Optics Funding Opportunities
Learn about new optics and photonics funding opportunities. Web-only bonus content.
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 26 March 2014)
• 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
• Photonics21 and the Photonics Unit of the European Commission held an information and networking day in Brussels 16 January on the photonics-related calls under Horizon 2020. More
• 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
• University faculty and students may register through 2 May for a June NASA workshop on developing science payloads for spaceflight. During the NASA RockOn workshop, participants work in teams to build experimental payloads to fly on a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket, expected to fly to an altitude of 73 miles. Workshop participants must be US citizens or have a valid, government-issued green card. More
• Proposals for the William Harvey International Translational Research Academy, a new mobility fellowship program in Europe for those in the healthcare and life-sciences field, are due 6 April. More
• The deadline is 30 April to apply for a U.S. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Postdoctoral Research Award for solar energy and related research. The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking recent PhD recipients for postdoctoral research projects to spur innovation in solar energy. Applicants must have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status. 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 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)
• Staff at the U.S 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 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 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 May2014. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.
Information on U.S. Government Grants
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:
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health & Human Services
- National Institute of Standards and Technology
- National Science Foundation
- Small Business Innovation Research
- Small Business Technology Transfer
- Office of Naval Research
Information on European Research and Innovation Programs
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. 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).
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:
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK)
- EC Joint Research Centre
- ESF calls and funding
- ESA business opportunities for industry, researchers, and R&D entities
- ESA projects for the International Space Station
- European Research Council (ERC)
- Expertise Wales
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation)
- Framework Programme 7 (FP7) calls in photonics and OLAE
- Horizon 2020 work program (draft, as of November 2013)
- NEXPRESSO(Network for EXchange and PRototype Evaluation of PhotonicS Components)
- Research Councils UK
- Science & Technology Facilities Council
- Swiss National Science Foundation
- The Technology Strategy Board
- UK Photonics
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