Optics Funding Opportunities

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

01 January 2015

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 27 February 2015)

• The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking proposals for its Common Fund program on Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC). NIH will accept letters of intent through 14 March to develop new and/or enhanced existing tools and technologies tailored "to elucidate the neurobiology and neurophysiology underlying autonomic control of internal organs in health or disease, to inform next generation neuromodulation therapies." The two-year awards are expected to establish feasibility for further technology development and lay the groundwork to more systematically facilitate biological mapping activities in future SPARC initiatives. Application deadline will be 14 April. More

• The Goethe-Institut Thailand has issued a call for entries for its Science Film Festival, celebrating its  partnership with the International Year of Light. The Science Film Festival welcomes submissions on all subjects promoting science literacy and for all ages and will screen films that invite audiences to discover the different roles light and its applications play in our everyday lives and what it reveals about the nature of the universe. Submission deadline is 13 March 2015. More

image for Horizon 2020

• The European Commission published information in 2014 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 deadline for submitting 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 also available at the Horizon 2020 participant portal. In addition, see the Horizon 2020 videos on how to apply for funding.

• 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 US Department of Labor is inviting public-private partnerships to apply for grants to develop and implement innovative, high-quality registered apprenticeship programs. Up to $100 million in grants will be financed by a user fee paid by employers to hire foreign workers into the United States under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program. Deadline to apply is 30 AprilMore

• 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

• The deadline is 29 May for US non-profits to apply for grants in a competition to help the US Department of Defense launch a Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute that will focus on flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing innovation. More

• The US National Academy of Engineering is offering a $25,000 prize in a video contest running through 2 March. The NAE has outlined 14 game-changing opportunities for the 21st century and seeks one- to two-minute videos that show how achieving one or more of these Grand Challenges for Engineering will lead to a more sustainable, healthy, secure, and/or joyous world.  More

• The US Department of Defense (DoD), through the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), is seeking proposals for innovative environmental technology demonstrations as candidates for funding beginning in FY2016. ESTCP supports the demonstration of technologies that address priority DoD environmental requirements and promote transfer of innovative environmental technologies through demonstrations that collect the data needed for regulatory and DoD end-user acceptance. Pre-proposals are due 12 March 2015. 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 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. Nearly $90,000 in funding is available each year. The next deadline to apply for an SPIE Education and Outreach grant is 31 May 2015. Apply online at spie.org/outreach.

• The nominations deadline for the International Commission for Optics (ICO) Prize and the ICO Galileo Galilei Award is 15 April 2015. The ICO Prize is to be given to an individual who has made a noteworthy contribution to optics, in a an article submitted for publication before s/he has reached the age of 40. (The prize winner must not have reached the age of 40 before 31 December 2014). The "noteworthy" contribution in optics is measured by its impact (past or possibly future) on the field of optics generally, opening a subfield, or significantly expanding an established subfield in research or technology. The ICO Galileo Galilei Award is for outstanding contributions to the field of optics that are achieved under comparatively unfavorable circumstances. More.

• The nominations deadline for the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Young Scientist Prize in Optics is 15 July 2015. The award is for a scientist who has made noteworthy contributions to applied optics and photonics during a maximum of eight years of research experience after earning a PhD degree. More.

• The ICO has more than US $20,000 for programs that promote optics and photonics among young people during the International Year of Light. ICO anticipates awarding up to 20 awards of US $1,000 each. The best proposal will be awarded US$5,000. Programs can include youth competitions, outreach using optics and photonics kits, exhibits, educational materials, pilot projects, educator days, and science fairs. Judges will give particular emphasis to activities that are sustainable beyond 2015 and that can be replicable elsewhere. Deadline is 30 April. More.

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 program has some €70 billion in research funding for through 2020.

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.

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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