Working the Web: Going 'deep black' for government dollars

June 29, 2007
A host of Web sites provide useful information about available grant money for "deep black" research in the U.S. and abroad.

Each quarter, associate editor Gail Overton presents her view of what the World Wide Web offers optics and photonics engineers, researchers, and technical professionals. Topics help readers identify Internet sites that provide links to databases, online shopping sites, technology licensing opportunities, scientific blogs and chat rooms, and other online resources of interest. To share your best Web site finds with our readers, please contact Gail Overton at [email protected].

The phrase "deep black" has long encompassed the stealth mode associated with the technology behind national security and space espionage. In this time of war, millions of grant and contract dollars are available worldwide to companies and individual scientists who can invent and develop technology that directly impacts homeland-security and defense applications.

While most scientists already know that information on U.S. federal R&D grant dollars is available by exploring Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( Web site, as well as by obtaining grants or contracts by visiting the Department of Homeland Security ( site, there are a host of lesser-known organizations (in the U.S. and abroad) that you can discover online that provide pathways to obtaining federal dollars for "deep black" research.
The Director's Innovation Initiative within the National Reconnaissance Office (Chantilly, VA) provides R&D seed funding to improve the national security of the U.S. and—highlighted on its Web site—to "Revolutionize Global Reconnaissance." The site lists program guidelines and current solicitations. Typical projects are nine months in duration, have a maximum $400,000 in funding, and can be either classified or unclassified. A partial list of the 2007 unclassified projects includes Advanced GaN Technology, Agile Optical Filters, Antenna-Coupled Nanojunction Infrared Detectors, Photonic Tiles for Array Antennas, and Space-Based Intensity Correlation Imaging. Solicitations are open to U.S. domestic small and large businesses, as well as academic and nonprofit institutions.
The European Defence Agency was established in 2004 by the European Union (EU) to support the EU Member States with their defense-related needs for crisis management, including the promotion of defense research and technology (R&T). The Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection (JIP-FP) is described by following the R&T JIP link at the Web site. Currently, this research program has a funding commitment totaling more than $73 million for projects including unmanned-aerial-vehicle technologies, mobile runway lighting systems, and large-screen displays. and
The motto on the Web site for The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is "Enhancing national security through science and technology." This site describes the 400 programs organized within 11 business areas that are conducted for a wide variety of military and civilian sponsors and serve as technology resources to the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

The APL Office of Technology Transfer at has a "For Industry" link that directs you to a "Technology" link that allows you to search a database of available inventions that can be transferred to the private sector to develop new and improved products, while the "For Inventors" link gives detailed instructions on how to submit inventions that can be used for APL national-security applications. The Technology Research, Education, and Commercialization Center (TRECC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign is a similar program funded by the Office of Naval Research (, which has its own R&D partnership program.

Not so deep
If "deep black" opportunities play against you or your company's ethical position, many international government-based but non-defense-related photonics funding opportunities are available. Besides the well-known European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7; and its international collaboration programs including, for example, the "Scanning the Potentialities for Future ICT Research Collaboration between China and the European Union" or "SPICE"program (, check out these other worldwide opportunities:
The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) was established by the Japanese government in 1980 to develop new oil-alternative energy technologies. It has since been expanded to include industrial technology and environmental R&D. Reorganized as an incorporated administrative agency in October 2003, NEDO undertakes R&D projects, which individual private enterprises are not capable of implementing alone, by creating broad networks between industries, universities, and public research organizations, along with the application of public funding.
One look at the Web site for the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People's Republic of China and it becomes obvious that China is seeking R&D cooperation with overseas companies and individuals to tackle the issues of the 21st century. The pressroom news is filled with releases describing MOST science and technology cooperation activities with Canada and other foreign countries. The Web site describes the guidelines for 12 "megaprojects" granted a total investment of $2.4 billion. The "International Cooperation" link at this Web site describes how foreign countries can play a role in expanding the science and technology capabilities within China.
The government of Australia has a comprehensive listing of all its science and technology grant programs by following the "Research Funding" link from its main Web site at As with many government-based grant programs in the U.S., Australian grant programs are typically open to domestic companies only. Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation ( is responsible for applying science and technology to protect and defend Australia and does have domestic cooperative grant programs available.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solid-State Lighting program just released Round 4 of its Core Technology Research funding opportunity. Different funding mechanisms support the developing of light-emitting diode (LED) and organic LED (OLED) technologies, including basic research grants funded by the DOE, materials and development grants funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), federal SBIR grants, and DOE Inventions & Innovations (I&I) grants.
This Web site describes the government-sponsored postdoctoral and senior research awards in the Research Associateship Programs (RAP) with The National Academies. Web links allow you to "Search Opportunities" based on keyword, government organization sponsoring the work, citizenship status, and location. I counted nearly 3000 technology projects in subjects ranging from improving airborne lasers to nanoprobes for microscopy, spectroscopy, and manipulation of single cells.
If you want a rapid way to explore all U.S. government R&D grants by technology topic, try I typed in "solid-state lighting" and found 53 grant opportunities from the DOE, NETL, National Science Foundation, and DARPA, as well as most branches of the military.

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