Empire State Development Announces Application Window for GENIUS NY Round 8 Now Open

Posted on February 8, 2024

GNY Round 8 Applications Graphic

The World’s Largest Business Accelerator for Uncrewed Systems is Accepting Applications through May 15

GENIUS NY is Supported by “CNY Rising” – The Region’s Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy


Empire State Development (ESD) announced that GENIUS NY – the world’s largest business accelerator focused on uncrewed aerial systems – is now accepting applications for the eighth round of the year-long program. The in-residence accelerator, operated by CenterState CEO in downtown Syracuse, will invest more than $3 million in five finalist companies, including a $1 million grand prize. The program also offers business resources, programming, mentorship and networking opportunities to assist innovative startups with the tools they need to take advantage of emerging opportunities. GENIUS NY participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for at least one year. The program is funded through the CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), the region’s award-winning strategic plan to generate robust economic growth and community development.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The GENIUS NY accelerator is fueling New York State’s thriving uncrewed aerial systems industry. This renowned program is attracting forward-thinking innovators from around the world to Central New York and ensuring that their pioneering ideas take flight thanks to the area's unmatched UAS assets and infrastructure."

Applications are being accepted at www.geniusny.com through May 15, 2024, from tech startups focused on uncrewed aerial systems, automation, A.I. and advanced air mobility (AAM). Subsets may include precision and remote sensing, smart city applications, data collection and analytics, guidance or communication systems, and sensors, among other technological categories.

“We’re looking for startups interested in pushing the bounds of current UAS technologies in Central New York.” said Kara Jones, director of GENIUS NY. “The region’s growing innovation ecosystem offers early-stage companies a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with industry leaders while advancing their own technologies. The targeted resources awarded to GENIUS NY companies enable them to scale faster, generate revenue sooner, and create jobs for the local economy.”

Applications are evaluated by a panel of judges, and semi-finalists will be selected to present demos and pitches this summer. Five companies will advance to participate in the program, which is structured as a unique programmed incubator and accelerator experience. The selected teams will enter the in-person accelerator at CenterState CEO’s The Tech Garden later this summer, where they will be immersed in the incubator's events, resource pool, and mentoring. Applicants should be prepared to relocate to Central New York to participate in the program starting in August 2024.

To date, the program has attracted more than 37 startups to Central New York since its inception in 2017. To date, nearly $21 million has been invested in the innovative teams, which have gone on to raise more than $100 million in venture capital.

Round seven winner, blueflite received the top prize of $1 million in October 2023. The company has since seen significant growth, hired local staff in Syracuse and partnered with past GENIUS NY team AVSS to integrate parachute recovery systems in their drones.

Senator Rachel May, said, “It’s exciting to see the continued success of the GENIUS NY Accelerator. With the eighth round, this program is now integral to our flourishing drone industry. It ensures that more tech businesses will call Central New York home, bringing high-paying jobs to the area. Welcoming these tech companies will benefit our community in many ways, and I look forward to seeing the innovation they bring to Central New York.” 

Senator John W. Mannion, said, “I encourage all startups in the UAS sector to apply for the next round of the GENIUS NY business accelerator. This groundbreaking program has a successful track record of supporting companies and building an ecosystem in Central New York that is fueling innovation and economic growth. I’m excited to see the next generation of companies push the boundaries of uncrewed systems technology, right here in Central New York.”

Assemblymember William B. Magnarelli, said, “The Genius NY accelerator has been a boon to the Syracuse and Central New York economy, making our area a worldwide leader in uncrewed aerial systems research and development. This new round of Genius NY will only solidify our area’s leadership in drone technology, as new start-ups will come to Syracuse to test their technology, while building a base here from which to grow and thrive. The dozens of companies and millions of dollars awarded in previous rounds of Genius NY have made Syracuse and Central New York the continued leader in this very important and still growing sector of our local economy.”

Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, said, “As the GENIUS NY accelerator continues to fund entrepreneurs, I am excited to see what will result from each round of funding. Our region is on an upward trajectory and each investment is bringing new opportunities to our communities. Resources from GENIUS NY and the Tech Garden will develop the business leaders of the next generation and I will continue to support such initiatives.”

Assemblyman Al Stirpe, said, “The CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative's funding of an eighth round of the GENIUS NY business accelerator shows a commitment to innovation and economic growth focused on uncrewed aerial systems here in Central New York. The resources that the program offers will further our region's community development and the success of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, said, “The GENIUS NY accelerator is making a real impact here in Central New York. I have no doubt that the eighth round of this accelerator will continue to build on that success as these incredible innovators from across the globe bring their ideas to Onondaga County. This focused program provides businesses with all of the tools and resources they need to ensure their long-term success here and we are looking forward to seeing the groundbreaking work that emerges from this latest round."

City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, said, "GENIUS NY continues to attract world-class business start-ups to Syracuse, expanding our high-tech ecosystem and further solidifying CNY’s reputation as the leader in Uncrewed Aerial Systems technology. I thank Governor Hochul and Empire State Development for their continued support and look forward to welcoming the next cohort of innovators and visionaries to our city."

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), and Le Moyne College President Linda M. LeMura said, " The GENIUS NY accelerator has proven to be a remarkable success. We are so excited to see what the next round and these innovative entrepreneurs will bring to the table. This focused program is helping to ensure that New York state and Central New York remain at the forefront of the growing UAS industry, creating new opportunities and jobs for residents in the region for decades to come."

To apply and learn more about GENIUS NY visit, www.geniusny.com.

To learn more about CenterState CEO, visit: www.centerstateceo.com.


Accelerating CNY Rising

Today's announcement complements “CNY Rising” the region’s comprehensive strategy to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. More information is available here.


About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY" the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.

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