An innovation showcase

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Luminate is getting ready to pull the curtain back on innovation. The startup accelerator program will showcase the latest in optics, photonics and imaging technologies at its “Light Tomorrow with Today” Demo Day on June 27.

The NextCorps program also will award $2 million in follow-on funding to its second cohort of startups at the Rochester International Jazz Festival’s Big Tent. 

Sujatha Ramanujan, director of Luminate, says Demo Day is a way for the community to get an inside look at the progress these fledgling firms have made and understand the advancements possible in health care, augmented reality, entertainment and security. She answered questions posed by the Rochester Beacon below.

ROCHESTER BEACON: What can we expect on Demo Day? What are you looking forward to in particular?

Sujatha Ramanujan

SUJATHA RAMANUJAN: You can expect to see some really exciting innovations from the Luminate companies. When I describe what companies are working on here to others, they are amazed that this type of invention is happening. They are surprised that many have the potential to change the way we deliver services in a range of industries like vision care, health care, entertainment, security, etc. It’s important for the community to see the type of innovation and progress that’s occurring here through the accomplishments of companies like these.

Those who are attending the Light Tomorrow with Today Demo Day event can expect to participate and have fun: 

  • Our teams will engage the audience with their technology demonstrations, providing the ability to see firsthand the impact their discoveries will have.
  • The audience will be able to sample foods from local food entrepreneurs and favorite vendors
  • The audience will be able to vote for their favorite cohort team via texting, and the winner will be awarded $10,000

ROCHESTER BEACON: How do you think the second cohort has fared so far? What have you learned from them?

RAMANUJAN: This cohort has done really well in forwarding their businesses and their technologies. I’ve learned so much from them. Primarily, how important it is to help them engage in the financial community on the East Coast so they can not only develop their technology but also access the resources we have here to get their products manufactured. Everyone is quick to recognize the investor community on the West Coast. But there is a large, very strong investor community on the East Coast as well, and they’re ready to support innovations that will bring new capabilities to industries that are quickly evolving. 

ROCHESTER BEACON: Applications for the third cohort have begun. Do you expect more interest as the awareness of the program grows?

RAMANUJAN: I believe general awareness of Luminate will grow, as will awareness of the optics, photonics, and imaging ecosystem we have here in the Finger Lakes region. In terms of companies applying to Luminate, I expect that we’ll get a higher quality of interest as we move into the next recruitment period, which runs now until Sept. 23. This program isn’t about getting as many companies as possible to apply. It’s about getting the right companies—with the best optics, photonics, and imaging-enabled applications out there—to participate. These startups will have more opportunity to strengthen their businesses through Luminate than those who aren’t the right fit or aren’t ready to fully take advantage of all of the support we provide.

ROCHESTER BEACON: In what ways can the community help Luminate?

RAMANUJAN: Obviously the optics, photonics, and imaging community can help by supporting these startups in a number of ways—sharing their technical expertise, helping them manufacture their technology, using their facilities if our labs don’t have what they need, etc. That’s the innovation side. On the social and environmental side, the general community can help as well. People can take the time to participate in events like Demo Day to give the teams feedback and share their interest in what they’re working on. The teams also benefit from seeing and experiencing all the wonderful things we have available in this region. So, talk to them about your favorite things here, share ideas of what they should be doing on the weekends and evening. These conversations help convey why this place is so special to live and work in. We’d love it if they all decided to establish a permanent presence here. 

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