Luminate Accelerator Continues Support of Photonics Industry as Cohort-Five Application Period Nears a Close

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ROCHESTER, N.Y., Jan. 12, 2022 — As members of its first four cohorts continue to ascend the commercial optics and photonics landscape, the Rochester, N.Y.-based Luminate accelerator is less than one week away from the close of applications for finalists for its fifth cohort. The largest business accelerator for optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI) startups crowned its most recent winner in September, upon the completion of the six-month program that aims to speed the commercialization of finalists’ technologies and businesses.

Luminate is seeking applications for cohort 5 before 11:59 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Startups developing a new application that leverages some aspect of OPI are encouraged to apply. Previous finalists’ products have supported autonomous vehicles, augmented reality/virtual reality, climate tech, communications, defense, entertainment, medical devices, quantum computing, security, and more.

The accelerator welcomed its first cohort in 2018, with finalists from three countries representing the fields of spectroscopy and medical devices; photonic devices, lasers, materials, and display; and augmented and virtual reality, sensors, instrumentation, and image recognition. In subsequent cohorts, Luminate has received applications from companies in more than 20 countries.

The types of technologies that the accelerator has welcomed into its network reflect the key shifts and trends that are shaping the industry’s ecosystem. Many of the technologies that Luminate finalists have developed — from those aimed at everything from cybersecurity to photonic smart coatings for solar panels — have helped to inspire those trends.

“As the program has progressed, we have begun to see more deep tech, and integrated photonics companies. We are also seeing later stage companies specifically looking to scale their technology and business,” said Sujatha Ramanujan, Luminate’s managing director. “Prior cohorts tended to be more medical device focused. As the program’s reputation has grown, we are attracting companies seeking the specific assistance Rochester and its rich ecosystem of resources can provide.”

Luminate provides an immediate investment of $100,000 upon acceptance, as well as mentorship from industry experts and access to investors, lab facilities, and comprehensive curriculum. Upon graduation from the program, the companies compete for a portion of $2 million in follow-on funding provided through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

The wide range of photonic technologies featured in each cohort correlates to an array of different end products. Tailored market analyses, available resources, and consideration of all facets of R&D, commercialization, and manufacturing are among the benefits to finalists.

“The very first step in the accelerator is an evaluation stage, where we meet with each company to identify specifically what that company needs to progress,” Ramanujan said. “In our earlier cohorts, we spent a great deal of time on market definition and defining the business. We find with the later cohorts, we are spending more energy on supply chain and manufacturing resources. Many of our companies are selling products and are looking to scale the production of these products. For such companies, we shift our support to finding the right partners and facilities. In all cases, staffing is a big part of where companies need support.”

The talent pool in the Rochester area that colleges and universities in the region help to cultivate, as well as the more than 150 optics and photonics companies in the Finger Lakes region, help cohort members in these phases of their development.

As the selection of companies for its fifth cohort draws near, Luminate is focused on addressing timely, topical challenges within the optics and photonics ecosystem, Ramanujan said. The ongoing pandemic situation remains at the fore.

“It is our hope that we will see companies that recognize the value of the ecosystem and can help alleviate some of the supply chain shortages that tech industries are facing,” Ramanujan said. “Innovation is spurred by need. As such, we anticipate novel approaches to solving rapid turnaround and different design approaches. We also anticipate ethnical solutions to remote patient care and an increased focus on biophotonics.”

For further information and to apply, visit

Published: January 2022
LuminateLuminate AcceleratorLuminate FinalsSujatha RamanujanBusinessRochesterOpticsImagingcommercialindustrial

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