The Innovation School

12 July 2020 – 17 July 2020 OSA Global Headquarters, Washington, District of Columbia United States

Become an Innovator

The school's focus is on acclimating those with an intrapreneurial/entrepreneurial drive to the language, culture and methodology of business. Teams work on creating a business using the lean canvas model, exploring product/business concepts from a customer vantage point.

In 5 days, you will learn about the key methodologies for discovering, developing and launching innovative solutions and products.

  • Identify high potential ideas
  • Validate Key Tactics
  • Innovation Experimentation
  • Develop pitches for new solutions
  • Design thinking
  • Leadership
  • Collaboration and teamwork


Eric Koester

Georgetown University, USA


The Innovation School will be facilitated by Eric Koester, serial entrepreneur and “entrepreneur-in-residence” at Georgetown University, USA. Eric will lead attendees through a series of lectures focused on the lean canvas business model, key tools for innovation exploration, customer discovery, experimentation with minimum viable products (MVP’s) and prototypes, and applying the methodologies of innovation as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur.

About the Speaker

He has spent much of his career building companies, working with entrepreneurs and writing and teaching around topics of customer discovery, lean, entrepreneurship and innovation. Eric is currently the founder of Main Street Genome, a new technology startup developing tools for the small business economy. Previously, Eric was a co-founder of Zaarly, a marketplace to locate local small businesses and service providers, named by Fast Company as one of the Fifty Most Innovative Companies in the World. He was also an executive at Appature Inc., a cloud-based relationship marketing software company acquired by IMS in 2013; a founder of Learn that Name, acquired by Blackberry in 2010; and a founder/manager of other companies in the environmental consultancy and web development sectors. Eric was recently named one of Washington DC’s “40 under 40” and has written several books on startups and technology, including The Green Entrepreneur Handbook (CRC Press 2011) and Starting a High Tech Business Venture (Taylor & Francis 2010). Eric also devotes considerable time to building the startup community, including as a board member of UP Global and Startup Weekend and the DC co-chair of Enstitute. Eric began his entrepreneurial career as a corporate securities attorney at Cooley LLP, focusing on high-growth startups, venture funds, private equity and technology companies.

Keynote Presentation and Guest Mentors

Top industry leaders will support the program by offering lectures on their experiences as innovators and entrepreneurs. Additionally, they will be on-hand to help hone concepts, validate assumptions, question conclusions and guide you toward a successful pitch.

Ruth Houbertz

CEO & Managing Director, Multiphoton Optics GmbH, Germany

Cofounder of Multiphoton Optics GmbH, founded in September 2013. Current function as CEO from August 2014. From 2013 to July 2014, she was CTO of MPO. From 2000 to 2012, she held different technical and management positions at Fraunhofer ISC, where she focussed on materials, processes, and technology/equipment development for photonic and biomedical applications. From 1999 to 2000, she worked at Sandia Nat.’l Labs, Livermore, CA (USA). She invented more than 90 patents and has received many awards and nominations, amongst which are the Finalist in the Prism Award 2015, the Cowin Award for Entrepreneurship 2014, the Green Photonics Award 2013, the Joseph von Fraunhofer Award 2007

Mary Lou Jepsen

Founder & CEO, Openwater, USA

Mary Lou Jepsen creates bold visions of the future. She invents novel hardware/software systems on the hairy edge of what the physics will do, builds the team and product, and delivers this to mass production. She is acclaimed for her work at Google [x], Facebook, Oculus, and One Laptop per Child in consumer electronics, computers, TV, VR, wearables, healthcare and software. Her startup CEO experience includes the world’s only fabless display screen company which was based in Taipei. She was also a professor at MIT and RMIT. She holds a PhD in Optical Physics (Photonics) and an Sc.B in Electrical Engineering both from Brown University as well as an Sc.M. in Computational Holography from the MIT Media Lab. She is an inventor of over 200 published or issued patents.

Zak Niazi

Founder, Circle Optics, USA

Zak Niazi has designed optical innovations for various institutions such as the worlds thinnest scanning fiber endoscope for Harvard Medical School and a system to assess aberration in protective eyewear for the University of New South Wales and International Standards Organization.Creators of the world's first truly, stitchless 360-degree camera, Circle Optics camera is the first in the world to solve the issue of parallax: a defect which causes image misalignments in stitched panoramas.

