close up of gloved hands holding photonics materials

Empire State Development Celebrates Ribbon Cutting for SunDensity in Downtown Rochester

Round Three Winner of Luminate NY Optics, Photonics, and Imaging Competition Officially Opens New Solar Power Photonic Smart Coating Research and Development Facility at Sibley Square

NYS Investment in SunDensity Complements “Finger Lakes Forward” – The Region’s Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy

Photos of SunDensity’s New Facility Available Here.

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that SunDensity has officially opened the doors on its state-of-the-art research and development facility located at the Sibley Square Building in Downtown Rochester. SunDensity, which originated from MIT, committed to locating its operations in Rochester after being named “Company of the Year” during the third round of Luminate NY in 2020. Luminate NY is the world's largest business accelerator for startup firms that have optics, photonics and imaging (OPI) enabled technologies.  As the winner, the company received a $1 million in investment from the state through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. SunDensity is also eligible for up to $600,000 through the performance-based Excelsior Jobs Tax-Credit program in exchange for the creation of up to 56 new jobs.  To date, the company has 15 employees working on-site.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, "SunDensity’s decision to locate its operations in Rochester proves the success of the state-supported Luminate NY competition: our focused, strategic investments in these emerging companies are working to cement New York as a worldwide leader in optics, photonics, and imaging, and I look forward to the company’s further contribution to the growth of the OPI industry in the Finger Lakes region.”

SunDensity’s Photonic Smart Coatings for utility, commercial and residential solar panels can considerably improve solar power output and provide more accessible green energy solutions at a lower overall cost.  Its nano-optical coating also reduces costs and improves the performance of Low Emissivity (‘Low E’) window glass to efficiently control unfavorable effects such as ‘heat gain’ in homes and buildings that demand increased energy for environmental control.

The number of solar power plants in the United States is growing at a rate of 30% per year, but much of the available solar spectrum is wasted by solar cells. SunDensity’s Photonic Smart Coating improves the efficiency of opto-electronic devices such as solar cells by shaping the spectrum of photons, transforming available energy into more usable light, targeting the ideal sensitivity for many different types of devices.

“This is a big step forward for us,” said Dr. Nish Sonwalkar, Founder, President and CTO of SunDensity. “Developing our technology here signifies our commitment to providing solar solutions in the U.S., to be competitive with Chinese products that currently dominate the market.” 

Luminate NY Managing Director Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, said, “By opening their facility in the same place where they incubated—in the heart of Rochester’s Innovation Zone—SunDensity is helping to revitalize our city and to expand economic development opportunities within our rich OPI and entrepreneur ecosystems.” 

The Luminate NY accelerator, administered by NextCorps, is based in Rochester and selects 10 to 12 promising companies each year to participate in its hybrid, six-month program. During this time, companies are provided with more than 200 hours of instruction, along with the resources to advance their technologies and businesses. Applications are now being accepted for Round 7 through January 8, 2024. Teams will receive $100,000 in funding upon program start in April 2024, with the expectation that $50,000 will be used to engage resources in the Finger Lakes region. Teams are expected to come to Rochester for select weeks and to also participate virtually during their time in the accelerator.

All told, since its inception, Luminate NY has invested $18 million in 63 startups. The companies in the portfolio now share a net worth of more than $650 million. In addition to providing an estimated 1.5 to 2 times return on investment, many of the companies are establishing U.S. operations or some aspect of research and manufacturing in the Rochester region, which has resulted in 164 jobs.

The Finger Lakes Region is home to an incredibly rich ecosystem of forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their business. Rochester offers the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics' Test, Assembly, and Packaging facility at Eastman Business Park, the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and more than 150 local OPI companies which employ over 17,000 employees.

State Senator Jeremy Cooney, said, “I am proud to see SunDensity completing their journey from incubation to grand opening right here in the heart of Downtown Rochester. They are helping us to write the next chapter in our region’s rich history of innovation, while creating jobs for our community. I am grateful to them for not just choosing Rochester, but for continuing to invest and expand here.”

State Assemblymember Harry Bronson, said, "SunDensity’s decision to move to Rochester demonstrates that we have the skilled workforce they require to scale their operations. It also reinforces why the Luminate NY competition is key to attracting diverse, cutting-edge industries to our area, which will go far to further our goal of improving equity in our economic and workforce development initiatives. Thank you SunDenisity for choosing Rochester!”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, said, “SunDensity’s expansion is a shining example of Monroe County’s position as a clean energy technology hub and our commitment to investing in economic development. Monroe County congratulates SunDensity on this impressive new facility and is grateful for Governor Hochul, Empire State Development and Luminate NY’s support to help innovative companies like SunDensity grow in our community.”

City of Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, said, “The grand opening of SunDensity in Rochester’s Center City clearly demonstrates the benefit of Empire State Development’s decision to establish the Luminate NY high-tech business incubator in our Downtown Innovation Zone and position our region as the optics, photonics and imaging capital of the world. I want to thank Dr. Sonwalker and his team for making this investment in our city and wish them and their employees well as they grow and thrive here. I remain grateful to Governor Hochul and the work of Empire State Development through Finger Lakes Forward for supporting our efforts to create a safe, equitable and prosperous Rochester by inspiring hope and delivering opportunity for everyone.”

For additional information about SunDensity, visit:

For additional information about Luminate NY, visit:


Shari Voorhees-Vincent | [email protected] | (585) 399-7055

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