SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West

Supporting entrepreneurs in optics and photonics businesses
SPIE Startup Challenge is held at SPIE Photonics West

Pitch the brilliance of your business for a chance to win

The SPIE Startup Challenge is held annually at Photonics West. This competitive event invites new entrepreneurs to pitch their light-based technology business plan to a team of business development experts and investors.

The 2024 Startup Challenge submission portal is now open!
Applications due 16 October

Apply now

Applications are accepted in two areas:

The competition focuses on new businesses and potential startups. Students, post-docs, professors, and other first-time business starters are encouraged to apply. SPIE Startup Challenge accepts applications within two areas of focus from the worldwide community of entrepreneurs.

healthcare using mixed VR technology


healthcare using mixed VR technology

Deep Tech

Scientific or engineering innovation (software apps not included)

How businesses get started

Competition overview Competition overview ...
Application site Application site ...
Eligibility and application Eligibility and application ...

2024 Startup Challenge Prizes

All Startup Challenge applicants receive expert feedback on their technology and business model from photonics industry leaders based on their answers in the application. Finalists go on to compete at Photonics West for cash prizes provided by SPIE Startup Challenge Founding Partner Jenoptik.

Cash prizes for winners:
1st Place - US $10,000
2nd Place - US $5,000
3rd Place - US $2,500

In addition to the cash prizes, winning participants receive immediate and ongoing recognition, including:

  • Promotion on optics.org, SPIE.org, social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), press releases, and the Photonics West Show Daily
  • Opportunities to return to the Startup Challenge stage for updates on your company in the coming years

Accelerate the launch of your business

Winners hold checks

Financial support and recognition

Participating teams compete for sponsored prizes as well as gaining increased visibility with potential investors.

Mentored by experts

Industry leaders, mentors, and investors give their time, share expertise, and ensure startup businesses are on a path to success.

Part of a wider network

Participants in the competition are connected to other entrepreneurs and previous participants.

Thank you to our Founding Partner

Industry leaders at JENOPTIK understand the value of superb innovation. The company's support of SPIE Startup Challenge is unmatched.



If you have questions about eligibility, participation, expectations, sponsorship, or anything related to the SPIE Startup Challenge, please contact Emily Bottemiller, emilyb@spie.org