Roc’s Newest OPI Innovators Make Their Mark


It’s been awhile since we’ve shared an update with our Lens subscribers. Forgive us — we’ve been busy! Time to catch you up.

Since our last edition, we selected and onboarded our latest cohort of startups – ten teams innovating in machine vision, quantum, healthcare, and other fields; plus two companies participating outside of the finalist structure to gain access to regional resources. (Miss the announcement? Get to know all the teams.)

We expanded our Advisory Board, welcoming the expertise of:

  • Dr. Thomas Brown, Director of the Institute of Optics
  • Paul Pickering, Managing Partner at Silicon Catalyst
  • Marc Tricard, Vice President and General Manager at MKS Instruments, and
  • Ed White, Chairman of the National Photonics Initiative

Luminate's impact stats from 2018-2022We also tabulated the impact Luminate has had since launching the accelerator in 2018. Jump to pages 10-13 of NextCorps’ 2022 Impact Report for Luminate highlights, stats, and stories.

(There’s a lot more in there, too! The nonprofit behind Luminate has crushed the organizational goals set five years ago, serving more than 500 companies through its incubator, multiple accelerators, and other programs.)

Lastly, we’re officially funded through cohort 9! Thank you to Empire State Development for continuing the support that makes Luminate possible.

It’s hard to believe we’re more than half-way through our sixth year, and even harder to predict the game-changing, industry-shaking solutions that will come our way next!

Get to Know Cohort 6

Norcon Technologies is building a better, more scalable solution to depth imaging, used in applications from mapping interior spaces, to in-cabin monitoring in cars, to facial recognition and industrial security. With its novel infrared optics technology, Norcon makes 3D mapping faster, simpler, and less expensive. Learn more.

Oculi is solving the fundamental problems of traditional machine vision with the world’s first smart programmable vision sensor, the OCULI SPU™ (Sensing and Processing Unit). The chip combines the efficiency of biology, more specifically the human eye, and the speed of machines to make computer vision faster and more efficient. Learn more.

Swave Photonics is revolutionizing the world of augmented reality. The company’s Holographic eXtended Reality (HXR) technology is designed to deliver lifelike, high-resolution 3D images that are viewable with the naked eye, without the ergonomic or economical constraints of prior applications. Learn more.

Stay tuned! Profiles on all the startups of cohort 6 are rolling out each week.

Hitting the Books & Having a Blast

Cohort 6 kicked off in Luminate’s usual manner with immersion into the fundamentals of running a business and scaling technologies for commercialization. Each team started with a baseline assessment and were assigned to mentors who could help them tackle their specific challenges. Next, they participated in numerous activities — both informational and fun — to get to know each other and the vast resources available to them in the region.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Our annual Tech Fast Pitch event with members of New York Photonics/RRPC, to share capabilities and discuss business needs
  • A Regional Showcase that enabled local organizations to provide overviews of their services and network with Luminate teams, to explore potential support for growing their businesses
  • An Electronics Symposium with Arrow Electronics, featuring technology demos and 1:1 meetings with Arrow, Onsemi, Molex, LD Allen, NXP Semiconductors, and Silicon Labs
  • A tour of Black Button, a small batch distillery in Rochester gaining national attention for its Bourbon Cream and Lilac Gin, and dinner at the iconic Genesee Brewery on the city’s famous High Falls waterway
  • A jam-packed celebration during NextCorps’ 5th anniversary party with special guests including the Senior Vice President of Economic Development at Empire State Development, Vincent Esposito; Monroe County Executive Adam Bello; and the City of Rochester’s Mayor Malik Evans
  • A close-up view to top artists playing at the Rochester International Jazz Festival
  • A night of bowling and breaking down the pins at Radio Social with local law firm, Boylan Code

Entrepreneurs to Watch

In the latest installment of its biennial “Entrepreneurs to Watch,” Optics & Photonics News is featuring entrepreneurs building intriguing new businesses on a foundation of optics and photonics. Just ten entrepreneurs were chosen, and two are in the Luminate fold!

