Luminate NY participants to create 120 jobs in downtown Rochester

Two previous participants in the state-funded Luminate NY competition have committed to creating nearly 120 jobs in the city of Rochester’s Downtown Innovation Zone.

SunDensity will create close to 60 jobs as it establishes its pilot, high-tech manufacturing operations here. (provided)
SunDensity will create close to 60 jobs as it establishes its pilot, high-tech manufacturing operations here. (provided)

SunDensity, which originated from MIT and was awarded the top prize of $1 million in round three of the optics, photonics and imaging competition in 2020, will create close to 60 jobs as it establishes its pilot, high-tech manufacturing operations here.

Circle Optics, the round two $250,000 winner that was founded New York City in 2017, also will create approximately 60 jobs at the repurposed Sibley Square building downtown.

Round two winner Ovitz already has established its headquarters in Rochester, and the competitions’ inaugural winner, Double Helix Optics, has actively leveraged the optics infrastructure in the Finger Lakes region by partnering with local optics firms to develop and manufacture new products. To date, the 40 companies in the Luminate portfolio have created 100 jobs within the region, officials noted.

“Luminate NY continues to build upon Rochester and the Finger Lakes’ legacy for innovation in optics, photonics and imaging,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement. “The announcements by SunDensity and Circle Optics demonstrate their commitment to the Rochester area, and shows our investments are helping to grow the high-tech industry, creating good-paying jobs and boosting the region’s economy.”

The Luminate NY accelerator is based in Rochester and selects 10 promising companies each year to participate in its six-month program. During that time, companies are provided with comprehensive training and resources to advance their technologies and businesses. Round four is underway with the finals event planned for this fall. The accelerator competition requires that the winners commit to establishing operations in Rochester for at least 18 months.

“The Luminate Accelerator continues to bring the most promising OPI companies from around the world to the Finger Lakes Region,” said Luminate Managing Director Sujatha Ramanujan. “In addition to our rich research, development and manufacturing facilities here, these companies are finding that Rochester provides a viable soft-landing for their businesses to establish a U.S. presence.”

The Luminate NY Finals 2020 marked the half-way point of the five-year, $25 million Luminate Accelerator program, which is funded through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative and administered by Nextcorps. Since its inception, the accelerator has invested $8 million in 40 startups. The companies in the portfolio now share a net worth of $300 million. In addition to providing an estimated 1.5 to 2 times return on investment, many of the participating companies are also 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, officials said.

“We are grateful for Empire State Development’s generous support. Luminate and the NextCorps incubator, along with the Greater Boston Economic development team, continue to provide resources and information for SunDensity growth in downtown Rochester,” said SunDensity Founder and President Nishikant Sonwalkar. “We anticipate creating a large number of clean energy, high-paying jobs and to contributing to the goal of a carbon zero economy to save our planet from environmental disasters.”

Added Circle Optics CEO Zak Niazi: “Since moving our company to Rochester in 2019, we have brought on board a world-class team of a dozen image scientists, opto-mechanical engineers and digital camera experts. We are committed to helping grow the local economy by building the next generation of immersive 360-degree capture technology right here in upstate New York.”

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Three local companies win commercialization competition

Three local companies have been named winners of the FuzeHub Commercialization Competition. Each company will receive $50,000 for commercialization efforts.

Rochester’s Circle Optics Inc., Combine Energies LLC and Molecular Glasses Inc. joined startups in Ithaca, New York City and Woodbury in Nassau County as recipients of the funds, provided by the Jeff Lawrence Manufacturing Innovation Fund through Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation and administered by FuzeHub.

During the competition, 18 finalists statewide pitched their innovations in front of a live audience. A panel of six industry experts selected the award recipients based on the commercialization potential of their technology.

Circle Optics’ mission is to enable immersive, real-time experiences through seamless 360-degree content capture. The company’s camera system solves the problem of stitching by instantly capturing a perfect 360-degree representation of any scene.

Combined Energies is focused on the design, production and sales of specialty power electronics for renewable power generation, energy storage and electric vehicle applications in an estimated $5.6 billion market. The company has a patented DC to DC converter that provides improved functionality and higher efficiency than available alternatives.

Molecular Glasses has created a new class of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials that are used in cellphone displays and elsewhere. The company has a patented, novel class of OLED materials.

“Applied research and commercialization are essential to a successful manufacturing industry that creates viable products, and I congratulate the 2019 Commercialization Competition winners on innovative ideas that will expand New York’s manufacturing marketplace,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler.

The competition was launched in 2017 to support pre-revenue businesses at a specific stage in their product development. Award money must be used to produce or improve upon a working prototype, to enable the company to pursue additional investment and customers, leading to commercialization of their product.

“It’s exciting to hold this event every year,” said FuzeHub Executive Director Elena Garuc. “With additional funding, these companies can advance their commercialization strategies, which was one of the major objectives of the competition.”

FuzeHub is a nonprofit organization that connects small and midsized manufacturing companies across New York to the resources, programs and expertise they need for technology commercialization, innovation and business growth.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer