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Advancing photonics technologies and application driven photonics components and the innovation ecosystem


The focus is on the following themes (sub-topics):

a) Research and Innovation Actions (RIA)

i. Flexible Farm-to-Fork Sensing: Development of an innovative smart photonic sensor solution, utilizing an appropriate bandwidth between the ultraviolet (UV) and the far infrared spectral range for monitoring food quality with respect to microbiological and chemical contamination along the farm-to-fork food production chain. The targeted solution should combine photonic sensing technology with advanced data analysis techniques and be portable, easy-to-use, flexible, and broadly adaptable for usage on farms, in food processing, wholesale and retail. Actions should focus on the following areas: (1) food production by small/medium-sized farms; (2) novel types of food production, such as aquaponics; (3) on-site food processing and vending (e.g. on farms or local food markets). The developed solution must be demonstrated in real settings involving relevant stakeholders along the food supply chain, from food producers to end consumers.

ii. Novel Photonics Integrated Circuit (PIC) Technology building blocks: Major advances in photonic integrated circuit technology through the development of building blocks with significantly enhanced or novel functions. These should form part of comprehensive integration platforms for established or new important application fields, enabling the platform to meet the demands of application roadmaps concerning relevant features like sensitivity, energy efficiency, speed and chip density. Developments should be based on a generic platform approach, i.e. support the single-chip integration of complex functions through a design flow based on generic building blocks separated from production. Actions should include a validation of results with fabricated PIC prototypes.

b) Innovation Actions (IA)

iii. Smart Photonic Sensing for Environmental Pollution Detection: Prototyping, demonstration and validation in real settings of an innovative, cost-effective, portable, smart hyperspectral sensing system operating in the visible to mid-infrared spectral range, for pollution detection in environmental sensing applications. The system should be based on a miniaturised optical setup and feature broad sensorial response curves with high measurement precision in the diagnostic wavelength range, in combination with massive Cloud-based data analysis capability using advanced Deep Learning algorithms and Big Data sensor signal repositories for comprehensive chemometric analysis.

c) Coordination and Support Actions

iv. An industrial strategy for photonics in Europe: the objective is to support the development and implementation of a comprehensive industrial strategy for photonics in Europe which strengthens the links to the end user industries. The action should include the development of strategic technology road-maps, strong stakeholder engagement (in particular Photonics21 stakeholders, National Technology Platforms, regional Clusters, end-user industries), coordination of regional, national and European strategies and priorities, and development and dissemination of financing models to facilitate access by companies to different sources of finance.

To ensure domain coverage, at least one proposal will be selected to cover each of these themes. As it is necessary to coordinate strategy efforts singly, no more than one action will be funded for theme iv).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 5 million for themes i and ii; EUR 4 and 7 million for theme iii, and up to EUR 4 million for theme iv would allow these to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.


The advancement of photonics depends on core photonics technology which can be applied in many different application areas. The challenge is to develop and apply core photonics technology for the next generation of devices (including components, modules and sub-systems) in order to drive innovation in key application areas, which are significant current or future markets and where photonics can bring a key competitive advantage.

Innovative photonic sensing solutions can contribute to reducing food production losses and food wastes, estimated in Europe at about 300 kg per capita, and to increasing food safety for the end consumer along the food production chain from farm to fork.

Increased pollution of air, soil and water is raising new concerns regarding the safety of the environment and its potential risks for European citizens’ health. Distributed smart photonic sensor networks involving public participation through community-based monitoring could assist in creating inventories of emitted pollutants, identifying pollution hotspots, and alerting citizens in real time on potential health risks.

Proposals should describe how the proposed work will contribute to the relevant expected impacts and metrics, including a baseline and the targets to measure impact. Respectively:

    1. Increased food yield, quality and safety, and significant reduction of food waste along the farm-to-fork food production chain with cost-effective and easy-to-use analysis and quality-control tools;
    2. Strengthening small/medium-scale farming and local or novel ways of food production and processing by ensuring high food quality standards at lower resource usage and competitive costs.
  1. Reduction of the research and development costs of advanced PICs in a wide range of application areas.
  2. Large-scale adoption of affordable, Cloud-connected, smart photonic sensing systems for pervasive, Community-based environmental pollution monitoring and real-time citizen alert on local pollution levels and related health risks
    1. Reinforced value chains and deployment of photonics technologies by stronger cooperation of photonics stakeholders, clusters and end-users;
    2. Increased competitiveness of the European photonics sector and improved access to risk finance for the photonics sector in Europe.