Press release

2020 SPIE Startup Challenge Semi-Finalists Highlight Transformational Photonics Innovations

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Forty-two photonics business startups from 14 countries will participate in the 2020 SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finals held during SPIE Photonics West on 4 February. On 5 February, 12 finalists will compete for cash prizes from Jenoptik as well as for business support from Challenge partners and sponsors. Prizes include $10,000 for first place as well as $5,000 in products from Edmund Optics; $5,000 for second place; and $2,500 for third place. In addition, Early-stage Entrepreneurship travel grants have been awarded to three of the semi-finalists.

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Avenda Health's Brittany Berry-Pusey during her 2019 SPIE Startup Challenge's winning pitch (Photo: Business Wire)

Avenda Health’s Brittany Berry-Pusey during her 2019 SPIE Startup Challenge’s winning pitch (Photo: Business Wire)

The SPIE Startup Challenge, which showcases new businesses, products, and technologies that are addressing critical needs with photonics, is in its 10th year, and is enabled by Founding Partner Jenoptik; Strategic Partner LDV Capital; Lead Sponsors Edmund Optics, MKS Instruments, Hamamatsu, and B&W Tek CEO Sean Wang; and Supporting Sponsors the National Science Foundation and the Luminate Accelerator. Judges include venture capitalists and business-development experts who vet the applicants for their business case, financial case, and competitive advantages. Transformational innovations this year include neurologic therapies, single-cell imaging and printing, drug discovery, rapid cancer detection, advanced manufacturing, quantum computing, and hostile-environment communications.

“Over the past ten years, we have seen many startups gain traction and flourish,” says SPIE Fellow and Jenoptik Optical Systems President Jay Kumler. “This year, the applicants are more impressive than ever. The SPIE Startup Challenge is unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of our photonics industry.”

Both the semi-finals and finals of this exciting pitching competition are open to anyone with a free Photonics West exhibition registration. Semi-finalists will also be demoing their products throughout the day on Tuesday, February 4 as part of the SPIE Venture Summit.

The Semi-finalists’ will cover four tracks: Pre-Seed Stage Deep Tech, Pre-Seed Stage Healthcare, Seed Stage Deep Tech, and Seed Stage Healthcare. A full list of all 42 of the 2020 SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finalists can be found here.

For more information and to register for SPIE Photonics West 2020, please visit:

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves more than 255,000 constituents from 183 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2019, SPIE provided more than $5 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources.