European Calls

There are regular Photonics Calls for Proposals published by the European Commission. The Photonics21 community is the dedicated body to define the European call topics for photonics.

Current European Photonics Calls:

Cluster 4: Digital, Industry and Space 

Photonics Innovation Factory for Europe (IA)

Opening date: 15 November 2023
Deadline date: 19 March 2024

Expected Outcome:

Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • Substantially improved penetration of core photonics technologies into multiple end-user application domains and industry sectors, in particular through carefully selected SMEs and new start-ups with the strongest potential for high impact in terms of business growth and employment, enabling a demonstrably more competitive and technologically sovereign European industry.
  • Creation of a sustainable streamlined ecosystem for photonics innovation in Europe from TRL 2-7, providing European Cross-Border Added Value with a high leveraging effect on investments made at national and regional level in photonics.


The aim is to provide a virtual factory with a flexible and open structure, allowing for a multiplicity of competitive actors and services operating as a sustainable fully integrated European ecosystem of cross-border deep innovation support in core photonics technologies for the benefit of European industry. The factory should lower the entry threshold to photonics and facilitate the broad uptake and integration of these technologies in new products and processes with high potential impact in the market and on society.

It should help speed up the deployment of proven photonics technologies within European industry in order to increase its global competitiveness, with an emphasis on technological sovereignty and resilience while also fostering strong new enterprise business growth. Care will be taken that it will not compete with existing commercial offers.

Proposals should address the following:

A streamlined virtual access, supported through a network of competence centers acting as a single consortium, to a supply chain which offers a broad range of photonics technologies that cover the entire photonics innovation spectrum from concept to commercialization (TRL2-7).

The action should create pathways from initial concept through to production, employing scalable manufacturing methods connected to pilot lines and pre-series production facilities appropriate to the market, and thereby closing the gaps in photonics value chains and unlocking investments in European manufacturing based on more complete and mature solutions.

The action needs to target primarily first users and early adopters enabling the wider uptake and deployment of core photonic technologies in innovative products and processes with strong commercial potential.

Support cases should be innovative and industrially relevant, requiring intensive cross-border collaborative expert intervention to overcome specific innovation challenges based on synergetic photonics core technologies, and should include business-related coaching activities directly linked to the innovation activities to support industrialization steps to full commercial launch as a complete value chain appropriate to the market needs.

Users and early adopters may start individual support cases at different levels of technology readiness depending on their needs: TRL 2 may be useful for researchers using photonic technologies whereas industrial users may start higher, e.g. at TRL 4 or 5. Support cases should increase the start TRL by at least two levels. All actions taken together should cover TRL work between 2 and 7.

The action should build on relevant previous European initiatives and existing infrastructure at European and regional levels, use an appropriate quality management and impact measurement framework for the direct innovation support interventions, demonstrate a record of accomplishment in supporting industry, in particular SMEs and start-ups, with deep cross-border innovation support.

The action should provide strong linkages with established European Photonics industry and investment networks such as the Enterprise Europe Network, as well as (pan-) European Digital Innovation Hubs and cluster organizations in both the photonics and photonics-enabled application domains.

The action should address innovation-readiness support in the form of Demonstration Centers and Experience Centers to help prepare business cases plus additional supports such as technology, business, investment, and intellectual property coaching aimed at maximizing the potential future commercial impacts from the innovation support activities. The action should also be capable of demonstrating a strong business plan towards durable funding and sustainability of its activities.

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership Photonics.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2-5 and achieve TRL 4-7 by the end of the project.

Find more information in the call website.


Smart photonics for joint communication & sensing and access everywhere (RIA)

Opening date: 15 November 2023
Deadline date: 19 March 2024

Expected Outcome:

Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • Sensors/probes to monitor the quality of the communication network and of photonic signals transported in the communication network
  • Methods to use the network as large-scale distributed sensor
  • Development of foundational optical technologies, systems and networks that provide the future access infrastructure


Proposals should address at least one of the following activity areas:

  • Light-based solutions to let the communication network sense, while transporting data, for example
    • To enhance the security and resilience of the network
    • To make network resources more energy efficient
    • To warn and protect against natural disasters, earthquakes etc.
    • To monitor the infrastructure where the fibre is deployed (traffic, stress in bridges...)
  • Light-based solutions to bring internet everywhere, with the most relevant access technologies
    • Fiber to the home, fiber to the antenna or fiber to the sky (satellite), for example with coherent passive optical networks, free space optics, Lifi or optical beamforming and steering
    • while enabling the integration of all access technologies in one system

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership Photonics.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 5 by the end of the project.

