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Funding Opportunities in Optics and Photonics

Numerous funding opportunities for optics and photonics businesses, researchers, and students are available via the National Science Foundation (USA), the European Research Framework Programme, the U.S. Small Business Technology Transfer Program, and other organizations.

For example, the U.S. Department of Energy has solicited proposals for $4 million in grants to stimulate and improve research infrastructure for energy-related science programs in academia and industry. Ocean Optics is offering seed money for optical sensing R&D and the NSF is seeking proposals for collaborative research in electronics, photonics, and magnetic devices

SPIE wants to see its members succeed. A sampling of some of the funding opportunities available is listed below, as is general information about funding opportunities in the United States and Europe. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

(Updated 14 June 2011)

» Ocean Optics' Blue Ocean Grants and Challenges program will make available up to $100,000 in funding for qualified researchers. The initiative is intended to identify innovative approaches to applicant-defined challenges in optical sensing. Phase I grants will fund further evaluation and development of technologies; phase II grants will be issued to mature a proposed technology through proof of concept in a way that enables the potential of market commercialization. Apply by 30 June.

» Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, VA, are reaching out to industry to find new ways of blending electronic, photonic, and micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) components on one silicon integrated circuit. The DARPA Microelectronics Technology Office released a broad agency announcement for the Electronic-Photonic Heterogeneous Integration (E-PHI) program to develop technologies and architectures to enable chip-scale electronic-photonic/mixed-signal integrated circuits on a common silicon substrate. More

» The South of England Photonics Network (SEPNET) has arranged a meeting in July to provide information on PV, LED, fiber optics, and other photonics schemes in the UK. A 6 July event will focus on a major €92million call from the EU, expected in July, for core and disruptive photonic technologies as well as targeted calls for lasers and laser systems. The meetings are a good opportunity to understand what the requirements are and increase your chances of success.  More

» SPIE leaders, responding to a request for input to proposed changes in European R&D funding, have recommended that the EC continue investing in high-tech laser research projects such as HiPER and ELI. The European Commission put out a call earlier this year for stakeholder views on proposed major changes to EU research and innovation funding to make participation easier, increase scientific and economic impact, and provide better value for money. The EC has presented a Green Paper on a Common Strategic Framework for future EU research and innovation funding, which proposes the changes for the next EU budget after 2013. These changes would bring together the current Framework Programme for research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. All responses from the consultation are available to read. More

» Elsewhere in Europe, the ACTMOST consortium held an industry workshop 11 April in Karlsruhe, Germany, for companies interested in product innovation with microphotonics. ACTMOST is 14 high-tech research laboratories from six European member states that have joined forces to become a "one-stop-shop" solutions provider for microphotonic technologies. ACTMOST provides European companies with timely, cost-effective, and investment-free access to professional, cutting-edge microphotonic technologies and knowledge to support the development of new products. More

» The DOE announced that eight organizations are receiving $15 million to support research on LEDs and other energy-efficient lighting. Recipients were Soraa, Cree, Philips, Veeco, Moser Baer, ASU, University of Rochester, and the Research Triangle Institute. This was the seventh round of DOE funding for solid-state lighting core technology research and product development, and the second time that DOE has funded solid-state lighting manufacturing projects. These efforts are part of DOE's initiative to accelerate the adoption of SSL technology through improvements that reduce costs and enhance product quality and performance. They will also play an important role in encouraging U.S.-based manufacturing of SSL technologies and creating jobs.

» An "Industry Meets Academia" workshop was held 22 May at SPIE Optical Metrology in Munich for those active in collaborative projects. Technologically progressive industries and new products evolve from birth through maturity, and the interaction of different players in various phases of the life cycle has to be considered. In the early phase, the interaction between partners from industry and academia is important. This workshop was dedicated to the exchange of experiences among these partners acting actively within collaborative projects on European and national level. Based on the presentation of currently running projects, a vital information exchange addressed important subjects of cooperation: intellectual property, technology evaluation, contracting, and negotiation strategies.  

