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SPARKLE – Training Europe’s future photonics research leaders – is an innovative intersectoral, career development fellowship training programme. It is co-funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme (EU) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).










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Open Call

There is an Open Call for applications that runs continuously from December 2019 to the end of September 2021. In this period there are regular application cut-off dates  January 29th 2021, May 2021 and September 2021. At these cut-off dates, received applications will be reviewed. Those wishing to apply should complete the Sparkle-Pre-Application Form and send to

A Programme Candidate Information Pack is available for download below. This includes all the details of the programme such as the conditions of the fellowship, eligibility criteria, overview of the evaluation procedures, the recruitment process and the career development prospects that the programme will provide. Other documents can also be found below, including the Register Interest Pre-Application Form, Proposal Application Form and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Potential candidates are recommended to download and read all material before applying. The application process is detailed in the Figure below. The Programme Manager, Melissa Walsh is available to address any questions and is contactable at

Next Application Cut-Off Date is 29th January 2021.

Download Files:

Sparkle-Pre-Application Form

Sparkle Proposal Application Form

Sparkle Candidate Information Pack 

Questions & Answers

Sparkle Redress Form


Sparkle will train 27 fellows with combined skills in scientific excellence, product develop and manufacturing, in order to equip them to compete at the highest international levels and will ensure that Ireland and Europe remains of the forefront in photonics technology development and exploitation. This includes rapidly emerging disruptive technologies and market opportunities, for example AR/VR that needs higher resolution and energy efficient displays, autonomous vehicles that require photonics sensors to ‘see’, guided surgical instruments that utilise light to identify cancerous versus non-cancerous tissue, all part of an industry that is growing twice as fast as the global GDP and expected to reach $780.4 billion by 2023‎.

Each fellow will have a comprehensive training plan, tailored to the career path they wish to pursue. For individuals interested in an academic career, their training will include the identification and submission to funding opportunities to enable them initiate their own research programme upon completion of the fellowship. For fellows focused on a career in industry, their training will focus on translational skills, such as fabrication and commercialisation, and they will be introduced to IPIC’s wide network of industry partners to explore those that best match their ambitions.

Sparkle aims to:

• Strengthen and raise the excellence and impact of Europe’s photonics research and manufacturing activities.

• Address the expanding skills shortage in the field of photonics across Europe, specifically at experienced researcher level.

• Drive the advancement of the Athena Swan Charter, good practice in recruitment, promote equality, diversity and inclusion in STEM, and increase female participation levels.

• Provide an opportunity for industry to shape the training programme and support Ireland and Europe’s growing photonics SMEs by providing them with highly skilled trainees.


Sparkle has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 847652 and from Science Foundation Ireland.


Sparkle is hosted by the Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC), and is open to experienced researchers of any nationality, resident anywhere in the world, seeking a prestigious career development path in the field of photonics research and innovation. Fellows will be based at one of IPIC’s academic partners, be aligned to one of the IPIC Research Areas and will have academic freedom to create a research proposal in collaboration with an IPIC Supervisor.

Sparkle will provide fellows with:

• An advanced training programme in a cutting-edge research environment.

• An expanded set of translational skills, including prototype development and fabrication, commercialisation, communication and dissemination, leadership, grantsmanship, project and time management.

• Enhanced innovative and entrepreneurial awareness skills through training on subjects such as market awareness, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and industry engagement.

• A career-oriented 6 month industry placement with either a global technology leader or rapidly growing SME.

• Participation in IPIC’s comprehensive and diverse Education and Public Engagement (EPE) programme, to develop and apply dissemination skills with different audiences from students to the general public.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) is a core principle for IPIC and Sparkle and is integrated into all elements of the programme, including a transparent, fair, objective and gender-balanced evaluation and selection process.


The Sparkle Project Coordinator is Dr Patrick Morrissey and the Programme Manager is Ms. Melissa Walsh. There are 17 academic supervisors who are the IPIC Principal Investigators(PI), listed here: PI supervisor profiles.

The team is supported by IPIC’s host academic institutions where Fellows will be located, namely Tyndall National Institute, Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, National University of Ireland Galway and University College Cork.

In addition Sparkle has a comprehensive management structure that includes a Supervisory Board responsible for monitoring of the progress of the research and training programmes and the fellows, and a Steering Committee that oversees the execution of the programme, its progress against the objectives and KPIs.



In addition to the development of research skills, Sparkle has a structured training programme that for all Fellows to participate in, each will have their own Personalised Career Development Plan tailored to their career ambitions. This will be prepared in partnership with the Programme Manager and Academic supervisor before Fellows start.

The key elements of the training programme include:

  • An advanced training course – Fellows to complete one of the following courses, Compound Semiconductor Device Fabrication, Photonics Packaging, Biophotonics Summer School or the IPIC BootCamp (a commercialisation training programme).
  • SPARKLE Autumn School – A 3 day event focused on preparing Fellows for their future career in either industry or academia and on the development of their communications and public engagement skills.
  • IPIC Industry Workshop – An annual event that brings together 150 IPIC researchers (Principal Investigators, Postdoc and PhDs) and industry partner representatives to learn about recent developments and to network with the community (including the opportunity to explore future employment opportunities with the industry partners). Fellows will be invited to present their work in poster format.
  • IPIC Seminar Series – Eminent academic and industry scientists are invited from across the world to present their work.
  • Education & Public Engagement Training – Fellows will participate in IPIC’s comprehensive EPE training programme, from public speaking to demo and materials development.


Current Fellows

The first 5 fellowships of the programme have just been awarded, more details to follow shortly.


If you require further details please contact the Sparkle Programme Manager, Melissa Walsh who is running a support helpdesk for all applicants throughout the programme, via email at The helpdesk will support information such as:

• The application process

• Finding a suitable supervisor

• Eligibility criteria

• Submission procedure

• Suitability of a proposed Research Project

• Programme terms and conditions

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