Governor Hochul Announces Round Six Winners of Luminate NY Accelerator Competition

Via GlobeNewswire

Oculi Receives $1 Million in Investment; Five Additional Companies Secure Follow-on Investments

Applications Now Being Accepted for Round 7 of the Optics, Photonics, and Imaging Competition until January 8, 2024

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

Photo and Video of Luminate NY Competitors Available Here

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Sept. 17, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Governor Kathy Hochul today announced Oculi as the winner of Round Six of the Luminate NY optics, photonics, and imaging startup accelerator competition. Baltimore, Maryland-based Oculi received the “Company of the Year” Award at Luminate Finals 2023, which was held live at Innovation Square in downtown Rochester, and online. The company will receive $1 million in investment from New York State through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Oculi will use the follow-on funding to move its headquarters to Rochester, and to scale operations for mass production, expanding sales, and for developing advanced versions of its products. Luminate NY, which is administered by NextCorps, is the world’s largest business accelerator for emerging companies that have technologies enabled by optics, photonics, and imaging. The Finals event marks the completion of the sixth year of the cohort-based program, which now has over 50 companies in its portfolio. As required by the award, all winners of the competition will commit to establishing operations in the region for at least the next 18 months.

Charbel Rizk, CEO of Oculi, Luminate 2023 Company of the Year

“Thanks to Luminate NY, our state will continue to lead the nation on cutting-edge technological research,” Governor Hochul said. “The winners of the competition’s Round Six represent some of world’s most innovative businesses that are bringing transformative products in optics, photonics, and the imaging supply chain to market. I congratulate this year’s winners, and remain committed to supporting the fast-growing, high-tech businesses and industries that will move New York forward.”

Oculi is redefining computer and machine vision with the world’s first smart programmable vision sensor, the Oculi SPU™ (Sensing and Processing Unit). It combines the efficiency of biology—more specifically the human eye—and the speed of machines to make computer vision faster and more efficient. By embedding intelligence in the sensor at the pixel level, the innovative chip has the power to transform smart devices across homes, offices, and vehicles. Oculi’s SPU is ideal for visual intelligence at the edge, such as gesture tracking, facial recognition, and low latency eye tracking.

CEO of Oculi Charbel Rizk said, “The Luminate program, team, and the region surpassed my expectations. I learned so much about the beautiful Finger Lakes region and the relevant ecosystem that exists here. Had I known that earlier on, it would have been my company’s home from day one.”

Washington, DC-based Digiteyez was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award and $400,000 in follow-on investment. The company is digitizing the vision industry by delivering eyecare on demand with Clear, a quick and easy online eye test that customers can take anywhere, from any device.

Three companies tied for the Distinguished Graduate Award, with each receiving $200,000 in follow-on funding. They include Chicago, Illinois-based NanoPattern Technologies, which is transforming display manufacturing with its patented chemistry and quantum dot ink; Berlin, Germany-based Quantune Technologies, which is commercializing the world’s first chip-sized laser spectrometer; and Swave Photonics from Leuven, Belgium, which is transforming how augmented and virtual reality are experienced through its Holographic eXtended Reality (HXR) technology.

Honorable Achievement and $50,000 went to Photonect Interconnect Solutions, a Rochester-based startup that is reshaping the future of optical fiber to photonic chip connections by using laser technology instead of traditional glue.

Investments today were presented after a panel of judges from the optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI) industry and venture capitalist community scored the participating companies based on their business pitches and due diligence completed during the six-month accelerator program.

Since its inception, Luminate NY has invested $18 million in 63 startups. The companies in the portfolio now share a net worth of more than $650 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 has resulted in 164 jobs. Last year’s Company of the Year winner, Lidrotec Technologies, has established a New York office, and is working on setting up a prototype system in New York.

Luminate NY Managing Director Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan said, “Early-stage companies developing deep tech require support that is specific to their needs. With the rich OPI resources that are available in the Finger Lakes, we’re able to match them to the expertise, partners, and investors that can help them speed the trajectory of their technology and business. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for the program’s continuation, which is bringing the best emerging companies to our region.”

The Luminate NY accelerator is based in Rochester and selects 10 to 12 promising companies each year to participate in its hybrid, six-month program. During this time, companies are provided with more than 200 hours of instruction, along with the resources to advance their technologies and businesses. Applications are now being accepted for Round Seven through January 8, 2024. Teams will receive $100,000 in funding upon program start in April 2024, with the expectation that $50,000 will be used to engage resources in the Finger Lakes region. Teams are expected to come to Rochester for select weeks and to also participate virtually during their time in the accelerator.

The Finger Lakes Region is home to an incredibly rich ecosystem of forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their business. Rochester offers the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics’ Test, Assembly, and Packaging facility at Eastman Business Park, the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and more than 150 local OPI companies which employ over 17,000 employees.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, “Congratulations to Oculi and to all finalists who took part in Round Six of the innovative Luminate NY competition. Luminate’s laser focus on accelerating innovation and investment in New York’s world-renowned optics, photonics, and imaging industries has further established the Finger Lakes as an OPI hub, and we are excited about the growth and impact that these forward-thinking companies will bring to the region.”

State Senator Jeremy Cooney said, “Our region has been an innovator and leader in emerging technologies for generations. Congratulations to Oculi, and all finalists who took part in Round Six of the innovative Luminate NY competition. I am looking forward to the future growth and impact these companies will bring to the Finger Lakes Region as we continue to expand our world-renowned optics, photonics, and imaging industries.”

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said, “Congratulations to Oculi for winning Round Six of the Luminate NY Competition! Oculi and all the finalists represent the type of dynamic innovations that will accelerate our tech sectors now to prepare us for the future. Their ingenuity and creativity will continue to bring job opportunities and investments to our region. We must meet their vision and successes with equitable workforce development programs that not only support emerging and expanding industries, but also provide career pathways for all members of our community.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said, “The Luminate NY accelerator program keeps driving entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth in Monroe County. Congratulations to Oculi and all Round Six finalists, who will undoubtedly advance cutting-edge technology in our region and continue to bring high-tech optics, photonics and imaging job opportunities and investment to Monroe County. Thank you to Empire State Development, Finger Lakes Forward and Gov. Kathy Hochul for making these crucial investments and helping shape the future of our region’s technology landscape.”

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said, “Rochester’s history is full of creative thinkers, risk takers, and problem solvers whose work changed the world—and that tradition is proudly embraced by our visionary state and local leaders,” said Mayor Malik D. Evans. “They have worked tirelessly to encourage and grow our city’s pre-eminence in photonics, optics, and imaging. Congratulations to Oculi and all the finalists, with best wishes for your future success—because your success is our success.”

For additional information about Luminate NY, visit

For additional information about NextCorps, visit

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive strategy to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture‎ and food production, and advanced manufacturing. More information is available here.​

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency ( The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of ““I LOVE NY”, the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

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