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NYS Bolsters Photonics Start-Ups

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2017
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — New York State is establishing a $10 million, multi-year Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester. The business competition aims to support start-up companies that commercialize these technologies through a business accelerator program; a top award of one million dollars will be given to the most promising startup company.

There are currently no accelerator programs in the world with a photonics focus and the Rochester region is uniquely poised to build a nationally, or globally, recognized program.

“Rochester has quickly become a leader in innovative manufacturing and now is the time to build on that momentum to ensure sustained economic growth for the entire region," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “With more than 120 companies anchored by some of the nation’s top research institutions, the Finger Lakes Region is now one of the world’s leading centers for the photonics industry. What better place than Rochester to establish this challenge and help focus entrepreneurial resources on the photonics industry in order to create a collaborative environment for startups to grow and thrive.”

The basic elements of the Photonics Venture Challenge are:

Ten to 15 startups will be selected for the program through an annual competitive application process, each receiving an initial investment ranging between $100,000 to $125,000 in exchange for equity. Selections for the first round will be made by fall 2017.

Participants will go through a 4- to 6-month structured accelerator program where they will build products, access customers and refine their business models, and gain initial market traction. The program will provide work space in the Rochester region, access to regional assets, resources, labs, and so on, and connections to mentors and industry partners.

Each year’s competition will conclude with a large-scale “Demo Day,” where all teams present in a public forum to an audience that will include venture capitalists, optics/photonics companies, and other industry players.

The three most promising startups in the program will compete for additional “best in class” funding investments: $1 million for first prize and $500,000 for second and third prizes, announced at the Demo Day.

The award winners must live and operate in the Rochester region for at least one year following their award, ideally within or near the AIM Photonics Testing Assembly and Packaging (TAP) facility at Eastman Business Park or within or near the Sibley Square business accelerator headquarters.

This Photonics Venture Challenge builds on Gov. Cuomo’s announcement in December 2016 that the state-of-the-art AIM Photonics Manufacturing Facility will be located in Eastman Business Park in Rochester at ON Semiconductor. The facility will be used to test, assemble and package chips that use photons in place of electrons for increased performance of semiconductor circuits.

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