University-Related Startups See Shifting Landscape for Capital

Via Photonics Media
May, 2020

While the scientifically complex, time-consuming, and resource-intensive nature of photonics R&D does pose challenges for university-related startups, new state and federal initiatives are emerging to provide a bridge to commercialization. The Luminate accelerator in Rochester, N.Y., for example, is exclusively focused on photonics startups and assists company founders with balancing the readiness of their technology with their business requirements. Since its establishment in 2017, Luminate has had 20 companies complete the program, and 10 more are currently in it. It has created approximately 60 jobs, and $6.2 million in capital has been deployed. Another initiative is MSU’s CATalyst Gap Fund Awards, which are supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“University startups are at a very early stage,” said Sujatha Ramanujan, the managing director of Luminate. “The commercialization path can be long and arduous. By taking technology straight out of a university, the investors are taking responsibility for developing the technology to be manufacturable, for ensuring the market is identified and addressed, and for making sure that the business is staffed with the correct skill set and that the entity itself functions like a business, not a research project. This is very high risk.”

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