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The challenge of finding funding

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2010
Tom Laurin

Venture capitalists invested fewer dollars in 2009 than in any other year since 1997, according to a recent report, and this was the second consecutive year of annual deal and dollar declines. Almost every industry was affected by the double-digit declines in investments – not even clean technology, software and the life sciences were immune.

This news would be depressing if not for one thing: The fourth quarter of 2009 showed promise for 2010, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), based on data from Thomson Reuters. The number of deals went up 15 percent over the third quarter, which could signal that investors are feeling more optimistic. Another possible sign of optimism among investors is the fourth-quarter bump in first-time and early-stage deals that went through; this could mean that investment levels will rise again in 2010.

The NVCA attributes the slower investment pace in 2009 to a weak exit environment created by the combination of a challenged limited partner base and an unstable public market, but it expects to see more funding flow back into clean tech, information technology and the life sciences in the coming year.

So things are beginning to look better for startups. But what is the prognosis for researchers who are not ready to start up their own companies?

More than a year after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) offered new opportunities, from Challenge Grants designed to jump-start areas of biomedical and behavioral research to funding for previously submitted grants that did not initially receive funds, editor Gary Boas takes a look at the impact the stimulus program has already had on research in the biomedical field. The feature article, on page 46 of this issue, addresses not only how the ARRA has affected these life sciences research programs but also what challenges it has faced since its introduction.

Is there a startup or researcher out there who couldn’t use more money? Not likely. And here’s hoping that 2010 will be the year the funding really starts flowing again.

The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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