TRAQC, ClearVision, and UriMetrics awarded top three places at 2024 SPIE Startup Challenge

The annual pitch competition champions photonics innovation in healthcare and deep tech
31 January 2024
Jenoptik’s Ralf Kuschnereit, TRAQC's Benjamin Dringoli, and 2024 SPIE President Jennifer Barton hold giant check for 2024 SPIE Startup Challenge winner.
Jenoptik’s Ralf Kuschnereit, TRAQC's Benjamin Dringoli, and 2024 SPIE President Jennifer Barton.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — Yesterday, at a ceremony during SPIE Photonics West, TRAQC was announced the winner of the $10,000 top prize at the 14th annual SPIE Startup Challenge. Their real-time inspection solution for the printed electronics industry utilizes THz radiation and metamaterial technology to ensure quality while reducing waste.

ClearVision, with a non-invasive alternative to permanent vision-correction surgeries based on corneal sculpting with femtosecond laser technology, received $5,000 for second place. UriMetrics came in third, winning $2,500, with their lens-free imaging solution for reducing the incidence of Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI). All cash prizes are provided by SPIE Startup Challenge Founding Partner Jenoptik.

The SPIE Startup Challenge, a pitch competition held annually by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, showcases new businesses, products, and technologies that address critical needs by utilizing photonics in the areas of healthcare and deep tech. This year’s six finalists included innovations in medical applications, industry supply-chain solutions, and optical manufacturing.

“This is great!” said TRAQC COO Benjamin Dringoli about winning the competition. “It's something that allows us to have more eyes on us, which is huge at this stage. In addition, this is a completely focused crowd that we wouldn't have access to anywhere else: it’s the opportunity to pitch in front of these industry leaders and get their feedback live, the mentorship session prior to the finals, and having people coming up to me and say, ‘Hey, if you need help, let me know.’ The networking opportunity of being on the Startup Challenge stage is a huge help. It’s wonderful.”

“It’s a terrific boost,” noted ClearVision Founder and Principal Investigator Sinisa Vukelic. “It gives us confidence that we're doing something well, that we are on the right track. It also gives us an opportunity to network and chat with other people, and that’s so important and really much appreciated. I’m very grateful to SPIE for organizing this. I think it’s a wonderful initiative and I’d be happy to contribute in the future.”

“The mentorship that we received as part of the Startup Challenge was particularly useful,” added UriMetrics spokesperson Taylor L. Bobrow. “It was really great for refining our pitch and our ask for today. We'll be utilizing this prize money to help with our clinical testing and proof of concept studies.”

The 2024 SPIE Startup Challenge was supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik; Lead Sponsors Hamamatsu and Thorlabs; and Supporting Sponsor NextCorps Luminate. The competition judges who vetted the applicants for their business models, financial cases, and competitive advantages included Jenoptik’s Song Chung, Launch Team’s Michele Nichols, Edmund Optics' Agnes Hübscher, NextCorps Luminate’s Damon Diehl, Hamamatsu Ventures’ Richard Oberreiter, and Thorlabs’ Bill Donovan.

Light-based technologies enable developments in a proliferating number of areas, from healthcare and high-speed communications to quantum computing, AR/VR/MR, and self-driving vehicles. The annual SPIE Startup Challenge provides a distinctive and vibrant platform for optics and photonics startups that are creating novel products, applications, and technologies. Startup Challenge winners that have gone on to wider commercial success include Cellino BiotechDouble Helix OpticsPhotoniCareC. Light TechnologiesCircle Optics, and In A Blink.

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, brings engineers, scientists, students, and business professionals together to advance light-based science and technology. The Society, founded in 1955, connects and engages with our global constituency through industry-leading conferences and exhibitions; publications of conference proceedings, books, and journals in the SPIE Digital Library; and career-building opportunities. Over the past five years, SPIE has contributed more than $24 million to the international optics community through our advocacy and support, including scholarships, educational resources, travel grants, endowed gifts, and public-policy development.


Daneet Steffens
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