Optics Funding Opportunities

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

30 June 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.

(Updated 23 September 2014)

image for Horizon 2020• The European Commission has published information on funding for research on data centers, laser-based manufacturing, and photonic integrated circuits under the Horizon 2020 program, Europe's research and innovation program through 2020. Part of the Horizon 2020 "industrial leadership" pillar, the call for photonics projects falls under the more general theme of information and communication technologies (ICT). ICT 2015 has a total budget of €561 million and the window for proposals is scheduled to open on 15 October. The deadline for submitting those proposals will be 14 April 2015. Within the total Horizon 2020 budget of €70 billion 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 on the ICT 2015 call. 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 2013. More

• The European Space Agency (ESA) 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

• The National Science Foundation (USA) encourages innovative research proposals on optics and photonics that are relevant to one or more divisions in the Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), or Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). Topics of particular interest for fiscal year 2015 are the light-matter interaction at the nanoscale that encompass materials, devices, and systems, such as low-loss metamaterials, plasmonics, and quantum phenomena that could impact computation, communication, and sub-wavelength resolution detection/imaging. Other topics include novel terabit-per-second and above communication systems, especially those integrating devices and systems that advance the state of the art in networking, high-performance computing, and computer architecture. More

• Staff at the US 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.

Competitions and prizes in optics and photonics

• The deadline for submitting your innovative photonics device or technology for a Prism Award for Photonics Innovation is 10 October. To be eligible, products must be sold, delivered or launched between 1 January 2014 and 1 February 2015. Companies may enter only one product per category. However, companies may apply with multiple products. Finalists will be announced in November. Winners will be announced 11 February 2015 during SPIE Photonics West. More

logo for International Year of LIght• SPIE will award $60,000 in SPIE Student Chapter activity grants for the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL2015). Applications for the first round of grants is 30 September, and winners will be announced in November. The deadline for applying for the second round of grants is 1 December, and winners of those grants will be announced in February 2015. Only SPIE Student Chapters are eligible to apply for these grants, and the funds must be used specifically for projects aimed at increasing awareness of the International Year of Light 2015. SPIE Student Chapters, however, are encouraged to collaborate with other groups in their region on the IYL outreach projects. More  

illustration for IYL Photo Contest• Four winners of the SPIE International Year of Light 2015 Photo Contest will share US$4,500 in prizes and be featured on the 2015 covers of SPIE Professional magazine, the SPIE quarterly magazine for members. Deadline to submit photos illustrating how vital light and light-based technologies are in our daily lives is 30 September. More

• SPIE Education and Outreach grants provide funds each year 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 each year. The next deadline to apply for an SPIE Education and Outreach grant is 31 January 2015. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.

Information on US Government Grants

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

Several research endeavors that received funding from the US 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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