Congratulations to Zak Niazi, Founder and CEO of Circle Optics (Luminate cohort 2), and to Eric Ingram, Co-Founder and CEO of SCOUT (cohort 5).

Check out the Q&A with Niazi, and stay tuned for Ingram’s interview in mid-August.

SCOUT's Eric Ingram
SCOUT’s Eric Ingram
Circle Optics' Zak Niazi
Circle Optics’ Zak Niazi

Portfolio Wins

Swave Photonics closed a seed round expansion with an additional investment of €3 million, bringing total funds secured to €10 million. With this investment, Swave will continue to execute its AR roadmap and engage future customers, partners, and investors interested in driving true holography for spatial computing.

Circle Optics was one of ten companies selected for NSIN Propel New York 2023, an accelerator focused on advancing technology solutions that are prime for adaptation to address the operational imperatives of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). This win comes shortly after Circle was awarded a $850,000 NASA Phase II SBIR contract to continue work on “Enhance Detect and Avoid Optical Sensing for Urban Air Mobility.”

PreAct Technologies closed its Series B funding round earlier this year, raising a total of $20M. The funding will allow the company to address a growing need for powerful AI-based computer vision technology in new, non-automotive markets.

EmGenisys continues to score coverage for its novel approach to evaluating a bovine embryo’s health to improve the success rates of embryo transfer and IVF. The company is now in the process of enrolling select farms and laboratories for pilots.

News from the Optics Epicenter

Did you know there are more than 150 optics, photonics, and imaging companies in the Greater Rochester area? It’s no wonder we continue to maintain our title as the optics capital of the world, long after the heyday of the “Big Three” (Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch + Lomb). The combination of higher education and training opportunities, skilled talent, research centers, and collaborative organizations makes Rochester the perfect place for Luminate companies to grow and thrive.

In fact, MIT economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson put Rochester at the top of a list of 102 cities with potential to become the next American innovation hubs back in 2019. A few years later, that vision is coming to fruition.

Two MIT Profs ID’d An Aging NY City As The Next Innovation Hub. Their Data Is Proving Right.

G&H Expands Its Capabilities with the Acquisition of GS Optics, Driving Innovation and Growth

AIM Photonics Receives Approval for $27.5M in Funding

Lisa Belodoff and Sujatha Ramanujan at the June 2023 press conference for G&H's acquisition of GS Optics
(Left) Lisa Belodoff, CEO and Founder of Bell Collaborative, and (right) Luminate’s Managing Director, Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, on NextCorps’ rooftop for a press conference to announce G&H’s acquisition of GS Optics this past June. Belodoff and Ramanujan hold up the New York Photonics/RRPC poster, which captures the volume of OPI companies here.

How Commitment to Culture Pays Off at Optimax

How Commitment to Company Culture Pays Off at Optimax - with Rick PlymptonOptimax Systems, Inc. was a small startup operating out of a barn in the mid-90s, and today it’s America’s largest precision optics manufacturer. Optimax employs 460 people and counting in Rochester, NY, supplying complex optics for NASA, key programs in government research and defense, and many commercial applications.

Rick Plympton, CEO of Optimax, talks with Luminate’s Director of Technology Integration, Dr. Damon Diehl, about the company’s roots, the shift to an employee ownership trust, and the many ways Optimax continues to create a great environment for people to work in.

Listen here.

Save the Date & Register Early!

Luminate Finals 2023 is just around the corner. Join us in the heart of Downtown Rochester on Wednesday, September 27th to watch the startups of cohort 6 light up the stage at Luminate’s annual showcase and awards ceremony. Grab your ticket today!

Luminate Finals 2023

Headed to SPIE Optics + Photonics? We’ll be there! Come meet members of the Luminate team at booth #216. Learn more and register.

See You Next Month!