ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This year the Luminate Finals will be held virtually for free on September 14 as ten companies will share awards of $1 million in grant funding.

Ian Gauger, the Chief Operating Officer for Circle Optics, and Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, the Executive Director for Luminate, discussed the annual competition and its benefits Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation.

Circle Optics recently received a $250,000 SBIR grant. “Circle Optics is a 360-degree camera company that has produced a system capable of capturing high resolution, error-free content instantly, without the need for post-processing, so it can be live-streamed,” said Gauger. “This has applications in the media and entertainment industry along with the Department of Defense. The grant will primarily be used to design and produce fixturing used to assemble and calibrate our camera systems.”

Gauger said Circle Optics has leveraged Rochester assets to support its growth. “Rochester is a super affordable place to live, work and start a business. But it’s not that its cheap, the region provides a rich offering of amenities and resources comparable to a much larger city while retaining a small city feel and lifestyle. It is the best place in the world to start an optical or imaging business. The region is loaded with OPI experts and supported by world class programs at U of R, RIT, and MCC.
Furthermore, we have received invaluable assistance and support from the local incubators, RIT Venture Creations and NextCorps, as well as the Luminate Accelerator which has made countless connections and provided us with funding used to grow our business here in Rochester.”

Ramanujan said the Luminate Finals will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, September 14. Register for free at “This year Luminate went virtual, engaging teams from around the world and showcasing the manufacturing and business aspects of Rochester. Many teams were forced to return home but participated remotely. Luminate hosted a virtual tradeshow of regional optics companies, an event we hope to repeat. We are finding in this time of restricted travel and global uncertainty, Luminate is able to provide the US manufacturing and sales capabilities to companies from around the world and many get to see the advantages of setting up a business in the region even when they can’t be here personally. Others are seeing that Rochester as the headquarters for a business is more economically manageable in times of crisis.”

Greater Rochester Enterprise supports Luminate. To learn more about GRE visit