Luminate NY: Rochester tech companies land funding as winners in state competition

Gen Nashimoto

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two Rochester businesses were named winners in a state-based tech competition and will receive funding because of it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday SunDensity is the winner of Round 3 of the innovative Luminate NY competition. SunDensity received the “Company of the Year” award at Luminate’s Finals 2020 competition, held at The Optical Society’s international Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science APS/DLS conference.

SunDensity, with offices in Boston and in downtown Rocheter, will receive $1 million in investment from New York State through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. As required by the award, all winners of the competition will commit to establishing operations in Rochester for at least the next 18 months. SunDensity — which originated from MIT — will be locating its operations and manufacturing in Rochester.

“Luminate NY’s strategic investments in these emerging companies have upheld New York as a worldwide leader in optics, photonics, and imaging,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release. “I congratulate SunDensity on winning Round 3 of the innovative Luminate NY competition and look forward to the company contributing to the growth of our region’s OPI industry, which will continue to help move the Finger Lakes economy forward.”

According to the governors office, “SunDensity can enhance the energy output of solar panels by 20% with their Photonic Smart Coating (PSC). PSC improves the efficiency of opto-electronic devices, such as solar cells by enhancing and shaping the spectrum of photons, transforming wasted visible light into infrared light that many devices can more easily use. For utility scale solar power producers/glass manufacturing companies that want to lower their levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to win power bids, the PSC provides increases in the panel output while decreasing the LCOE significantly, unlike AR coating.”

Other like winners include Rochester-based Simulated Inanimate Models, which was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award and $400,000. Its technology, SIM ARTS, offers an immersive “flight simulator for surgery” that eliminates patient risk by enabling surgeons to practice complete procedures on lifelike anatomical models in an augmented reality environment that does not require the presence of the expert instructing surgeon, officials from the governor’s office say.

“The winners announced today are further proof that we have no shortage of innovation and ideas when it comes to the high-tech optics and photonics sector,” Rep. Joe Morelle said in a press release. “I want to congratulate today’s winners and all of the businesses who applied to the Luminate NY initiative, whose hard work and dedication keep our community moving forward. By leveraging their unique assets, we can unlock our community’s full potential and foster continued economic growth throughout the Finger Lakes region.”

“The Luminate NY competition has been a great addition to Monroe County over the last several years and has really tapped into our region’s entrepreneurial spirit and storied leadership in innovation, photonics and advanced technology,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said in a press release. “The seed money that Luminate NY provides for these start-ups is critically important and can help to grow jobs and ideas right here in Monroe County. Congratulations to this year’s award winners.”

“I want to congratulate SunDensity on their success in Round 3 of the Luminate NY competition and wish them luck in this next, exciting phase of their development as a high-tech job creator in Rochester,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a press release. “Luminate NY gives business leaders a platform to bring their innovative ideas to the marketplace, which further positions our region as the photonics and optics capital of the world. I remain grateful to Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for bringing these 21st century companies to Rochester through Finger Lakes Forward and helping us achieve our goals of creating more jobs, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

“Congratulations to today’s winners of the Round 3 Luminate New York Lighting Awards,” State Assembly Member Harry Bronson said in a press release. “I know that today’s winners and their entrepreneurial spirit will create projects that will provide the future of job and economic growth for our state and nation. This award helps build a brighter future for our families.”

About Luminate NY

The Luminate NY accelerator is based in Rochester and selects ten promising companies each year to participate in its six-month program. During this time, companies are provided with comprehensive training and resources to advance their technologies and businesses. Applications are now being accepted for Round 4 through January 7, 2021. Because of the challenges presented by the pandemic, Luminate has adjusted its participation requirements. Teams that can physically locate to Rochester for the six-month program will receive $100,000 in funding upon program start in April 2021. Teams that are unable to locate to Rochester due to travel and Visa restrictions will receive $50,000 in funding upon program start and an additional $50,000 that must be used to engage resources in the Finger Lakes region during their time in the accelerator.

Finals 2020 marked the half-way point of the five-year, $25 million Luminate accelerator program. Since its inception, it has invested $7 million in 30 startups. The companies in the portfolio now share a net worth of $160 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 continues to be the epicenter of the OPI industry in North America.

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