SPIE wants to see its members succeed with innovative optics and photonics technologies that are making the world a better place. 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, 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 21 October 2011)
• An information and networking event for funding proposals in the area of organic large area electronics (OLAE) will be held 27 October in Brussels. This is a transnational call for collaborative R&D proposals under the European Commission's ERA-NET Pllus scheme, with an estimated budget of €18 million. Open to participants from Austria, Catalonia, Flanders, Germany, Israel, Poland, Sweden, and the UK, the call is organized as a competition for funding and will be implemented jointly by the national funding bodies. The competition opens 24 October, and the first proposal deadline is 31 January 2012. More
• Ron Driggers, editor of Optical Engineering and a superintendent of the optical sciences division of the U.S. Naval Research Lab, is urging optics and photonics professionals to urge their government representatives to continue funding for science research. "If there is no basic research now, then there will not be new technologies and industries springing from applied research in the future," he writes in an editorial in a recent volume of Optical Engineering, the flagship journal of SPIE. The editorial discussing the importance of science and technology funding in the economy and the dangers of budget cutting is open-access in the SPIE Digital Library. More
• The SPIE Photonics West Startup Challenge, to be sponsored in 2012 by Jenoptik, will expand in January to include optoelectronics as well as biophotonics. SPIE hosted its first Biophotonics Startup Challenge at last year's Photonics West. In a "Dragon's Den" format, researchers were given two minutes to pitch their biophotonics product or small business startup idea to a group of experts and entrepreneurs. The technologies presented included optical drug delivery systems, wearable muscle oxygenation sensors, and a liquid-crystal pupil designed for prosthetic eyes. The top three winners, aspiring biophotonics entrepreneurs working on potentially life-saving techniques for detecting cancer and malaria, were sponsored by Newport Spectra-Physics to attend the University of California, Davis, Biomedical Engineering.Based on last year's success, SPIE is adding an Optoelectronics Challenge to the schedule. The top eight winners will attend the Entrepreneurship Academy at UC-Davis. More
• The U.S. Department of Defense 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 U.S. Department of Energy announced the availability of up to $12 million in funding for energy-saving lighting technologies. DOE is seeking applications for solid-state lighting projects (LEDs and OLEDs) in core technologies and product development categories. Applications are due by 3 November. More
• The U.S. National Science Foundation will spend $1.25 million this year connecting 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
• 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 31 January 2012. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.
• The European Union announced its biggest ever science and technology research funding package. About €7 billion is available for this round of grants, part of the €53 billion available through the current 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 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
• Staff at the U.S National Academies reviews applications for its Research Associateship Program four times a year. Deadlines for applying online are 1 November, 1 February, 1 May, and 1 August. 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.
• The Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program is accepting proposals from developing country researchers interested in collaborating with their U.S. counterparts. PEER is a new partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) that is designed to address development challenges through international research collaboration. This competitive grants program will allow scientists in developing countries to apply for funds to support research and capacity-building activities in partnership with their NSF-funded collaborators on topics of importance to USAID. Areas in which both NSF and USAID have strong mutual interests include food security, global health, renewable energy and climate change. Application deadline is 30 November.
• Grants of up to $50,000 a year are available to help support women scholars and scientists in the early stages of their careers. The Elsevier Foundation provides grants to science, technology, engineering, and math institutions and organizations that are working towards a more equitable academia by encouraging networking and collaborations among institutions and/or disciplines in ways that support faculty and staff with family responsibilities; developing and implementing strategies to promote knowledge, awareness, and application of programs to retain, recruit, and develop women in science; and/or enabling scientists to attend conferences, meetings, workshops, and symposia that are critical to the development of a career in science by helping them with childcare and other family responsibilities when attending scientific gatherings. More
Recent awards in optics and photonics
» 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
» 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
» The U.S. Department of Energy announced that eight organizations are receiving $15 million to support research on LEDsand 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.
» In September, the DOE also awarded more than $145 million for 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 funding includes awards to 31 entities engaged in translational research. Priority research areas include in cardiovascular disease, deafness and hearing problems, musculoskeletal disease. More
Funding news in optics and photonics
» The National Institutes of Health (USA) is soliciting comments on the proposed new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) whose goal will be to advance the translation of basic biomedical research into safe and effective clinical applications. 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
Prize opportunities in optics and photonics
• The 2012 Photonics21 Student Innovation Award will again reward students in the field of photonics whose work relates to industry R&D. The prize will be awarded for the fourth time next year by the Research, Education, and Training work group of the Photonics21 Technology Platform. The work group has announced a 20 January application deadline for the award. Created to promote research in photonics especially related to R&D with industrial impact, the award includes a cash prize of €5,000 and free registration to the Photonics21 Annual Meeting in Brussels on 27-28 March 2012. Any person under 35 and active in the field of optics and photonics may apply for the Photonics21 Student Innovation Award. Download the complete rules.
• Applications for the 2012 Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis will be accepted through 31 December 2011. The award honors individuals and project groups that have completed publicly accessible, excellent, scientific work or a technical development in the field of applied laser technology. The prize is oriented toward innovations for the application or generating of laser light. More
• Digital Science, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd., has unveiled its Catalyst Prize, an initiative to support innovators who wish to develop new software tools or technologies for scientific research. The programme will provide a series of awards up to £15,000 each to the most promising ideas for novel uses of information technology in science. Catalyst Prize awards are intended mainly to provide initial support for innovators who wish to take ideas from concept to prototype. Along with funding, they also provide an opportunity to work with Digital Science to refine, develop and promote the innovation. "We know from talking with researchers and entrepreneurs from around the world that many innovative ideas for making use of technology in science are still locked up inside people's heads," says Timo Hannay, Managing Director of Digital Science. "The Catalyst Prize is our way of helping to unleash the best of these and turn them into reality." Interested parties are asked to submit a short proposal detailing their breakthrough idea or innovation. Applications will be considered all year round, so there is no deadline. Shortlisted applicants are then invited to present their ideas, preferably in person at a Digital Science office in London, New York, or Tokyo. Priority will be given to applicants who have limited access to other sources of funding and to projects that adopt open and collaborative approaches. Digital Science will not claim intellectual property rights over the results. More
General Information on U.S. Government Grants
Grants.govis 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
General 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. A common EU strategy called "Horizon 2020" 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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