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 5 September 2012)
• The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has grant opportunities for academic partnerships 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
• Proposals for funding through the Communications, Circuits, and Sensing-Systems program at the NSF are due by 7 October. The program supports systems research hardware, signal processing techniques, and architectures to enable the next generation of cyber systems that leverage computation, communication, and algorithms integrated with physical domains. The program's goal is to design, develop, and implement new complex and hybrid systems at all scales that lead to innovative engineering principles and solutions for healthcare, medicine, environmental monitoring, communications, disaster mitigation, homeland security, transportation, manufacturing, energy, and smart buildings. CCSS also supports integration technologies at both intra-and inter-chip levels; new and advanced radio frequency (RF), millimeter wave, and optical wireless and hybrid communications systems architectures; and sensing and imaging at terahertz (THz) frequencies. More
• Several NSF programs support 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 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. In particular, this program 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. Instruments are expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. Full proposal deadline is 24 January, 2013
• The NSF is one of five U.S. agencies who have committed to invest $45 million in a new partnership of manufacturing firms, universities, and non-profits from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, that will launch the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, NSF, and NASA will invest in a pilot institute, and in fiscal year 2013, NIST plans to issue a grant for applied research related to measurement needs in additive manufacturing. On 9 March 2012, President Obama announced plans to invest $1 billion to catalyze a national network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes around the country that would serve as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence to help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States. The pilot institute will serve as a proof-of-concept to create the proposed National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). A workshop on building the NNMI will be held 27 September. 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 January 2013. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.
• Funding of €355 million is available for small- and medium-sized enterprises in Europe under the the Eco-Laserfact initiative. The new EU-supported program is aimed at the rapid development and wider adoption of laser micromachining technology in North-West Europe and will promote eco-efficient laser technology for factories of the future. More
• An ICT Proposers' event in Warsaw 26-27 September will offer networking opportunities and guidance on projects targetting Europe's Information and Communication Technologies Work Programe for 2013. More
• Photonics21 wants to leverage 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
• 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.
Prize opportunities in optics and photonics
• Travel awards and scholarships will be awarded to winners of the 2012-13 U.S. National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition. The competition is hosted by the Montana Space Grant Consortium which is accepting registrations through September. Teams must complete their ground-based solar spectrograph by May 2013. More
• The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), is offering $3,000 awards to as many as 20 contestants in the Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation. Winning ideas will fundamentally change research or vision care by closing critical knowledge gaps, opening developmental bottlenecks, or providing key elements to translate scientific discoveries into clinical applications. Deadline for submissions is 12 November. More
Recent awards in optics and photonics
» SPIE Education Outreach grants for 2012 have been awarded to 25 organizations with photonics- and optics-related outreach projects in Mexico, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, Poland, India, the United States, and elsewhere. SPIE awarded $90,000 in funding for 2012, based on the potential of the project to impact students and increase optics and photonics awareness. The next deadline for SPIE Education Outreach grants is 31 January 2013.
» The NSF has selected 25 U.S. university grantees for the first phase of a program that supports collaboration between academic teams and industry members to 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. The I-Corps program plans to eventually connect 100 university teams with industry partners. 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
» 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 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 Research and Innovation Programme
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 for Europe. 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 plans 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.
Opportunities for photonics organizations under Horizon 2020 are explained in an April 2012 SPIE Professional article.
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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