Optics Funding Opportunities

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

31 March 2014

As a service to the optics and photonics community, SPIE Professional periodically updates a list of funding opportunities for optics and photonics businesses, researchers, and students.

The sampling of photonics grant programs and competitions listed below is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

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

(Updated 13 June 2014)

image for Horizon 2020• The first calls under Horizon 2020, Europe's new research and innovation program, are worth €15 billion 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 at the Horizon 2020 participant portal. Also see the Horizon 2020 videos on how to apply for funding.

Photonics21• The European Commission (EC) and the Photonics21 Association have signed a public-private partnership (PPP) that will see €3.5 billion funneled into photonics technology research 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

• The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research proposals for its new Direct On-chip Digital Optical Synthesizer program. Abstracts are due 16 May. More

• The US Energy Department's SunShot Initiative announces $15 million in funding to spur solar energy across the US. The Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity aims to help communities develop solar deployment plans that focus on cutting red tape and building strong public-private partnerships to deploy commercial-scale solar. As part of these solar deployment plans, communities will establish innovative financing mechanisms and launch creative community-based initiatives, such as shared solar programs. Shared solar programs give families and businesses the opportunity to own, lease, or purchase electricity from a share of a larger solar project, reducing overall costs and giving more consumers access to renewable power. Deadline for submitting concept paper was 28 May. Deadline for full application is 3 July. More

• Young researchers with doctorates are invited to submit their research proposals to the European Space Agency (ESA) Living Planet Fellowship. The Fellowship follows on from the successful Changing Earth Science Network and is aimed at providing research support to those whose career interests include Earth science, climate research, and Earth observation. More

• The ESA also 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 program, enables the participation of new, innovative startups in international trade fairs in Germany at favorable 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)

• GE Healthcare Life Sciences is offering two white papers on how to apply for grants for your research and research equipment. More

• The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) is seeking proposals for basic research on novel nanomagnetic science; optics and electromagnetics; plasma physics; laser physics; and other photonics research. Funding is also provided for international scientist exchanges. More

• Staff at the US National Academies reviews applications for its Research Associateship Program four times a year. Deadlines for applying online are  1 May, 1 August,  1 November, and 1 February.  More.

Competitions and prizes in optics and photonics

• 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 2015. 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 image Europe's Horizon 2020, with some €70 billion in research funding for 2014-2020, has officially begun.

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 published in December 2013. 

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 combines 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).

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

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