SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finalists’ ideas span global, personal health to food safety, connected cars


Twenty-two semi-finalists have been selected to advance toward the finals and a share in more than $85,000 in prizes and other awards in the 2017 SPIE Startup Challenge. Aspiring entrepreneurs from universities and tech companies will pitch their light-based technology business plans to a panel of judges comprised of venture capitalists and business development experts this month during SPIE Photonics West, sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

The SPIE Startup Challenge is supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik and Supporting Sponsors Edmund Optics, Trumpf, Open Photonics, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

“Both the quality and range of the finalists in the Startup Challenge are inspiring,” said Jay Kumler, President of Jenoptik Optical Systems, LLC. “Some are addressing global health needs such as clean water, food safety, prenatal care, and cancer detection. Other semi-finalists are bringing photonics technology to market for wearables, connected cars, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality. The final pitch presentation will be a must-see event.”

Pitches from the semi-finalists will take place 31 January in the Park Central Hotel in San Francisco. The top six presenters will move on to the final round on 1 February in the Moscone Center. Both events are open to the public with free registration.

Jenoptik is sponsoring cash prizes including $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,500 for third place. The first-place winner will also receive $5,000 worth of products from Edmund Optics.

Semi-finalists also receive product demonstration time on the SPIE Photonics West Exhibition floor, a networking lunch with mentors and investors, and feedback on their business models from industry leaders. Finalists receive travel reimbursement for further training and a ticket to the Prism Awards reception and banquet on 1 February.

Semi-finalists were named in three tracks.

Track 1: Biophotonics, Point of Care

AcouStar, an optoacoustic guide with augmented reality technique for precision breast-conserving surgery; Lu Lan, Purdue University
CancerView, helping surgeons perform better breast cancer surgery; Erik Schartner, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, University of Adelaide
d’Biomager, a 4D microscope camera that can be attached to any existing light microscope; Rachel Wang, d’Optron Pte Ltd
EarID, computational ear imaging for accurate detection of ear infections; Anshuman Das, MIT
Lumedica “OQ” EyeScope, accessible and affordable medical imaging technology; Scott Whitney, Lumedica Inc.
Nanodevices for cellular therapy, using lasers and nanotechnology to cure viral or genetic disease that affects the blood; Nabiha Saklayen, Harvard University
NU-RISE, innovating breast and prostate cancer treatment; Luis Moutinho, University of Aveiro and NU-RISE
Raydiant Oximetry, Inc., noninvasive fetal oximetry during labor and delivery; Nicole Hlava, Raydiant Oximetry, Inc.
Track 2: Imaging, Displays, Lasers, Semiconductors

Fastree3D, 3D vision with a LIDAR system on chip; Claude Florin, Fastree3D
LightOn, processors to address scalability and sustainability of artificial intelligence, for the future of computing; Laurent Daudet, LightOn
Microspherical Nanoscopy; low-cost method for increasing resolution on a traditional optical microscope without resorting to complicated methods like NSOM or STED, compatible with any microscope, taking up no space, and without altering lab procedures; Vasily Astratov, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Nanolayered GRIN Optical Lenses, polymer lenses offering high-contrast, color-corrected, wide field of view (+30°) while simultaneously decreasing optical system weight of glass configurations by 30–60%; Adin Pfeuffer, Peak Nano Optics
Portable Precision Profilometer, portable high-precision 3D scanners with a low cost to bridge current commercial scanner market gaps; Renjie Zhou, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Real-time display of several depths, multiple OCT slicer; Adrian Podoleanu, University of Kent and Optopod Ltd.
RGB Laser Light Module for AR/VR, ultracompact RGB MEMS laser scanner for AR and VR applications; Joerg Reitterer, TriLite Technologies GmbH
Track 3: Sensors, Wearables, Internet of Things (IoT)

Fresh Strips, ensuring quality for food; Koen Nickmans, Fresh Strips
IC Touch, allows blind or visually impaired people to “see” by translation of visual information captured by a camera to spatial tactile stimulation of the cornea; Zeev Zalevsky, Bar Ilan University and IC Touch
Lightnosis, an optical wireless communication middleware for the IoT in the connected-cars market; Gloria Eisman, Lightbee SL
LiqWiz, “smoke detector” for drinking water — an in-line IoT-based spectrophotometer and analysis platform for automatic detection of EPA-specified chemicals and contaminants in drinking water; Ivan Maleev, LiqWiz LLC
Miocoo, the nutrition for healthy and scientific breastfeeding management for every mom and baby; Qiaochu Li, Sensii, Inc
Uvisio, personal sun assistant, to enjoy the sun — safely; Larisa Kryuchkova
Think Biosolution QuasaR, camera powered multi-parameter fitness tracker; Koushik Kumar Nundy, Think Biosolution Ltd.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2016, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org

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