Semi-finalists for 2014 SPIE Startup Challenge announced

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Two dozen aspiring entrepreneurs in photonics have been named as semi-finalists in the 2014 SPIE Startup Challenge. The challenge invites new entrepreneurs to pitch their photonics technology proposals to a team of business experts, where they have the chance to win cash prizes and receive support from SPIE to refine their ideas. Both the competition and the announcement of the winners will be held at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco in February.

The Startup Challenge was designed to recognise the potential of light-based technology ideas for commercialisation in order to promote a new generation of entrepreneurs that will contribute greatly to photonics technology in the future. The focus is on new businesses and potential start-ups; therefore, companies that have already sold products are ineligible.

The semi-finalists that consist of graduate students, academics and first-time business starters, will pitch their optics or photonics technology ideas that have the potential to become a viable new business. A panel of business development experts and venture capitalists will then decide upon and announce the winners at Photonics West.

The top prize for the challenge is $10,000 plus $5,000 in credit toward equipment from Edmund Optics. The second-place finisher will win $5,000, and the third $2,500. Cash prizes are funded by founding sponsor Jenoptik with additional support from Trumpf, Open Photonics, and Knobbe Martens. SPIE will provide support for winners to attend a week-long entrepreneur ‘boot camp’ for further help in refining their ideas.

The Startup Challenge and other industry events focused on photonics commercialisation complement a new virtual technical symposium on Translational Research chaired by Bruce Tromberg, director of the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Center. The Translational Research programme highlights papers from the BiOS symposium, which takes place at Photonics West, that address the latest photonics technologies, tools, and devices that have high potential for clinical use.