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Startup Challenge shortlist spans health, food safety and smart cars

11 Jan 2017

SPIE Photonics West 2017 is almost upon us and with it diverse photonics competitions and new promotional events.

Two SPIE-led showcases of photonics innovation – one now well-established and one brand new forum – will take place at Photonics West in San Francisco at the end of January. The Startup Challenge, which has rapidly grown over recent years to become a bellwether for determining next year's hot technologies, will be joined by the Photonics Fast Pitch Lunch, which is designed to be a platform for seasoned entrepreneurs seeking funds (see below).

Startup Challenge 2017

With less than three weeks until the doors of the Moscone Center open to Photonics West visitors, 22 semi-finalists have now been selected to battle for the finals and a share of more than $85,000 in prizes in the 2017 SPIE Startup Challenge. Would-be entrepreneurs from universities and technology companies will present their light-based technology brainwaves to a panel of judges comprising venture capitalists and business development experts.

“Both the quality and range of this year's finalists in the Startup Challenge are inspiring,” said Jay Kumler, President of Jenoptik Optical Systems, a long-term supporter of the event. “Some are addressing global health needs such as clean water, food safety, prenatal care, and cancer detection. Other semi-finalists are bringing photonics technology to market for wearables, connected cars, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality.”

Presentations from the semi-finalists will take place 31 January in the Park Central Hotel in San Francisco. The top six will then progress to the final round on 1 February in hotly-contested competition inside the Moscone Center. Both qualifying and final events are open to the public with free registration.

Jenoptik is sponsoring cash prizes including $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. The first-place winner will also receive $5,000 worth of products from Edmund Optics. Semi-finalists also receive product demonstration time on the SPIE Photonics West Exhibition floor, and other marketing support.

Semi-finalists this year are for the first time sorted into three distinct technology tracks:

Track 1: Biophotonics, Point of Care

  • AcouStar, an optoacoustic guide with augmented reality technique for precision breast-conserving surgery; Lu Lan, Purdue University.
  • CancerView, helping surgeons perform better breast cancer surgery; Erik Schartner, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, University of Adelaide.
  • d'Biomager, a 4D microscope camera that can be attached to any existing light microscope; Rachel Wang, d'Optron.
  • EarID, computational ear imaging for accurate detection of ear infections; Anshuman Das, MIT.
  • Lumedica "OQ" EyeScope, accessible and affordable medical imaging technology; Scott Whitney, Lumedica.
  • Nanodevices for cellular therapy, using lasers and nanotechnology to cure viral or genetic disease that affects the blood; Nabiha Saklayen, Harvard University.
  • NU-RISE, innovating breast and prostate cancer treatment; Luis Moutinho, University of Aveiro and NU-RISE.
  • Raydiant Oximetry, Inc., noninvasive fetal oximetry during labor and delivery; Nicole Hlava, Raydiant Oximetry.
Track 2: Imaging, Displays, Lasers, and Semiconductors
  • Fastree3D, 3D vision with a LIDAR system on chip; Claude Florin, Fastree3D.
  • LightOn, processors to address scalability and sustainability of artificial intelligence, for the future of computing; Laurent Daudet, LightOn.
  • Microspherical Nanoscopy; low-cost method for increasing resolution on a traditional optical microscope without resorting to complicated methods like NSOM or STED, compatible with any microscope, taking up no space, and without altering lab procedures; Vasily Astratov, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
  • Nanolayered GRIN Optical Lenses, polymer lenses offering high-contrast, color-corrected, wide field of view (+30°) while simultaneously decreasing optical system weight of glass configurations by 30–60%; Adin Pfeuffer, Peak Nano Optics.
  • Portable Precision Profilometer, portable high-precision 3D scanners with a low cost to bridge current commercial scanner market gaps; Renjie Zhou, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Real-time display of several depths, multiple OCT slicer; Adrian Podoleanu, University of Kent and Optopod.
  • RGB Laser Light Module for AR/VR, ultracompact RGB MEMS laser scanner for AR and VR applications; Joerg Reitterer, TriLite Technologies.

Track 3: Sensors, Wearables, Internet of Things
  • Fresh Strips, ensuring quality for food; Koen Nickmans, Fresh Strips.
  • IC Touch, allows blind or visually impaired people to “see” by translation of visual information captured by a camera to spatial tactile stimulation of the cornea; Zeev Zalevsky, Bar Ilan University and IC Touch.
  • Lightnosis, an optical wireless communication middleware for the IoT in the connected-cars market; Gloria Eisman, Lightbee.
  • LiqWiz, "smoke detector" for drinking water — an in-line IoT-based spectrophotometer and analysis platform for automatic detection of EPA-specified chemicals and contaminants in drinking water; Ivan Maleev, LiqWiz.
  • Miocoo, the nutrition for healthy and scientific breastfeeding management for every mom and baby; Qiaochu Li, Sensii.
  • Uvisio, personal sun assistant, to enjoy the sun — safely; Larisa Kryuchkova.
  • Think Biosolution QuasaR, camera powered multi-parameter fitness tracker; Koushik Kumar Nundy, Think Biosolution.

Photonics Fast Pitch Lunch

SPIE is this year launching a new lunchtime forum designed for experienced entrepreneurs to succinctly present business pitches and value propositions to potential investors. After the presentations of 90-second pitches, lunch will be served, with networking opportunities.

Peter Hallett, Director of Marketing and Industry Relations at SPIE, explained, "With this Photonics Fast Pitch Lunch, we are filling the gap between young, pre-revenue firms supported by the Startup Challenge and the best-new-products identifed by the Prism Awards. SPIE is continually looking for ways to support the growth of our industry."

The Photonics West Photonics Fast Pitch lunch is supported by the French Tech Hub, which will bring top-ranked companies from France to present to Bay Area investors. Marie Frochen, Senior Program Manager at French Tech Hub San Francisco, said, "This new event fits our mission of accelerating French tech company growth in the USA."

SPIE has partnered with USC Viterbi to create the Photonics Fast Pitch Lunch. "The photonics market is attracting tens of millions in investment every quarter, but little of that goes to inexperienced teams. We're happy to help guide entrepreneurs on the journey of building a profitable business," said Andrea Belz, Vice Dean for Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering.

Nanoscribe GmbHScitec Instruments LtdDiffraction InternationalSchaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHEclipse OpticsEdmund OpticsBoston Electronics Corporation
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