A closeup image of a camera lens.

Luminate NY: A Promising New Set of Startups Eye the Future of Optics in the Finger Lakes

Launched in the heart of Rochester’s Downtown Innovation Zone in 2017, Luminate NY is the world’s largest startup accelerator competition for the optics, photonics and imaging industry. It also continues to attract attention to the Finger Lakes, long an epicenter of optics-related innovation. The competition’s second round, which opened in June 2018, drew more than 70 applicants from across the U.S. and New York, as well as from countries including Sweden, India, Canada, Australia, Russia, Israel, Portugal, China, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

What makes the competition so popular–beyond its $1 million grand prize–is the six months of mentoring, support and coaching finalists receive at Luminate’s incubator inside a renovated, mixed-use landmark in the city’s high-tech center. The 10 Cohort II finalists, selected last November, each received an initial $100,000 investment and began networking with the Finger Lakes OPI community in January of this year. They will compete at Luminate’s Demo Day in June for more than $2 million in follow-on funding and could even receive additional venture capital from outside investors. Winning companies are expected to establish operations in the Finger Lakes for at least 18 months, a transition eased by the 100 companies already supporting the region’s OPI supply chain.

Tech & Electronics: Industry Visions Become Reality in NY

See how New York is helping boost optics, photonics and imaging companies to their highest level.

These second-cohort companies are developing game-changing ideas that range from a revolutionary virtual reality camera to a safer helmet-mounted display for motorcyclists. The companies include Augmentiqs (Misgav, Israel), Circle Optics (New York, N.Y.), Kura Tech (San Francisco, Calif.), Lumedica Vision (Durham, N.C.), Mango teQ LTD (Auckland, New Zealand), Neurescence (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Opalux (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Organic Robotics Corporation (Syracuse, N.Y.), Ovitz (Rochester, N.Y.) and VPG Medical, Inc. (Rochester, N.Y.).

New York has long recognized the growth potential of the optics, photonics and imaging industry, now a $500 billion international market that includes next-generation lenses and displays, laser-based semiconductors and fiber-optic transmission. Emerging technology such as autonomous cars, energy conversion and virtual and augmented reality depend on it, as do medical diagnostics and digital communications. In addition to other optics-related investments in manufacturing, the state has pledged $15 million in funding as a part of the transformational Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) to support three more rounds of the Luminate business accelerator competition through 2022.

Nearly 60 years after the invention of the laser, the Finger Lakes region still leads the nation in OPI innovations and businesses that drive a wide range of billion dollar industries.

Luminate alumnus Double Helix Optics had already begun manufacturing its 3D nanotechnology imaging products in Rochester before taking home the top prize last year and is now collaborating with several area companies to integrate its microscope attachments into existing product lines. The company has also partnered with life science researchers at the University of Rochester to use its high-resolution, three-dimensional imaging to advance the discovery of life-threatening diseases.

As the industry comes of age, bringing fresh talent and industry-leading innovation to the optics capital of the world is more than a bright idea: it’s about investing in the future.

To see Luminate’s second cohort in action, reserve your spot at Demo Day on June 27 in Rochester by signing up here.

For more information on New York’s tech and electronics industry, click here.