Governor Cuomo Announces Round 3 Winners of Luminate NY Accelerator Competition in Rochester

Via New York State

SunDensity Awarded Top Honors and $1 Million in Investment

Four Additional Visionary Optics, Photonics, and Imaging Companies Secure Follow-on Funding Investment

Applications Now Being Accepted for Round 4 Through January 7, 2021

NYS Investment Complements “Finger Lakes Forward” – the Region’s Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced 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. The company 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, which is administered by NextCorps, is the world’s largest business accelerator for startup firms that have optics, photonics and imaging enabled technologies.

“Luminate NY’s strategic investments in these emerging companies have upheld New York as a worldwide leader in optics, photonics, and imaging,” Governor Cuomo said. “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.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul provided remarks during the virtual event, recognizing the accomplishments of the cohort companies, along with Luminate NY’s impact on advancing emerging technologies and the Finger Lakes Region.

“Luminate NY is advancing technological innovation and lighting the path forward for the Finger Lakes region,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The third round of the competition continues to support businesses and grow the high-tech industry, creating jobs and boosting the Rochester area economy. I congratulate the winners of this year’s Luminate NY Competition. Our investments in innovative photonics companies are continuing to move the Finger Lakes Forward.”

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.

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.

Rochester-based Simulated Inanimate Models 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. Rubitection, based in Pittsburgh secured the Distinguished Graduate Award and $300,000 for its Rubitect Assessment System (RAS), which provides early bedsore detection and management tools. Honorable Achievements and $250,000 in funding each went to two companies: AkknaTek—a Germany based company providing a Lens Reviewer, Optical Imaging System that reduces post-operative refractive surprises after cataract surgery—and Nodetect, a Denmark company offering a portable, rapid nanosensor for analyzing biochemicals in the agriculture and farming industries.

Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, Managing Director, Luminate NY said, “Luminate NY continues to give companies from around the world a resource-rich place to establish U.S. operations and to advance the caliber of their technology and business. It’s this type of inventive ecosystem and statewide support that makes the Finger Lakes region a smart destination for OPI based companies.”

Dr. Nishikant Sonwalkar, CEO, SunDensity, said, “We are really delighted to win this award. With this support, SunDensity is on its way to great success in New York State and beyond.”

Investments today were presented after a panel of judges from the OPI industry and venture capitalist community scored companies in Cohort 3 based on their business pitches. The more than 800 attendees at the event also had an opportunity to vote for their favorite company. The Audience Choice award for $10,000 went to Kilo Medical Solutions, a medical startup that developed a product that can be hooked up to incubators to control lighting for infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan said, “The Luminate Finals competition added a level of excitement to the combined FiO + LS and Quantum 2.0 Conferences that captivated attendees from across the globe. This accelerator program will continue to inspire innovation and encourage the optics, photonics, and imaging community to rally behind early-stage companies with groundbreaking technologies.”

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.

Last year’s winner, Ovitz, has established its headquarters in Rochester, and employs four full-time and three part-time staff.

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “I want to congratulate the winners of the third round of the Luminate NY competition. The innovative ideas of these entrepreneurs are spurring economic growth in the optics, photonics and imaging industries which are thriving in the Finger Lakes region. This investment creates jobs and boosts the area economy, and I am looking forward to seeing the progress of these companies as they continue their collaborations with mentoring partners throughout the region.”

Congressman Joe Morelle said, “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. 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.”

State Senator Joe Robach said, “Congratulations to all the finalists for Round 3, and in particular to SunDensity for being chosen as the winner of this round of the Luminate NY competition. The Rochester region has a long and rich history in optics, photonics, imaging and advanced technology and has been a sustainable leader in these fields for generations. I encourage all emerging tech businesses and startups to look at the success of all Luminate NY competitors and apply to participate in Round 4 this exciting program.”

State Assembly Member Harry Bronson said, “Congratulations to today’s winners of the Round 3 Luminate New York Lighting Awards. 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.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said, “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. 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.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren said, “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. 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.”

For additional information about Luminate NY, visit


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 $8.07 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. 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.

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