As part of one of the world's most innovative and recognizable brands, we are committed to support university research and innovation in the U.S., Canada, India, and select European countries, while also fostering partnerships with university faculty and researchers. The Sony Research Award Program provides funding for cutting-edge academic research and helps build a collaborative relationship between faculty and Sony researchers. With awards up to $150,000 USD* per year for each accepted proposal, both the Faculty Innovation Award and Focused Research Award create new opportunities for university faculties to engage in pioneering research that could drive new technologies, industries and the future.
Up to $100K USD* in funds to conduct cutting-edge research in Sony's general areas of interest
Up to $150K USD* in funds to conduct research in the areas of Sony's immediate interest
Eligibility, requirements, submission protocol, and terms are explained in these guidelines.
Proposal submission is open from July 15, 2021 to September 15, 2021.
Congratulations to all award recipients in the Sony Research Award Program! We sincerely look forward to working closely with you.
Global research and development at Sony enables us to foster innovative ideas, which could ultimately lead to future technology advancements and company growth. In order to speed up and expand the creation of new ideas, we would like to partner with universities. This partnership will help cultivate advanced concepts and fertilize our own research and development. The Sony Faculty Innovation Award provides up to $100K USD* in funds to conduct pioneering research in the areas listed below. Please select the single most relevant keyword to your submission
Keywords are bulleted under each category title
Keywords are bulleted under each category title
Keywords are bulleted under each category title
Solid research is the underlying driving force to crystallize fearless creativity and innovation. While we are committed to run in-house research and engineering, we are also excited to collaborate with academic partners to facilitate exploration of new and promising research. The Sony Focused Research Award provides an opportunity for university faculty and Sony to conduct this type of collaborative, focused research. The award provides up to $150K USD* in funds, and may be renewed for subsequent year(s). A list of candidate research topics appears below. Please select the Focused Research Theme for which your submission is written.
The limitations of many current-day AI methods and techniques are evident. Some current methods that still show great promise and are without evident and severe limitations and can remain elements of future AI methods. There are clear advantages to mimicking biology since the human brain, consuming only about 20 watts of power, has capabilities that we have yet to duplicate, even when we employ unlimited electrical power. Thus, we are seeking powerful and efficient biologically-inspired AI methods that have the potential to open entirely new capabilities that are not possible with the methods in our current AI toolbox and that will support more reliable and more trustworthy AI. AI methods powerful enough to even, possibly, realize an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) are sought-after here. While developing an AGI is not Sony's immediate priority, Sony is seeking AI methods of this caliber. We anticipate that these biologically-inspired next-gen AI methods will eventually contribute to a wide range of Sony products, including film, music, audio, video, gaming, and mobility products in addition to entirely new products.
Training huge models with a large dataset is the recent trend for developing advanced AI. Training such huge models is typically performed by combining data-parallelism and model-parallelism. It is necessary to dynamically change hyperparameters (such as learning rate, batch size, etc.) for convergence. However, it takes an enormous amount of time to perform each training, making it difficult to reach the desired convergence. Sony is exploring a novel DNN training strategy to advance AI research.
The actuator is one of the key components for robotic applications. The combination of an electro-magnetic motor, reduction gears such as a harmonic drive, and an encoder should be the most popular way to construct an actuator, but it is still heavy and costly. To make robots ubiquitous, a new actuator that is safer and less costly is strongly demanded, where a new driving principle other than electro-magnetism is employed and the gear reduction mechanisms are integrated. Sony is interested in new actuators including artificial muscles, variable impedance actuators, SEAs, USMs and other actuators based on new concepts.
The liquid crystal microdisplay is widely utilized as an amplitude modulation device. It has also gathered attention in recent years as a spatial light phase modulation device. To realize high performance, ultra-high-definition pixels of a liquid crystal microdisplay are required. The ultra-high-definition pixels enable miniaturization and a high resolution image in an amplitude modulation display and wide field-of-view phase modulation display. However, when the pixel pitch is reduced, the issue of inter-pixel crosstalk becomes worse in the liquid crystal layer. It is known that pixel crosstalk is caused by the electric fringe field and penetration of the elastic force of the liquid crystal from adjacent pixels. Although the influence of the electric fringe field can be suppressed by controlling the initial alignment of the liquid crystal and thinning the liquid crystal layer, these methods have limitations in practical designs. We are looking for breakthrough technologies to address this issue beyond the existing ones.
