July 5, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Official Launch of Luminate NY Photonics Venture Challenge

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Official Launch of...

$10 Million Approved for World's Largest Startup Accelerator for Optics, Photonics and Imaging Technologies
Program Now Seeking Expressions of Interest from Startup Companies and Corporate, Venture and Mentor Partners
“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 the launch of Luminate NY, the world’s largest business accelerator for startup firms in the optics, photonics and imaging industries, in Rochester. Funding for the $10 million program, previously known as the Photonics Venture Challenge, was recently approved by Empire State Development’s Board of Directors and will be funded through the Finger Lakes’ Upstate Revitalization Initiative award.

"By fostering innovation and supporting the growth of promising new photonics companies, Luminate NY will catalyze economic energy and excitement to move the Finger Lakes Forward," Governor Cuomo said. "Our strategic investments have uniquely positioned Rochester as a global leader in the photonics industry to drive economic growth in the region for generations to come."

The Luminate NY initiative, which is being administered by High Tech Rochester, 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 is looking for entrepreneurs 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.
Luminate NY is now accepting expressions of interest from startup companies, mentors, as well as venture and corporate partners, which can be submitted through the accelerator’s website: http://luminate.org/. Teams will be competing for one of ten available slots in the first cohort, guaranteeing them a minimum investment of $100,000 and major investments of up to $1 million.
Photonics Board Chairman John Maggiore said, "Thanks to the leadership and commitment of Governor Cuomo, Rochester is becoming the photonics capital of the world. Luminate NY will build on that success to attract the brightest minds in the industry to the region, help them grow their talents and businesses and support job creation and economic development to keep moving the Finger Lakes Forward."

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "This new accelerator program will attract optics, photonics and imaging industry leaders and entrepreneurs from across the globe, providing them with the support they'll need to harness innovative ideas and develop them into cutting edge products."
Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester said, "High Tech Rochester has been in the business of growing startup companies for 30 years, and our programs and facilities have evolved over time to rival the top accelerator programs in the country. The timing of the launch of the Luminate NY couldn’t be better, as we will be opening our brand new downtown location at the Sibley building just as our first cohort kicks off."
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 will address 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.
Luminate NY applicants must be incorporated, have a full-time team and should have proven their core technology, preferably having developed a working prototype. Once admitted, companies will receive assistance with capital and a community of resources. Each member will receive a $100,000 initial convertible note investment, with a chance for follow-on funding at the end of the rigorous six month entrepreneurship training program, expected to total $2 million.

FLREDC Co-Chair and Wegmans Food Markets Chairman Danny Wegman and Monroe Community College President Anne Kress said, “The FLREDC identified OPI efforts as a priority as we work to establish the Finger Lakes region as the world’s leader in the burgeoning light-based products and services industry. The Luminate NY accelerator program and competition will go a long way towards attracting and supporting the high-growth potential OPI start-ups present as we work to move 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.  
Luminate NY is currently searching for a Managing Director, as well as members for a nationwide Advisory Board, that has a passion for helping startups. The application period for interested startups is expected to begin in July.For more information on how to get involved with the Luminate NY, either as a startup, mentor, corporate or venture partner, click here.

Senator Joseph Robach said, "I am pleased with today’s approval, by Empire State Development, for the launch of Luminate NY. Through this program, companies in our region, and from across our state and the world, will have the opportunity to be on the forefront of developing 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."

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle said, "This initiative is yet another exciting opportunity for Rochester to expand its position as a national leader in research and development of hi-tech optics, photonics and imaging. I applaud Empire State Development and Governor Cuomo for their continued investment in our region and commitment to creating a stronger innovation economy."

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, "Photonics will deliver great opportunities to our region, acting as a hub for innovation, a catalyst for economic development and a substantial job creator. We have many photonics companies here in Monroe County that can benefit from the Luminate NY initiative and I look forward to the program’s success."

Mayor Lovely Warren said, “By choosing Rochester as the new home for Luminate NY, Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development are confirming what we’ve known all along: Our city is a hub of innovation and job creation, particularly in advanced manufacturing sectors such as photonics and optics. I would like to thank our Governor and our state government for their continued investment and support, which is helping us toward our goals of creating more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for all our citizens."

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 $3.4 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agricultureý 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