Under a big tent in downtown Rochester used by night for the Jazz Festival, the heart of a new economy beats. Even if you can’t put your fingers on it. 

Chima Dimgba of Greece can show you how your smart phone can monitor your heart. 

"And so right now, it starts looking at my face. And my heart rate is being monitored,” she said.

Chima is at VPG Medical, one of 10 companies that pitched New York state for $1 million in angel funding as part of an annual competition to pump up photonics.

"It's easier for people to see the final products that use these technologies,” Jim Senall, of NextCorps, said. “But without these technologies, they can't exist."

Senall will tell you photonics does more than exist, even if people don't see it rising. 

150 photonics outfits are already here working with the universities, and in infrastructure from the former Kodak Park labs to Sibley Square. 

"And when they get here, they are blown away from by the technologies and opportunities that are here. We want to make sure we continue that," said Senall.

Continued expansion, like that done at Optimax and Rochester Precision Optics are signs of maturation. So is the big money at this year's Lumiante Competition. A company like VPG Medical has investors. But a big check here could bring critical mass.

"Any investment will probably help follow-up,” said Gill Tsouri, VPG Medical. “So it's important to our company."

Which is the work of those selling the innovators of the world on our region. Skeptics here don't see factories or giant hires, so they wonder: what's the investment been for? 

Advocates will tell us that like today's cutting edge, in virtual and augmented reality, the business is buried in micro tech unseen by a passing glance.

"Companies have an interest in working in photonics and with our existing companies as well as UR, RIT to grow and innovate,” said Matt Hurlbutt, of Greater Rochester Enterprise. “It's easier for people to see the final products that use these technologies. But without these technologies, they can't exist."

VPG didn't win the million dollars Thursday. It did come in second, good for a half million dollars that'll help their business grow here.

"Making this a commercial opportunity is very meaningful to us,” Tsouri said. 

And maybe a chance to help our community, when it comes to photonics, have a change of heart.