Infrared VCSELs are getting more attention as novel light sources for sensors such as Lidar for automobiles and facial recognition built into smartphones. There is also a strong demand for conventional applications such as optical communications, laser printers, etc.. These applications drive Sony innovation to enable higher output power, lower electric power consumption, longer life, longer wavelengths, narrower or wider divergence angles, higher frequency switching, more robust and cost-efficient production processes, and novel functions such as integration with scanning systems. We seek proposals regarding novel technologies for NIR-MIR VCSELs for further evolution.
Novel functional materials are indispensable for the development of new technologies and whole new areas of business. However, as the chemical space of all possible compounds is immense, it thus remains a great challenge to find a material, or a combination of materials, that would optimally fulfill a desired functionality in a device. Currently, AI/ML computational methods are being actively integrated into materials science. The establishment of a simulation platform based on ML and evolutionary algorithms will substantially accelerate the development of novel functional materials at Sony and eventually become an integral part of the digital-twin design platform. Hence, Sony is looking for innovative AI-based approaches for the efficient computational discovery of novel materials.
Spatial-omics technologies are critical for understanding cell identity and function in the context of tissues, which provide information about where the activities of genes and molecules are occurring. Sony seeks proposals for novel spatial-omics technologies that can be implemented with imaging technology.
The importance of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in clinical practice of the central nervous system has been increasingly recognized, not only in the adoption of electronic measurements of PROs (ePROs), but digital treatments have also been realized. Unlike conventional treatments, patients themselves are required to engage actively and continuously, but the mechanisms and motivation for this are not working well. In addition to digitally measuring patients' symptoms and behaviors, Sony is also pursuing innovative ideas that generate new clinical value through the active involvement of patients.
Recent advances in machine learning have created a paradigm shift on many applications. For instance, deep learning based approaches have achieved a big leap forward over previous state-of-the-art algorithms in classification, segmentation, and recognition. Sony is looking for innovative research in image/video processing that is based on machine learning to significantly improve existing image/video processing techniques and applications.
Sony seeks innovative research in data-driven (fictional but photo-realistic and believable) digital human or character creation techniques based on AI and machine learning. The goal is to significantly improve the current hand-crafted visual art production workflow and to develop a whole new set of powerful tools to complement Sony creators' imagination.
We accept applications from Principal Investigators (PIs) who are full-time professors (adjunct professors are not eligible) or researchers and are eligible to supervise Ph.D. students at a university/educational institution in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Full professors, associate professors, and assistant professors are eligible to apply. For the UK, this includes Senior Lecturers, Principle Lecturers, and Readers who are eligible to supervise Ph.D. students at their institutions.
We accept applications that have a PI and one or more co-PIs for the same proposal. However, only one award is made to the primary PI and the primary PI's university/institution if the proposal is selected. All Co-PIs must meet the same eligibility criteria as that for a PI, and Co-PIs will be required to sign program documents. Co-PIs may be from institutions in different participating countries but over 50% of research expenses must be spent within the country of the PI's institution.
A PI or different PIs from the same university/institution may submit more than one proposal for different research topics. However, please do not submit identical proposals more than once. Note that at the bottom of your submission confirmation email, there is a link to resubmit your proposal in the event that you discover that your original had an error or an omission. Please use this link for resubmissions and do not resubmit identical proposals. Also, please do not submit "test" submissions. In the rare event that you do not receive a confirmation email for your submission, please complete the Inquiry Form available here informing us of your issue.
