Optics Funding Opportunities

Learn about new optics and photonics funding opportunities. Web-only bonus content.

29 March 2013

SPIE is committed to the success of its members who are making the world a better place with innovative optics and photonics technologies.

As a service to the community, SPIE Professional keeps an updated list of funding opportunities for optics and photonics businesses, researchers, and students. The sampling below of grants programs and photonics competitions listed below is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

(Updated 17 December 2013)

image for Horizon 2020• The first calls under Horizon 2020, Europe's new research and innovation program, are worth €15 billiion over the next two years. The calls for the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-15 were published 11 December 2013 and set out the funding opportunities available in the areas of healthcare, sustainable food security, LED lighting, biophotonics, and other "Key Enabling Technologies." Within Horizon 2020's €70 billion budget through 2020, photonics plays a large part in the €17 billion set aside for the "Leadership in Enabling Industrial Technologies" (LEIT) area and in the approximately €3.5 billion for a Photonics Public-Private Partnership (see below).  More

• Photonics21 and the Photonics Unit of the European Commission will hold an information and networking day in Brussels 16 January on the photonics-related calls under Horizon 2020. More

Photonics21• The European Commission (EC) and the Photonics21 Association have signed a public-private partnership (PPP) that will see €3.5 billion funnelled into the near-market development of photonics technology as part of the Horizon 2020 innovation program. Commissioner Neelie Kroes co-signed the agreement with Photonics21 vice presidents Bernd Schulte and Giorgio Anania in December. The deal between Europe's photonics industry representatives and the Brussels bureaucracy represents only half the hoped-for investment by the EC in the PPP budget. Photonics21 stakeholders, who agreed in September 2011 to leverage any central funding for the PPP by a factor of four, had sought a contribution of €1.4 billion from the EC. That would have amounted to a €7 billion budget for the PPP, but with only €700 million now forthcoming from Brussels, the overall plan will be worth €3.5 billion. More

• Several programs of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) support international research NSF logo 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. Awards will be made in the August-September 2015 time period.  More 

• The European Space Agency seeks entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for using space technology, applications, and services in a non-space environment. Funds can 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. Several open calls are ongoing. More

• The Germany Ministry for Economy and Technology, as part of its corporate support programme, enables the participation of new, innovative startups in international trade fairs in Germany at favourable conditions. Eligible companies are German SMEs, have less than €10 million in annual revenues, have been founded within the last 10 years, and have invented and are producing a product in Germany. More (in German)

• 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.

Competitions and prizes in optics and photonics

• The SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West 2014 will present new entrepreneurs pitching their light-based technology product to a team of business development experts and venture capitalists. The best presenters receive cash prizes and are selected to attend a week-long entrepreneur boot camp to refine their ideas. The live finals will be held 5 February, 2014 in the Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA. More.

• Applications for the 2015 US Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon will be accepted through 20 December. The Solar Decathlon is a showcase for solar technology and innovative energy-efficient design that prepares the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in clean energy technology. More

• Photonics21 will present the 2014 Student Innovation Award at the organization's annual meeting in Brussels, 27 March. Any person under 35 and active in the field of optics and photonics may apply for the award, which consists of a certificate, a trophy, and a cash prize of € 5,000. The application deadline for participating is 27 January, 2014. More

• SPIE Corporate Member Open Photonics is partnering with the XPRIZE to identify and match innovators from the global photonics community with teams competing in the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. The aim of the competition is to stimulate the development of a simple, precise, and reliable handheld wireless device capable of diagnosing 15 diseases. The device will measure key health indicators such as blood pressure, respiration rate, and body temperature. Submissions for the Tricorder XPRIZE will be due in April 2014, with the award made in 2015.  More

• SPIE will award $2,000 travel scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students attending an SPIE symposium during the 2013-14 academic year. Next deadline is 15 February. More

• The deadline for proposals for the Innovation Award Laser Technology is 17 January 2014.  The Innovation Award Laser Technology is a European research prize awarded every other year to an individual researcher or on an entire project group whose exceptional skills and dedicated work have led to an outstanding innovation in the field of laser technology. The scientific and technological projects in question must center on the use of laser light in materials processing and the methods of producing such light and be of demonstrable commercial value to industry. Arbeitskreis Lasertechnik and the European Laser Institute will award €10,000 as the research prize. 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 2014. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.

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 Programs

Horizon 2020 imageResearch Framework Programme 7 (FP7) runs through December 2013 at which time Europe's Horizon 2020, with some €70 billion in research funding for 2014-2020 takes over.

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, an initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness and creating new growth and jobs in Europe.

Horizon 2020 provides major simplification through a single set of rules. It will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Opportunities for photonics organizations under Horizon 2020 were explained in an April 2012 SPIE Professional article and will be the subject of an information meeting in Brussels 16 January, 2014.

Financial support for photonics research and innovation is expected to total at least €100 million per year through 2020. Core funding is found in the program's Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) themes, in which there are five R&D topics with a dedicated budget for photonics, co-developed with Photonics21. The topics are spread over three calls. The LEIT ("industrial leadership") Factory of the Future Call will close on 20 March, 2014, the LEIT ICT Call on 23 April, 2014, and the 2015 LEIT ICT Call on 21 April, 2015 (TBC).

Organizations in Europe that have information about business and research opportunities in optics and photonics:

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