Photonics startup accelerator gets $10 million in New York

The governor's office is using the high-tech business incubator as a means to attract research and development in a growing field to the state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 budget published Monday includes $10 million in funding for what his office claims would be the world’s first photonics startup accelerator.

The new program, called the Photonics Venture Challenge, will award $1 million to a winning startup working within a group of technologies that includes lasers, fiber optics, and other light-based systems. The state reports the competition would be the first of its kind in the world and help position the Rochester region, where the challenge is to be located, as an industry anchor for technologies used in fields including construction, medicine, consumer electronics, and the physical infrastructure of the internet itself.

The state already is investing in photonics with through an organization called the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, placed in Rochester following a recommendation by the New York State Photonics Board of Officers in December.

After an application period now ongoing, the state will select 10 to 15 startups this fall. Each company will receive $100,000 to $125,000, gain access to work space, and participate in a four- to six-month accelerator program in which company leaders will refine their business models and attempt to join the market.


At the end of the accelerator period, three of the “most promising” companies will be selected and receive cash prizes and have their technologies showcases at a demo day held by the state. Award winners are required to stay within the region and operate for at least one year.

State lawmakers passed the budget on Sunday. The photonics program finds space in a $153.1 billion budget alongside the largest investment in education in state history at $25.8 billion, as well as $854 million in appropriations for the state’s Office of Information Technology Services.

The education appropriations include free tuition at public colleges in the state for students of families that earn less than $100,000 annually. Similar to the requirements of the photonics program, students are required to remain in the region for as many years as they received the benefit or forfeit the funding.

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