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SPIE Professional October 2012: Bonus Web Content

Funding Opportunities in Optics and Photonics

image for optics and photonics funding opportunities

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 and photonics competitions is listed below, as is general information about grant programs in the United States and Europe. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

(Updated 11 December 2012)

•  The next application deadline for research funding through the EUREKA Eurostars Programme is 4 April 2013. The Eurostars Programme is dedicated to the R&D performed by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and co-funded by the European communities and 33 EUREKA member countries. Eurostars aims to stimulate these SMEs to lead international collaborative research and innovation projects by easing access to support and funding. It specifically targets the development of new products, processes, and services and access to transnational and international markets. More

• The U.S Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is offering funding for innovative projects that address the challenges of advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for American students as well as for research projects involving electronic, biological, and nanophotonic technologies. The solicitation also includes advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, information technologies, and chemical technologies. Proposals are considered only between 3 November and 3 December. More

• The European Commission has a budget of €705,500,000 for ICT research, including one for alternative paths for components and systems using photonics. Under the Framework Programme 7, the EC is seeking proposals for heterogeneous integration and take-up of key enabling technologies for components and systems. Deadline is 15 January. More

• 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

NSF logo• 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, 2013More

• 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 U.S. Air Force Defense Research and Development Rapid Innovation Fund has grants available that are valued at $50 million for fiscal year 2012 to facilitate the rapid insertion of innovative technologies into military systems or programs meeting critical national security needs. White papers addressing these needs were due by 27 November. If a white paper is judged to be technically acceptable, a full proposal may be submitted by 8 February, 2013. More

• 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

Horizon 2020• 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

• A public consultation on a Horizon 2020 program is now open through 31 January. The Trust and Security Unit at Directorate General Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT) has started with the process of identifying the orientation for trustworthy ICT research, development, and innovation related to cybersecurity, privacy, and trust of information and communication technologies. The unit earlier organized two workshops on "Horizon 2020: The Challenge of Providing Cybersecurity." The objective of the workshops were to discuss the challenges, technological gaps, and necessary research directions related to cybersecurity, as well as the best suited instruments to implement the tasks. It issued a report addressing the industrial perspective and a report addressing the societal perspective of the workshops. The first call for proposals in Horizon 2020 is expected sometime in the summer. More

• A new European Research Council support mechanism is aimed at groups of researcher with 2 to 4 excellent principal investigators and their teams. The ERC Synergy Grants, of up to €15 million, are aimed at promoting multidisciplinary research. Submission deadline is 10 January 2013. 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

• BiophotonicsPlus is a transnational call for research and development project proposals on photonic appliances for life sciences and health, primarily aimed at the stimulation and support of innovative R&D projects which will translate existing biophotonic technologies and methods into appliances and put them into clinical, medical, or industrial practice. The call is organized as a competition for funding and will be implemented jointly by participating national and regional funding bodies from the Catalonia region (Spain), the Flanders region (Belgium),Germany, Israel, Latvia, the Tuscany region (Italy), and the United Kingdom. Pre-proposals are due 17 December, with full proposals due 9 April 2013. 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 February, 1 May, 1 August,  and  1 November. More.

• Registration for the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot competition is underway. The SunShot Prize aims to spur low-cost rooftop solar installations across the United States. The first three teams to demonstrate an average of $1 per watt for non-hardware costs such as permitting, interconnection, and inspection will receive up to $10 million in cash awards. There are two phases to the competition, with winners expected to be selected for each phase in the summer of 2015 and 2016. Registered competitors may begin the submission process on 31 December, 2012More

Competitions and prizes in optics and photonics 


 • SPIE will award $2,000 travel scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students attending an SPIE symposium during the 2013-14 academic year. Applications for these and the education scholarships are available. Deadline for travel and education scholarships is 1 February 2013More

• Photonics21 is calling for applications for the 2013 Student Innovation Award. The Research, Education and Training work group of Photonics21 (Work Group 7) established the prize for students in the field of photonics in order to promote research in photonics especially related to R&D with a significant industrial impact. Any person under 35 and active in the field of optics and photonics may apply for the Photonics21 Student Innovation Award. The award consists of a certificate, a trophy, and a cash prize of €5,000. The award will be presented 29 April at the Photonics21 annual meeting in Brussels. Deadline is 20 February. More

SPIE Startup Challenge

• The 2013 SPIE Startup Challenge, co-sponsored by JENOPTIK, will include cash awards, sponsorship to a week-long entrepreneur boot camp, and a session of pitch-making at SPIE Photonics West in February. The third annual Startup Challenge for photonics technologies will be a competitive event for new entrepreneurs to pitch their light-based technology business plan to a team of corporate development experts and venture capitalists. The people with the best pitches are selected to attend the entrepreneurship academy at University of California at Davis where they can refine their ideas and make further contacts with experts. Written applications to participate were due 1 December. Winners will be announced 6 February 2013More

• 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.


• Registration will be open through 7 January 2013 for the NASA-Worcester Polytechnic Institute Sample Return Robot Challenge. Teams are being sought to compete in next year's robot technology demonstration competition, which offers as much as $1.5 million in prize money. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Teams will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. 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 European Research Council (ERC) in September 2012 selected 536 early-career top researchers across Europe in the latest 'Starting Grant' competition, with a budget of almost €800 million. With grants of up to €2 million per project, the program will enable the most promising scientists to develop their best ideas at the frontiers of knowledge. It will also allow them to build their own research teams, engaging more than 3,000 postdocs and PhD students as ERC team members, thereby supporting a new generation of top scientists in Europe. The projects selected include social impacts of trans-Mediterranean renewable energy cooperation, laser-based hearing aids, and optical remote-sensing technology for civil engineering works. More

» The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded $15.3 million in grants to 51 young scientists under the 2012 DARPA Young Facility Award (YFA) program. YFA recipients use grants of approximately $300,000 toward a wide spectrum of basic research, including photonics, lasers, MEMS, and nanophotonics . More

» 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

logo for U.S. grant Website Grants.gov is the best starting point to find and apply for U.S. federal grants for 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 through 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.

Horizon 2020 imageThe 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.

To receive a subscription to the print edition of SPIE Professional, become an SPIE member.

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

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201210.41

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