SunDensity wins $1M at Luminate Finals 2020
SunDensity was named Company of the Year and took home the grand prize–$1 million—at Luminate’s Finals 2020 competition. The event was held virtually at The Optical Society’s international Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science APS/DLS conference.
Luminate NY, administered by NextCorps, is the world’s largest business accelerator for startup firms that have optics, photonics and imaging enabled technologies.
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.
SunDensity can enhance the energy output of solar panels by 20% with their Photonic Smart Coating. 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. to win power bids, the PSC provides increases in the panel output while decreasing the LCOE significantly, unlike AR coating.
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.
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 will be locating its operations and manufacturing in Rochester.
“Luminate NY’s strategic investments in these emerging companies have upheld New York as a worldwide leader in optics, photonics, and imaging,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “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.”
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.
“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,” said Eric Gertler, acting commissioner and president & CEO-designate of Empire State Development. “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.”
Investments 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.
The Luminate NY accelerator 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 Jan. 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.