Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 3 | 7. Januar 2021

New Major Instrumentation Initiative: Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy (SQLM)

With this call the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) launches a new Major Instrumentation Initiative that invites proposals for the provision of Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopes (SQLM) at German universities in order to explore the scientific potential of this technology in research.

Two Major Instrumentation Initiatives with a common theme are started in parallel. Both aim at genuine quantum mechanics based methods that now have reached a level of technical maturity, which allows them to be applied to a broad variety of research questions, thus, justifying the label “quantum technology”. While both, the Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy (this call) and Quantum Communication Development Environment (accompanying call) share some technical aspects, it is expected that proposals address exclusively one of the calls.

Spin-based quantum microscopy technology is an emerging, highly promising sensing and probing methodology, which is expected to lead to breakthroughs in various fields. Following extensive fundamental research, SQLM have reached a development state where their practicality and efficacy in research applications needs to be demonstrated.

The present call aims to provide several universities with room-temperature or low-temperature fully integrated SQLM, depending on the individual planned applications, in order to demonstrate the potential of SQLM as enabling technology for novel interdisciplinary research avenues. Commercial instruments or self-assembled setups based on commercially available subsystems can be funded. However, development or assembly of a home-built SQLM from individual components is not in the scope of this call.

The main object of this call is the procurement (by the DFG) of an integrated SQLM (including the necessary accessories and dedicated software) for application in the proposed interdisciplinary research. The requested SQLM should be state-of-art, clearly surpassing previous experimental technologies in the proposed research. It should be made clear what advancements, novelties, or discoveries in the proposed research are expected to result from the SQLM that are not possible with the current experimental approaches. An application for common research instruments is not in the scope of this call; it may be applied for via other programmes (such as the Major Research Instrumentation Programme as per Art. 91b GG).

Major Instrumentation Initiatives address universities as applicant institutions. An application must be adequately supported by institutional infrastructures and a corresponding institutional concept (comp. project description template, DFG-form 53.101). The application should show how the SQLM will be embedded into the existing environment in order to promote diverse, novel and interdisciplinary research. The university must appoint a responsible spokesperson for the application (only one spokesperson is possible) who, in the event of approval, will be responsible for coordinating the efficient operation and successful use of the SQLM for the research projects.

Applications must demonstrate the scientific and technical expertise necessary for the successful operation of the SQLM. Competencies in advanced light microscopy, spin colour centres as well as in the proposed research fields are required and must be demonstrated by previous work. For intended collaborations between research groups, evidence of successful previous collaboration should be provided. Furthermore, the scientific and infrastructural environment designated for the SQLM should be described. Current and planned research projects which will benefit from the use of the SQLM should be concisely described; however, funding necessary for the actual scientific research using the SQLM is not in the scope of this call.

In addition to the use of the SQLM for the projects outlined in the proposal, at least 20 percent of the available time must be open to external research groups, who may have to contribute to the operating costs of the SQLM accordingly. It should be explained in the proposal how the operation and use of the SQLM is to be managed in a scientifically and methodologically efficient manner. In the event of funding, corresponding rules for operation of and access to the SQLM must be submitted to the DFG.

The applicant university is responsible to provide adequate support for the operation and maintenance of the SQLM. In addition to suitable space and necessary staff for the basic operation of the instrumentation, a guarantee to cover the expected operating, maintenance and other follow-up costs has to be provided. The confirmation of this support, in the form of a statement by the university, should be enclosed along with the application (in a separate document). Nevertheless, it is possible to apply for staff and direct costs dedicated to the specific aims of this Major Instrumentation Initiative for a period of up to five years (e.g. for establishing the experimental procedures, for supporting external users of the SQLM). Funding for workshops and public relations related to the SQLM can also be requested.

Universities interested in submitting an application are requested to send a compulsory letter of intent by e-mail to by Tuesday, 2 March 2021, with the subject “Major Instrumentation Initiative – LOI: Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy”. The letter must contain the name of the prospective responsible spokesperson and a non-binding list of the groups, who will be involved in the proposal, as well as the intended application fields and the main required features of the requested SQLM.

Proposal Submission

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by Tuesday, 4 May 2021.

Please note that proposals can only be submitted via the DFG elan portal. To submit a proposal in response to this call, go to “Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Scientific Instrumentation and Information Technology – Major Instrumentation Initiative“ and select “Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy” from the current list of calls.

Proposals must be prepared using the project description template (DFG-form 53.101) and following the programme guidelines (DFG-form 21.7, Section I and III). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

All documents need to be submitted in English. Further, DFG rules for publication lists (DFG-form 1.91, version 2020) need to be respected.

The spokesperson must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you are using the elan portal for the first time, please note that you should set up an elan account by 27 April 2021 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time may not be processed in time for proposal submission. Please make sure to select the correct Major Instrumentation Initiative call for “Spin-based Quantum Light Microscopy” during both the registration and submission of the proposal.

Further Information

Guidelines Major Instrumentation Initiative (DFG-form 21.7, German or English):

Project Description – Major Instrumentation Initiative call (DFG-form 53.101, English only):

Information on the programme and on other Major Instrumentation Initiatives:

A letter of intent should be sent to:

Questions on this specific Major Instrumentation Initiative can be directed to: