May 10, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces $5 Million GENIUS NY II Business Competiton Now Accepting Applications

Governor Cuomo Announces $5 Million GENIUS NY II Business Competiton Now Accepting Applications

Deadline for GENIUS NY II Applications is October 1, 2017 Builds on First Round of Global Business Competition and $2.75 Million Awarded to Six Finalists, Including $1 Million Grand Prize to AutoModality GENIUS NY Continues the Progress of CNY Rising – Region's Award-Winning Strategic Plan to Generate Economic Growth and Community Development

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that applications are now being accepted for the second round of GENIUS NY – one of the world’s largest business competitions focused on unmanned systems, cross-connected platforms and other technology-based sectors. The year-long business accelerator is seeking applications from entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses focused on unmanned systems, hardware, software and analytics. The program will invest nearly $3 million in six finalist companies, including three grand prizes valued at up to $1 million, $600,000 and $400,000.

"The GENIUS NY competition has already transformed the business landscape of Central New York by enticing next generation entrepreneurs to establish roots in the Empire State," Governor Cuomo said. "By continuing to invest in the region’s unmanned systems sector and launching round two of the GENIUS NY competition, we can ensure New York remains a leader in growing the innovation economy, achieve the important economic and community goals of CNY Rising, and provide new opportunities and jobs to residents for decades to come."

The $5 million program, which is administered by the Tech Garden and CenterState CEO in Syracuse, also offers company stipends, housing, resources, programming and networking opportunities. The continuation of the GENIUS NY initiative advances "CNY Rising," the region's strategic plan to generate robust economic growth.

In March, the inaugural round of GENIUS NY awarded six finalists a total of $2.75 million, including the top prize of $1 million, which was awarded to AutoModality, a team out of California dedicated to creating autonomous mobile systems that sense, explore, and analyze the world around us. The company is currently focused on inspection of agriculture and infrastructure assets. The six finalist teams, which relocated to Central New York earlier this year, will use the GENIUS NY investments to continue accelerating their growth and expanding their presence in the region.

Building on regional industry strengths and emerging opportunities, the business competition targets companies in the unmanned aerial, ground, and marine systems and cross-connected platforms sectors. Subsets may include precision and remote sensing, data collection, guidance systems, communication systems, sensors, and data analytics among other technological categories.

Applications will be evaluated by a panel of judges and 12 semi-finalists will be selected to present live demos and pitches this fall. Six companies will advance to participate in the competition, which is structured as a unique programmed incubator and accelerator experience. These six teams will enter the in-residence accelerator at CenterState CEO's Tech Garden, and will be immersed in the incubator's events, resource pool, and mentoring. Participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for one year during the competition.

The application period is open through October 1, 2017. To learn more about GENIUS NY and apply, please visit

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-chairs Robert Simpson, President, CenterState CEO and Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, President, SUNY Upstate Medical University said, "We are excited to partner with Governor Cuomo for a second round of this program and to further demonstrate GENIUS NY's successful model of offering unparalleled start up support for the unmanned aerial systems industry. Through the program we are able to attract high-quality firms that will drive new industry innovations and support our regional economy. The first round of participants are already adding jobs in the region thanks to GENIUS NY’s resources and investments."

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The CNY Rising plan focuses heavily on supporting innovation and fast-growing industries across the region. At the heart of that strategy is GENIUS NY, an accelerator that helps startups secure the capital, contacts and other resources they need to succeed in Upstate New York. This initiative fosters innovation – a cornerstone of our approach to economic development – and works to ensure these companies stay in Central New York, create jobs, and establish the region as a global hub for emerging technologies."

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, "Onondaga County is excited to welcome applications for the next round of the GENIUS NY competition. As this program continues to grow, we look forward to attracting new companies from across the country to participate in this competition right here in Central New York. We know we can support a diversity of companies in the UAS sector and provide them with the tools and resources that enable their long-term success."

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. said, "Oneida County is pleased to continue our partnership with the GENIUS NY competition. This is a unique program that continues to attract companies from around the globe to the Mohawk Valley and Central NY. With our vital position as the only UAS Test Site in the northeast combined with strong partnerships throughout both regions we are excited to see what companies join this competition and help us grow UAS as the new high-tech industry here in upstate NY, creating economic impact, jobs and investment."

NUAIR Alliance Executive Director and General Counsel Lawrence H. Brinker said, "The companies participating in the first round of the GENIUS NY program are experiencing early growth after only a few months with the program and are well positioned to support the region’s goal of leading all segments of this industry. NUAIR and our partners are proud of the success demonstrated by these companies and this program. Through our ability to mentor these emerging companies, with help from a wide-range of resources found across Central New York and the Mohawk Valley, we are creating not only the largest start up competition in the world for unmanned aerial systems, but also the best."

CenterState Vice President of Innovation & Entrepreneurship CEO Rick Clonan said, "Welcoming six new companies into the second round of the GENIUS NY program will continue our efforts to become a leader in UAS innovations and technologies. At the end of this second round, we’ll have twelve additional UAS companies committed to growing alongside other strong technology firms in CNY and the Mohawk Valley."

Beyond the grand prize investments, New York State has committed funding for programmatic support that will provide access to business planning, educational programming, speakers, advisors, developers and other entrepreneur-consumed resources. Additionally, participants will receive stipends for operating capital and subsidized rent, and will also have opportunities to connect with investors for follow on funding.

GENIUS NY is funded by Empire State Development in a model similar to Western New York’s highly successful 43North program and 76West in the Southern Tier. The advancement of the GENIUS NY program builds on the progress of CNY Rising, the region’s award-winning strategic plan to generate robust economic growth and community development. To learn more about GENIUS NY visit

The GENIUS NY competition and prize-winning companies strongly align with CNY Rising, which calls for major investments in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems industry in Central New York. Last November, Governor Cuomo announced $30 million in URI funds would be invested to develop a 50-mile flight traffic management system between Syracuse and Griffiss International Airport in Rome to advance the burgeoning Unmanned Aircraft Systems industry in Central New York. Within the 50-mile corridor, strategic investments will accelerate industry growth by supporting emerging uses of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in key Central New York industries, including agriculture and forest management, transportation and logistics, media and film development, utilities and infrastructure, and public safety. This significant URI investment followed a $5 million commitment for Phase I and continues the State’s strong commitment to growing the UAS industry in Central and Upstate New York.

Accelerating Central NY Rising

Today's announcement complements the “Central NY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. This initiative is focused on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. The state has already invested nearly $3 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan which includes investing in the burgeoning unmanned aerial systems industry. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in as a result.

The $500 million “Central NY Rising” Upstate Revitalization Initiative announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015 will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here.

About CenterState CEO

CenterState CEO is an independent and forward thinking economic development strategist, business leadership organization and chamber of commerce; dedicated to the success of its members and the prosperity of the region. We serve as an advocate and resource for smart business, catalyze and facilitate regional growth, and promote community prosperity through results-driven partnerships, planning and problem-solving.


GENIUS NY is an in-residence business accelerator program at The Tech Garden in Central New York that goes beyond substantial direct investment. In addition to three grand prizes of up to $1 million, $600,000 and $400,000, the program also offers company stipends, housing, resources, programming, and connections, making it among the largest competitions of its kind across the globe. The program is made possible by $5 million in funding support provided by Empire State Development, New York State’s chief economic development agency.


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