Every year, hundreds of researchers compete for funding from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which is organized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Only the crème de la crème -- the projects that really catch the imagination of a jury of some of the country's top scientists -- actually get grants.
This year, NIST gave away $274 million to a total of 54 projects. That's an average of $5 million per project. Like all competitions there are rules. Awards have a cap of $2 million where a project is put forward by a single participant, while consortia can claim a maximum of half their projected costs. Funding is strictly on a one-off basis. Universities need not apply, though they may collaborate.
Though the money is not available exclusively to startups, about half of all the project awards go to fledgling firms, according to NIST. "Without the ATP's support we would have lost two to five years competitive market position," writes NP Photonics, one of this year's winners, in its project brief.
Established companies compete so that they can take on riskier, long-term research programs that they could not otherwise justify. Larger companies are a slave to market economics, which force them to make narrow, short-term investments in R&D, in order to quickly maximize returns.
Delve into the list of ATP award recipients and there is a veritable Aladdin's cave of early-stage research to be found. Here are some of the optical highlights...
NP Photonics Inc.
Integrated Fiber Amplifiers and Glass-on-Silicon Optical Components
Optical Research Associates
Software Tools for Optical Component Design
Digital Optics Corp.
Low-Cost WDM Optical Amplifier and Switch Technology
Lightwave Microsystems Corp.
Optical Polymers for Low-Cost WDM Devices
Advanced Photonic Manufacturing
Telcordia Technologies Inc.
An Integrated Simulation Environment for Photonics
-- Pauline Rigby, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com