Please select one target award between the Focused Research Award and the Faculty Innovation Award when you submit a proposal. Refer to the following comparison chart:
|Focused Research Award||up to $150K USD*||Choose from the Focused Research Theme List||One (1) year, with a possible extension|
|Faculty Innovation Award||up to $100K USD*||Choose from the list of Keywords||One (1) year, with a possible extension|
Please select one Focused Research Theme for your proposal if you choose the Focused Research Award. Please select one keyword (the single most relevant keyword for your proposal) if you choose the Faculty Innovation Award.
A sponsored research agreement is required that is mutually agreed upon by Sony**, the PI, and his/her institution on all program terms including objectives, milestones, publication, use of research, and patent rights before any award is made or funding is available. This sponsored research agreement is negotiable at the award stage and must be between Sony**, the PI, and the PI's university/institution only.
Please submit proposals for a one year period only. No multi-year proposals will be accepted. An extension of the research may be possible depending upon the results of the research collaboration in year one, but it will require a separate discussion for another award the following year.
Three (3) quarterly reports and a final research summary report are required at a minimum.
Sony may request the PI to support a Sony visiting researcher(s) at Sony's option and expense.
Proposal authors or universities/institutions must ensure that no confidential or proprietary information is included in submitted proposals. Sony will treat all information submitted in proposals as non-confidential and non-proprietary.
IP rights are negotiable at the award stage and will be specified in the sponsored research agreement. At a minimum, Sony requires the right to utilize the results of the research that it sponsors for noncommercial purposes, including potentially patentable subject matter. Sony will also require full rights to any background IP that is required for Sony to utilize the research results sponsored.
Please include the required items listed below in your submission:
All proposal contents must fit within 11 pages (a ten-page maximum proposal with references and a one-page budget summary). The file format must be a PDF or a MS Word file format and must be under 16 MB in size. Out of consideration to reviewers, please limit your minimum font size to a 10 point font.
The CV for the PI must be included when you submit a proposal. The CV file must be a separate file from the proposal file. There is no page limitation for the CV, however the CV file size must be under 16 MB.
The Focused Research Award is limited to a maximum of $150K USD* per proposal. The Faculty Innovation Award is limited to a maximum of $100K USD* per proposal. This funding is a sponsored research grant that is to be used to conduct the research described in the proposal, and includes any overhead related to this research and any and all other fees or charges needed to carry out the research. There is a single-payment for the award and it is all-inclusive of all associated expenses and fees. Sony will not specify a maximum amount or percentage of the budget that may be allocated to overhead.
The submitter must agree to the 2021 Sony Research Award Program Submission Terms and Conditions (click here to see) before you submit a proposal. Please obtain a prior review of your submission by your institution's sponsored research office if they require a review of research proposals prior to their submission.
Submissions must be done through the online submission form.
Submissions made by email will not be accepted. Submissions must be in the English language or they will not be accepted. Submitters will automatically receive a confirmation email once they complete the online submission form and process. Please keep the confirmation email as proof of each submission.
Submissions must be completed by 11:59 pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time; UTC-7) on September 15, 2021 / 8:59 am CEST (Central European Summer Time; UTC+2) September 16, 2021 / 12:29 pm IST (Indian Standard Time; UTC+05:30) September 16, 2021.
Duplicate submissions will not be accepted for the same proposal title from the same PI. Please do not make duplicate submissions. Use the resubmission link at the bottom of your confirmation email if you discover that your submission has an error or an omission.
The following information will be required in order to complete the online submission form for each proposal submitted.
Principal Investigators (PIs) will be notified of the submission review results for each proposal submitted around March of 2022. Sony will only be able to provide some limited feedback on the review process results for the highest-ranked proposals due to limited resources.
Program details will be negotiated with a PI and their university/institution if their proposal is selected. Funding will be available only after we have agreed to the terms of and signed a sponsored research agreement.
Please contact us via the Inquiry Form if you have a question regarding the 2021 Sony Research Award Program. The Research Award Program Administration Office is the only resource that can officially answer your question(s).
Please visit www.sony.com and contact the appropriate channel listed at the bottom of the web page if you have questions outside of the Sony Research Award Program (such as business proposals, joint venture proposals, research proposals that are not related to any of Focused Research Themes or keywords for the Faculty Innovation Award), or other inquiry or proposal.