ROCHESTER, N.Y., Nov. 22, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Luminate NY—the world’s largest accelerator for startups developing optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI) enabled technologies—announced today that it has formed a strategic partnership with Silicon Catalyst, the world’s only incubator focused on accelerating semiconductor solutions. Under the joint partnership, the two organizations will work closely together to recruit the most innovative early-stage startups into their accelerator programs to allow for concurrent participation. This will expand the support ecosystem for founders working on industry solutions that are enabled by OPI and semiconductor chip design to ultimately reduce the cost and complexity of development.
“Critical technologies such as silicon photonics, lasers, and electronic packaging rely on the integration of semiconductor technology and photonics. These complex integrations are the building blocks of emerging applications like autonomous sensing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum applications,” said Sujatha Ramanujan, Managing Director, Luminate NY. “This partnership will help to close the development and manufacturing gaps that often exist when working across multiple technical disciplines to bring novel technologies to market.”
The partnership will also improve access to funding opportunities for early-stage companies. Startups developing OPI-based products receive $100,000 upon admission to Luminate and have the chance to compete for up to $2 million on follow-on funding to support their growth. In addition, over the past 8 years, Silicon Catalyst has enabled access to over $400M in funding to its portfolio companies, as well as over $200 million derived from both in-kind services and grants.
Owl Autonomous Imaging, an early-stage company that earned a spot in the Silicon Catalyst’s 24-month accelerator in 2018, experienced this problem firsthand when it needed to integrate optics and imaging with machine learning and silicon chip design in order to deliver the first monocular 3D Thermal Ranging solution to the autonomous vehicle industry. After it graduated Silicon Catalyst’s program, it was accepted into Luminate’s fourth cohort in 2021. During this time period, the company had to execute on a very aggressive schedule for chip-level development, while at the same time, build a complete imaging automotive-grade system solution.
“Working together with both Silicon Catalyst and Luminate, we were able to leverage their strategic and in-kind partners, financiers, advisors, and mentors to build a solid company foundation and, ultimately, introduce a world-first solution,” said Gene Petilli, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Owl Autonomous Imaging.
Owl’s patented 3D Thermal Ranger™ provides HD imaging and precision ranging, which represents a 150x improvement in resolution and cloud density of LiDAR. It operates both day and night, in all weather, to definitively classify pedestrians, cyclists, animals, and vehicles, all the while calculating position, direction, and speed to unlock safe autonomous and semi-autonomous operation.
“Owl’s success helped Silicon Catalyst and Luminate validate the impact that a strategic partnership could have on the development trajectory of groundbreaking technologies,” said Silicon Catalyst partner Lance Bell. “By formalizing this relationship and working together, we will be able to more effectively screen and evaluate each startup’s potential, closely pair our cohort companies to mentors and resources to speed time to market, and de-risk investments.”
Benefits like these have helped Owl’s growth trajectory. In July, the company made public its plans to move to a larger headquarters and expand its operations, including adding up to 105 jobs.
In addition to providing the ability to participate in both programs concurrently, the partnership will increase startup access to connections, collaborations, and funding. Luminate and Silicon Catalyst will collaborate on startup recruitment and selection, with a focus on elevating women and minority owned companies to ensure equitable access to comprehensive support. The organizations will also leverage their investor networks and portfolios to improve funding opportunities.
Silicon Catalyst provides critical support to semiconductor hardware startups as they move from idea through prototype to initial product. Since its founding in 2015, it has reviewed over 700 early-stage companies and admitted 88 startups into its incubator. The companies get access to tools and services from a comprehensive network of In-Kind Partners (IKPs)—including design tools, simulation software, design services, foundry PDK access and MPW runs, test program development, and tester access—which dramatically reduces the cost of chip development. Additionally, the startups tap into the world-class Silicon Catalyst ecosystem of advisors, investors and academic research organizations. In 2021, Silicon Catalyst was named Semiconductor Review’s Top-10 Solutions Company award winner with its portfolio companies currently valued at over $1.5 billion.
Since its inception in 2018, Luminate has reviewed nearly 600 early-stage companies from around the world for entrance into its competitive, six-month accelerator program, and has accepted and invested $15 million in 53 startups. The companies in the portfolio now share a net worth of over $400 million, and many are establishing U.S. operations or some aspect of research and manufacturing in the Rochester and Finger Lakes New York region, which has long been viewed as the optics and imaging capital of the world.
The strategic partnership dovetails on recent news that highlights New York’s deepening commitment to both OPI and semiconductor capabilities, which includes funding for Luminate for four more years from Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and Micron’s plans to invest $100 billion transform Central NY into a global, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing hub.