October 13, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces More Than 100 Teams Apply to $10 Million Luminate NY Competition

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces More Than 100 Teams...

Luminate NY is the World's Largest Startup Accelerator Program for Optics, Photonics and Imaging Technologies

"Finger Lakes Forward" Investment Advances the Region's Successful Strategic Plan to Grow the Economy and Create New Opportunities


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Luminate NY, the world's largest business accelerator for startup firms in the optics, photonics and imaging industries in Rochester, received interest from more than 100 applicants from around the world in round one of the innovative competition. Interest in the accelerator program came from within the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Scotland, India, China, Russia, Qatar, Lebanon, and Israel. Funding for the $10 million program is being provided through the Finger Lakes' Upstate Revitalization Initiative award, and is being administered by High Tech Rochester.

"By fostering innovation and supporting the growth of promising new photonics companies, Luminate NY continues to build on the economic momentum that is moving the Finger Lakes Forward," Governor Cuomo said. "This strategic investment will help in our efforts to position Rochester as the global leader in the photonics industry, helping to drive economic growth in the region for generations to come."

The program's management team and national advisory board members will narrow the applicant pool down to 20 semi-finalists over the next few weeks, who will all be asked to pitch their startups to the final selection committee in Rochester on Nov. 8th. Of those semi-finalists, 10 will be selected for the program.  Each will ultimately receive an initial investment of $100,000 when they begin the accelerator program in January.  

Luminate Managing Director Sujatha Ramanujan said, "The number and quality of applicants was very impressive. We have received applications from all over the worldas Rochester, NY is so well known in Optics, Photonics, and Imaging. The Governor's and ESD's sponsorship of this program is at the core of one of the strongest growth initiatives in the technology space and in the region." 

The initiative's first cohort of 10 companies will launch in January 2018, at the newly renovated Sibley Building in downtown Rochester.  The 6-month program will take optics, photonics, and imaging startups and accelerate their commercialization.  At the end of the program, teams will compete on Demo Day, where they will be vying for over $2,000,000 in follow-on funding.

The Luminate NY initiative is focused on attracting and growing the most promising optics and photonics companies from across the state, the nation, and around the globe. The program will support entrepreneurs who are interested in solving challenging optics, photonics and imaging problems, including but not limited to: machine vision, inspection, biophotonics, security, surveillance, augmented and virtual reality, and autonomous vehicles.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Entrepreneurs from around the globe are noticing this new accelerator program which is aimed at attracting optics, photonics and imaging industry leaders. This competition will provide the support needed to foster creative ideas and will ultimately lead to the creation of cutting edge products."

While optical technologies are ubiquitous, the industry is highly specialized and fragmented. Consequently, most accelerator programs simply do not have the focus or domain expertise to optimally support OPI startups. Luminate NY has addressed this need from its headquarters in Rochester - the optics and imaging capital of the world. Rochester - home to the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics, the Rochester Institute of Technology, AIM Photonics, and over 100 local OPI companies - has the workforce, technology base, support network and resources to optimally launch and grow OPI businesses.

FLREDC Co-ChairsMonroe Community College President Anne Kress and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy said, "Optics, photonics and imaging efforts are a top priority for the FLREDC. The Luminate NY accelerator program and competition will go a long way towards attracting and supporting the high-growth potential which OPI start-ups present as we continue the work of moving the Finger Lakes Forward."

Luminate NY will build on the federal Department of Defense led American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, which is supported by a $250 million commitment from New York State and will be based in Rochester at the state-of-the-art AIM manufacturing facility located in Eastman Business Park. The facility will be used to test, assemble and package chips that use photons in place of electrons for increased performance of semiconductor circuits. First announced by Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden in July 2015, AIM Photonics will help secure the Finger Lakes region and nation's leadership position in emerging technology research, development, and manufacturing. 

NYS Photonics Board Chairman John Maggiore said, "It is due to the leadership and commitment of Governor Cuomo that Rochester is quickly becoming the photonics capital of the world. Luminate NY is building on that success, working to attract the brightest minds in the industry to the region helping the Finger Lakes to move forward."

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle said, "The amount of interest in this exciting initiative further demonstrates Rochester's position as a national and global leader in research and development of optics, photonics and imaging. I am grateful to Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for their support which reflects a continuing investment in the future our region's flourishing high-tech economy."

Senator Joe Robach said, "Luminate NY is an exciting opportunity and with over 100 applicants from across the world, companies understand that Rochester is once again on the forefront of the development of innovative technology that has the potential to revolutionize how we live our lives. The results of this program will create opportunities and grow jobs right here in our community."

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, "No other place can lay claim to Monroe County's unprecedented success in the field of optics - past, present or future. I am grateful that Luminate NY is helping to attract the attention of today's global employers in this growing industry, along with the jobs and investment that will come with them."

Mayor Lovely Warren said, "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. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for investing in our city and helping us to create more jobs, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities."

For more information about Luminate NY, click here.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 

Today's announcement complements "Finger Lakes Forward," the region's comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $5.2 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan - investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. 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 Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State's $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion - and the region's plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office