciplinary university-industry teams to conduct research projects. The solicitation targets high-risk/high-gain research with a focus on fundamental research, new approaches to solving generic problems, development of innovative collaborative industry-university educational programs, and direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry. GOALI seeks to fund transformative research that lies beyond that which industry would normally fund. More
• Another NSF program supports international research and educational activities. The Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) supports projects in which advances in research and education would not occur without international collaboration. The PIRE competition will focus on Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) and developing a diverse, globally-engaged U.S. science and engineering workforce. More
• The NSF also has funds for acquiring or developing shared research instrumentation for museums, science centers, higher education, and not-for-profit organizations. The Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) serves to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and research training in U.S. institutions of higher education, museums, science centers, and not-for-profit organizations. This program especially seeks to improve the quality and expand the scope of research and research training in science and engineering by providing shared instrumentation that fosters the integration of research and education in research-intensive learning environments. Development and acquisition of research instrumentation for shared inter- and/or intra-organizational use are encouraged, as are development efforts that leverage the strengths of private sector partners to build instrument development capacity at academic institutions. To accomplish these goals, the MRI program assists with the acquisition or development of shared research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. Instruments are expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. For the purposes of the MRI program, proposals must be for either acquisition or development of a single instrument or for equipment that, when combined, serves as an integrated research instrument (physical or virtual). The MRI program does not support the acquisition or development of a suite of instruments to outfit research laboratories/facilities or to conduct independent research activities simultaneously. Full proposal deadline is 24 January, 2013. More
• SPIE Education and Outreach grants provide funds to not-for-profit organizations such as universities, optics centers, primary and secondary schools, youth clubs, and photonics industry associations to buy supplies for science programs and fairs, to train teachers, and to support summer camps and other activities that increase optics and photonics awareness. Some $85,000 in funding is available. The next deadline to apply for an SPIE Education and Outreach grant is 31 May 2012. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.
• The European Union announced its biggest ever science and technology research funding package, about €7 billion for this round of grants, part of the €53 billion available through the research funding programme for 2007 to 2013. The call for research proposals focuses on innovation and getting good ideas to market, with about €1.3 billion for information and communication technologies. About 16,000 recipients will receive grants for research projects this year. Approximately €1bn will be used to help small and medium-sized businesses innovate. More
• Following on the EU announcement of its research funding package, Photonics21 agreed to a four-fold leveraging of initial public funding for technology development as part of the forthcoming "Horizon 2020" program. The organization of 1800 representatives of photonics industry and science in Europe has proposed a €7 billion public-private partnership investment to deliver technology innovation and commercialization on a scale not seen before on the continent. More
• The UK Space Agency has £0.5m available for new space technologies or the application of terrestrial technologies in space. Competition runs through 20 March.
• The British government will invest up to £4 million in research and development that will address overseas and UK water security challenges and has set aside £0.5 million of that for specific projects incorporating a solution with space-related technologies. The Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org), Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (www.defra.gov.uk), Natural Environment Research Council (www.nerc.ac.uk), and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (www.epsrc.ac.uk) will support new market entry or business innovation in step-change solutions. Up to £1 million will be available for feasibility projects, which must be led by a small or medium-sized business (SME) while up to £2.5 million will be available for collaborative R&D projects, which must be led by a UK business and include an end-user. A further £0.5 million will be provided for specific projects incorporating a space-related solution, such as satellite derived data. The competition opens 19 March 2012 and the registration deadline for both strands of the competition is 25 April 2012. Applications for feasibility-study funding and expressions of interest for collaborative R&D funding must be submitted by 2 May 2012. A briefing day for potential applicants will be held 28 March 2012. More
• The European Space Agency seeks entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for using space technology, applications, and services in a non-space environment. Funds will be used for seed-capital investments, startups and early-stage growth capital for companies using space-related technologies or satellite applications in non-space fields. Support also comes from the ESA Business Incubation Centres. More
• Staff at the U.S National Academies reviews applications for its Research Associateship Program four times a year. Deadlines for applying online are 1 May, 1 August, 1 November, and 1 February. More.