» 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

» The National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA) has funding for and seeks proposals on developing methods for optimizing optical measurements of bullet and casing surfaces and correlating surface topographies. NIST has developed Standard Reference Material (SRM) Bullets for testing automated optical systems used in crime lab investigations of bullet evidence from firearms and is developing SRM Cartridge Cases (Casings) for testing these systems when used for examining casing evidence. An important attribute of these materials is their high similarity from one SRM unit to the next so that different laboratories on the same network can check the operation of their systems with the same tests and expect the same results. NIST has also developed both optical and contacting systems for measurement and analysis of surface topography for demonstrating the quality and similarity of the SRM materials and for research into optimizing the accuracy and minimizing the uncertainty of optical measurements of bullet and casing surfaces. The systems for surface topography analysis include research software written in the MATLAB language for quantifying the similarity of a pair of surface topography images. NIST is continuing its research in all these areas and is initiating research in the surface topography of toolmark evidence as well. As part of its continuing research into optical measurements for surface topography measurement, NIST requires the services of experts in the analysis of surface topography, in the registration and correlation of topographic images, and in the manufacture of reproducible toolmarks. More

» The U.S. Commerce Department and six other government agencies have launched a $12 million entrepreneurship initiative to promote clean energy innovation and economic growth. EDA will award up to $1 million to each of six teams around the country in the i6 Green Challenge. Partner agencies, which include the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will award more than $6 million in additional funding to i6 Green winners.

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing» U.S. government funding was the subject of a special session at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 27 April. SPIE Fellow Paul McManamon, retired from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), organized the session with representatives from U.S. defense agencies to provide insights into probable areas of future funding available for businesses and researchers. Speaking on behalf of their agencies were Joe Sciabica, executive director of the AFRL at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; David L. Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, and Edward J. Baranoski, director of the new Office of Smart Collection for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). McManamon, owner of Exciting Technology and former SPIE president, notes that connections made at the session benefit the funding agencies as well. "They get industry working on the right problems that the agency needs solved," he says.

» The Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development will provide financial support for advanced training and trans-national mobility for 12 to 24 months to individuals with projects that will enhance and maximize their contribution to the knowledge-based economy and society. The fellowships are designed for promising researchers in varying stages of their careers. Application deadline is 11 August.

» The Electronics Sensors Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (ESP KTN) in the UK has an allocation of nine Industrial CASE studentships for 2011 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. These industry-sponsored PhD grants support students for more than three years, including at least three months at a company. Deadline for applications is 17 June.

» Among the 2011 summer schools SPIE is supporting is the New Frontiers in Optical Technologies in Tampere, Finland (8-12 August).

» SPIE Education and Outreach grants provide funds to buy supplies for science programs and fairs, train teachers, and 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 grant is 17 June. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.

General Information on U.S. Government Grants

logo for U.S. grant WebsiteGrants.gov is the best starting point to find and apply for U.S. federal grants. The U.S. government will spend an estimated $143.4 billion for R&D in 2011. Although less than $10 billion is 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 in 2010 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

Washington Technology magazine listed the top 20 government contracts for 2011. They include a request for proposals (RFP) by the U.S. Army for a variety of communications services, including satellite, microwave, fiber optics, and wireless, and one from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command for platform and sensor technologies, communications networks and other support technologies.

General Information on European Framework Programme Seven (FP7)

Research Framework Programme 7 (FP7 Europe logoFP7), 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 European Commission is expected to invest a record €6.4 billion on research and innovation in 2011. Some 16,000 European organizations will likely receive funding over the course of the year, including 3000 small- and medium-sized enterprises.

An interim report on the effectiveness of FP7 says the programme is clearly making a significant contribution to European science. Among the report's 10 recommendations for the last three years of the program are to maintain, at a minimum, the level of funding for future programs and to take further steps to increase participation by female scientists and scientists from member states that are under-represented. A separate recommendation to simplify the funding and reporting processes was echoed by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International

The EU work programme for ICT research in 2011 and 2012 is published by the EU's Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS). It covers calls for energy-efficient buildings, OLAE research and numerous related activities. The ICT call for proposals No. 7 will result in project funding of nearly €780 million for 2011, much of it photonics-related.

Funding for ICT research is in accord with the Digital Agenda for Europe, which calls for doubling annual public spending on ICT R&D by 2020 and leveraging an equivalent increase in private spending to achieve the goals of Europe's 2020 strategy for jobs and growth. These funds provide major opportunities for innovative SMEs. ICT research projects in the EU support more than 15,000 researchers every year and stimulate Europe's capacity to innovate.

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.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201104.41

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