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Luminate finalists win $100k backing

09 Nov 2017

Ten photonics spin-outs selected to take part in startup accelerator program.

A cohort of ten photonics startup companies have been selected for the first ‘Luminate NY’ accelerator program, each now guaranteed $100,000 after successfully pitching their ideas to an advisory panel comprised of industry experts in Rochester, New York.

Luminate NY is set to award up to $5 million in total financial backing in its inaugural year.

From January, the ten optics, photonics and imaging companies selected as finalists will embark on a six-month program to aid their commercialization efforts at the newly renovated Sibley Building in Rochester. At the end of the program the ten teams will compete in a “demo day” and for up to $1 million each in follow-up funding.

Nine of the ten finalists, selected from more than 100 applicants from all over the world, are based in North America – the only exception being Ireland’s Think Biosolutions. The Dublin-based firm is one of five finalists categorized as working on “augmented and virtual reality, sensor, instrumentation, and image recognition” technologies, while three of the finalists are local to Rochester.

The full list is as follows:

Photonic Devices, Lasers, Materials and Display:
Arovia, Inc. - Houston, Texas (collapsible display)
Lumotune - Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (digital glass display)
Molecular Glasses, Inc. - Rochester, New York (organic semiconductors)

Spectroscopy and Medical Devices:
LighTopTech Corp. - Rochester, New York (liquid-lens microscope)
Intelon Optics, Inc. - Boston, Massachusetts (Brillouin optical eye scanner)

Augmented and Virtual Reality, Sensors, Instrumentation, Image Recognition:
Bounce Imaging - Boston, Massachusetts (throwable 360° camera)
Double Helix LLC - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (precision ranging)
Think Biosolution - Dublin, Ireland (wearable fitness sensors)
Positive Science - Rochester, New York (eye tracking analysis)
Tarsier Optics, Inc. - Baltimore, Maryland (distortion-free imaging)

Of those, Molecular Glasses will be one of the startups taking part in the SPIE Startup Challenge at the forthcoming Photonics West symposium in San Francisco. Think Biosolutions took part in the 2016 version of the event, which was won by Double Helix. Entry for the 2018 SPIE Startup Challenge remains open until November 16.

Announcing the ten Luminate finalists, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said: “Our strategic investments have already positioned Rochester as a global leader in the optics, photonics and imaging industries, and through the Luminate NY competition, we will continue to put the spotlight on all that this region has to offer, while attracting 21st-century companies to continue moving the Finger Lakes forward.”

Organizers say that the competition received interest from around the world, including entries from teams in Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, India, China, Russia, Qatar, Lebanon, and Israel alongside the US, Irish, and Canadian winners.

The idea of the Luminate NY program is to assist entrepreneurs interested in solving challenging industry problems including, but not limited to: machine vision, inspection, biophotonics, security, surveillance, augmented and virtual reality, and autonomous vehicles.

Luminate NY’s managing director Sujatha Ramanujan said: “We are so pleased to be able to work with ten such promising companies. With the creativity, energy, and capabilities of these startups and the guidance and support of the optics industry headquartered in Rochester, we expect great success from the Luminate NY cohort. From innovation comes growth and promise.”

‘Worldwide hub for optics’
Howard Zemsky, who heads up the Empire State Development organization, added: “The Finger Lakes region is transforming into a worldwide hub for optics, photonics and imaging innovation. The Luminate NY accelerator will further support our efforts to focus entrepreneurial resources on the photonics industry, creating an environment that will enable these startups, and the region, to thrive.”

Other recent developments in and around Rochester center on the reconfiguration of “Building 81” of the Eastman Business Park into an open foundry for photonic integrated circuit (PIC) wafer manufacturing at the AIM Photonics test, assembly and packaging (TAP) facility, with initial production runs slated for mid-2018.

That redevelopment is somewhat behind initial schedules, and while the installation of some $40 million worth of processing, test, and packaging tools is said to be in the pipeline, laboratory work is expected to start in the first quarter of next year.

Rochester’s mayor Lovely Warren voiced her support for the latest developments, saying: “I am thrilled that so many companies are interested in bringing high-tech jobs and opportunity. The Luminate NY project is a natural fit for Rochester and builds on our tradition of being a worldwide leader in optics, photonics and imaging.”

* updated (November 16): the article originally stated that the Luminate NY accelerator was part of AIM Photonics. It is in fact supported by High Tech Rochester and Empire State Development.

CHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.ABTechUniverse Kogaku America Inc.SPECTROGON ABLaCroix Precision OpticsCeNing Optics Co LtdMad City Labs, Inc.
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