• SPIE Corporate Member Edmund Optics recognizes universities with outstanding optics programs in an annual higher education grant program. Winning schools receive Edmund Optics products that can contribute to current research in photonics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Applications for 2012 awards are due by 30 June. More
Prize opportunities in optics and photonics
• Queen Elizabeth of England has announced a new prize for outstanding advances in engineering that have created significant benefit to humanity. The £1 million prize will be awarded biennially to an individual or team of up to three people, of any nationality, directly responsible for advancing the positive application of engineering knowledge. Deadline for nominations is 31 July, with the first prize awarded in the spring of 2013. More
Recent awards in optics and photonics
» SPIE Corporate Member Edmund Optics recognizes universities with outstanding optics programs with annual awards to universities in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, helping to advance photonics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education around the world. Winning schools receive Edmund Optics products that can contribute to current research at each school. First-place recipients for 2011 (announced in January 2012) were Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Peru), Tohoku University (Japan), and Technische Universität Ilmenau (Germany). More
» Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology (FhCMB) has been awarded $1.5 million from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to provide the U.S. government with a sustainable source of reagents for advancing critical research aimed at developing countermeasures to combat potentially devastating biological pathogens. These reagents will also be valuable for surveillance and diagnostic purposes. More
» BAE Systems, Northrop Grunman, Raytheon, Boeing, and Insitu have been awarded DoD contracts for the development of optics and photonics components and systems in January and February 2012. More on this DoD funding activity from optics.org.
» Six future and emerging information and communication technology (ICT) projects have been selected to compete for long-term funding from the European Commission. The six contenders will receive approximately €1.5 million each to refine their proposal for one year, after which only two will be selected. The initiative for future and emerging technologies (FET) aims to deliver major breakthroughs in information and communication technologies, with the potential to provide solutions to some of society's biggest challenges. The two initiatives selected for long-term funding will run for 10 years, each with a total budget of up to €100 million per year. The chosen projects include digital technology for future medicine and "Robot Companions for Citizens." More
» In September 2011, the DOE awarded more than $145 million for U.S. projects to help shape the next generation of solar energy technologies. Sixty-nine projects in 24 states will accelerate research and development to increase efficiency, lower costs, and advance cutting-edge technologies. Funded through DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the projects will also improve materials, manufacturing processes, and supply chains for a wide range of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and components of solar energy systems. Some of these investments also support efforts that will shorten the overall timeline from prototype to production and streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules, and business processes for installing solar energy systems. More on the SunShot initiative.
» Europe is investing in photonics research to accelerate high-speed broadband Internet connections. Giving every European access to fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020 and boosting investment in ICT research are key objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe. Thirteen photonics research projects were recently launched in the field of high-speed fibre broadband networks with the aim of developing technologies to deliver super fast internet speeds (in excess of 1 Gigabit per second) to the home. The projects were jointly selected in 2010 by the European Commission, Austria, Germany, Poland, the UK, and Israel, who are together paying a total of €22.3 million towards them. The research projects will run for two to three years. More
» The UK announced a record £800 million funding to boost research and allow the development of ground breaking medicines, treatments, and care for patients. Carried out through a partnership between universities and the National Health Service, the British funding includes awards to 31 entities engaged in translational research. Priority research areas include in cardiovascular disease, deafness and hearing problems, musculoskeletal disease. More
Information on U.S. Government Grants
Grants.gov is the best starting point to find and apply for U.S. federal grants. The U.S. government spent an estimated $143.4 billion for R&D in 2011. Although less than $10 billion was budgeted for general science funding, much of the funds designated for defense R&D ($82 billion), health ($32 billion), and other areas use optics and photonics technologies.
Several research endeavors that received funding from the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Innovation Program show the range and impact of photonics in improving our quality of life.
Other resources for federal grants in the United States
Information on European Framework Programme Seven (FP7)
Research Framework Programme 7 (FP7), which runs from 2007 until 2013, bundles all research-related initiatives in the European Union together under a common roof to reach the goals of growth, competitiveness, and employment. It also includes a Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), education and training programmes, and Structural and Cohesion Funds for regional convergence and competitiveness.
The EC proposes to increase research and innovation funding to more than €80 billion for 2014-2020 under a new program called Horizon 2020. A common EU strategy should support boosting Europe's global competitiveness and help create more jobs. The new multi-annual EU budget will be more transparent and will reduce and simplify Member States' contributions.
Watch for announcements about calls for proposals by agencies and organizations, such as the ones listed below, that provide funding and/or other support related to photonics R&D.
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