New York State’s $10 million photonics accelerator program highlighted at SPIE Photonics West

During the Start-up Challenge, Jim Senall, president of High Tech Rochester, gave a preview of the Finger Lakes Regional Photonics Venture Challenge.

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IMAGE. Speaking during SPIE Photonics West, Jim Senall from High Tech Rochester described the Photonics Venture Challenge. (Courtesy of SPIE)

During the SPIE Start-up Challenge at Photonics West, Jim Senall, president of High Tech Rochester, gave a preview of the Finger Lakes Regional Photonics Venture Challenge, which makes a total of $10 million available to start-up teams around the world that are developing photonics products.

The Challenge will be based at High Tech Rochester’s Business Accelerator in the Sibley Building in Rochester, and aims to attract high-growth potential companies to the region and foster the growth of companies and technologies developed in the New York Finger Lakes Region. High Tech Rochester is an affiliate of the University of Rochester and is a state- and federally-designated incubator.

Start-up companies will compete for 10 to 15 slots. Once selected, companies will receive an initial investment and will participate in an intensive 4 to 6 month business accelerator program. At the end of each session, three of the most promising companies in the program will compete for “best in class” investments ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. High Tech Rochester says that the Photonics Venture Challenge will be the largest start-up accelerator and competition in the world that focuses on growth in photonics.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Photonics Venture Challenge in his State of the State Address on January 9, 2017. It is modeled after Western New York’s 43North, a $5 million start-up competition funded by the State’s Buffalo Billion initiative, where cash prizes are awarded. 43North winners also receive free incubator space in Buffalo for one year, guidance from mentors in related fields, and access to other business incentive programs such as START-UP NY. Like 43North, the winners of the Photonics Venture Challenge must commit to locating in the Rochester region for at least one year after the award.

For more information, visit High Tech Rochester ( or contact Jim Senall at 585-214-2401 or

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