Find more information on the call website.


Space technologies for European non-dependence and competitiveness

Opening date: 21 November 2023
Deadline date: 20 February 2024

Expected Outcome:

Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • To reduce the dependence on critical technologies and capabilities from outside EU for the EU space programme components (i.e. Galileo/EGNOS, Copernicus, Govsatcom and SSA) and other space applications;
  • To develop or regain in the mid-term the European capacity to operate independently in space;
  • To enhance the technical capabilities and overall competitiveness of European space industry vendors on the worldwide market;
  • To open new competition opportunities for European manufacturers by reducing dependency on export restricted technologies that are of strategic importance to future European space efforts;
  • To improve the overall European space technology landscape and complement and/or create synergy with activities of European and national programmes either in the space or non-space fields.


Research and innovation to mature critical space technologies that currently have dependency issues for use in the EU space programme components and discussed within the frame of the European Commission-ESA-EDA Joint Task Force (JTF).

The technology areas are:

  • Low shock Non-Explosive Actuators (NEA) for smallsats [Target TRL 7]
  • High data rate (12.5 to 28 Gbps or higher 56 Gbps), low consumption, short range links [Target TRL 7]
  • Power laser sources in the eye-safe region [Target TRL 6]
  • Enhanced performance and space qualified detectors – visible range [Target TRL 7-8]
  • Ultra Deep Submicron technology for next generation space integrated circuits: ASICS, FPGA and microprocessors [Target TRL 5]
  • Discrete power devices (200V normally-off GaN) [Target TRL 7]
  • Photonics components [Target TRL 7]

Context information and high-level requirements, including description of scope, initial and target TRLs, and, where applicable, references and information of related activities, are provided in the technical guidance document published on the Funding & Tenders Portal outlining all relevant information to the selected actions.

A proposal should address only one technology area, which must be clearly identified.

Technological spin in and/or bilateral collaborations should be enhanced between European non-space and space industries, including technology research institutes and academia.

To achieve the non-dependence objective, applicants should

  • Describe in the proposal the technologies and/or technology processes to be used and demonstrate that they are free of any legal export restrictions or limitations, such as those established in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Administration regulation (EAR) such as EAR99 or equivalent instruments applicable in other non-EU jurisdictions;
  • Set up and describe in the proposal a suitable technology development process aiming at avoiding export restrictions of non-EU states and assess vulnerabilities of the supply chain.
  • In the proposal, define specific tasks as part of the work plan, with the objective of:
    1. analyse and describe in detail the supply chain, each entity and its role in the supply chain, and if relevant identify critical dependencies from outside EU;
    2. Develop the technical roadmap and a business plan for commercialization, space mission insertion, including time to market indication, of the developed product.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

Unless otherwise agreed with the granting authority, beneficiaries must ensure that none of the entities that participate as affiliated entities, associated partners or subcontractors are established in countries which are not eligible countries or target countries set out in the call conditions.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5-8 by the end of the project. However, the target TRL may be different from technology line to technology line – The reference TRL definition is the ISO 16290:2013 applicable to the space sector.

Find more information on the call website.


Find all open Horizon Europe calls on the CORDIS website.

Open Calls by the European Innovation Council:

EIC Accelerator: It focuses on scientific discoveries or technological breakthroughs, which need significant funding over a longer timeframe before returns can be generated. Such innovations often struggle to attract financing because the risks and time involved are generally too high. This funding enables the innovators to attract the full investment amounts that are needed to scale up in a shorter timeframe.

EIC Pathfinder: Interdisciplinary teams of researchers can apply for research and innovation grants that will support them to realise their breakthrough ideas and have a transformative positive effect on our economy and society.