Katharine Schmidtke

Director, Sourcing, Facebook, USA

Katharine has a Ph.D. in laser physics and non-linear optics from Southampton University, UK. Her scientific research brought her to California over 25 years ago as a visiting scholar at Stanford University on a stipend sponsored by NATO. Since then she has held a full spectrum of positions in industry ranging from research to business development. She is currently responsible for Infrastructure Technology Strategy, in the Sourcing Operations and Engineering team at Facebook.

Peter de Groot

Executive Director of R&D, Zygo Corporation, USA

Peter is a physics PhD specializing in interferometry for displacement measurement, 3D form measurement, and surface texture analysis. He is the Executive Director of R&D at Zygo Corporation, where he heads the Zygo Innovations Group, tasked with solving challenging problems in optical metrology using creativity and a focus on customer needs. Peter is passionate about the invention process, holds 135 US patents for optical instruments and methods, and has extensive experience in the commercialization of new ideas. He is equally passionate about engagement in education and the optical community, as an honorary professor and adjunct professor, a professional short course instructor, and as a supporter, Fellow and contributor to professional societies such as the OSA


Throughout the program, you will have access to mentors serving as guides as you explore an innovation/product, validate the concept with potential customers, develop and refine a pitch and begin thinking about next steps in terms of actual market value/impact.

Barbara Buades

Co-Founder & CEO, MeetOptics, Spain

Entrepreneurial Ph.D. in Photonics with a background in Physics willing to implement my creativity, problem-solving skills and passion for innovation into a day to day sharing of ideas and promoting new challenges into real business plans, with precision and reliability, to have a positive impact into the real world.

Elisa Hurwitz

CEO & Founder, Currently, LLC, USA

Elisa Hurwitz enjoys developing technical solutions to problems in a variety of areas, including electrical engineering, material science, and electromagnetic theory. She recently founded Currently, LLC to commercialize a compact, real-time current sensor which will enable more efficient, compact, high frequency power conversion and current monitoring. The knowledge she acquired in the OSA Innovation School 2019 helped Currently, LLC gain admittance into the T3 Accelerator to explore Air Force and commercial applications for her current sensor. She earned her PhD by extending Maxwell’s equations to find exact solutions that enable the design of directionally invisible objects. These algorithms may be used to design a new class of optically switchable perfectly transparent optical devices.

David Vega

University of Arizona, USA

David is a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona James Wyant Optical Sciences College. He is the funder and part of the leadership group of the Optical Design Group that provides optical design services to researchers. David is also an NSF scholar and has been awarded several grants for his work. Before his current role at the University of Arizona, David was the founder and owner of PCServices in California. This company serviced custom information and communication systems for several industries and residential customers. David is currently designing highly capable endoscopes for cancer detection with multiple optical capabilities

Mina Esmaeelpour

Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA

Mina is an assistant professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and an attendee of the 2017 innovation school. She enjoys finding interdisciplinary solutions to complicated problems using optics and photonics. Her team's project, which won first place at the 2017 innovation school, inspired her to seek biomedical applications for her fiber optics background. She is currently building her laboratory around such research and works to provide clinical solutions to some of the existing challenges in instrumentation.

Stefaan Vandendriessche

Edmund Optics, USA

Stefaan Vandendriessche is the Director of the Laser Optics Business Line at Edmund Optics. He works to develop the laser optics product offering and specify the right laser optical technologies at Edmund Optics to ensure that the products available meet the needs of our customers and advancing applications within the industry. He received his PhD in Nonlinear and Magneto Optics, MS in Chemistry, and BS in Biochemistry all from the University of Leuven located in Leuven, Belgium

Sanjay Khatri

University of Virginia, USA

Sanjay is completing his last year as a physics PhD student at the University of Virginia (UVa). His research focuses on controlling rotational motion of gas molecules using ultrafast laser pulses. While OSA chapter president at UVa, he attended the first Innovation School in 2017 and has incorporated these teachings into his academic and professional work. He is interested in applying his optics/photonics background toward developing systems for diagnosing and treating diseases. He actively searches for opportunities to apply his skills toward interesting problems.

2020 Judges

Sean Bagshaw, COO/CTO The Optical Society

Peter de Groot, Director of R & D, Zygo Corporation 

Anjul Loiacono, Head of Corporate Development, Thorlabs

Liz Rogan, CEO, The Optical Society

Linda Smith, President, Ceres Technology Advisors, Inc.


SUNDAY – 12 July

15:00 EDT........Pitch Assembly (presentations due) 
17:00 EDT........Rock the Vote: Voting Must be Submitted By 24:00

MONDAY – 13 July

10:00 EDT ........Welcome, Meet the Mentors and Make Some Waves
11:00 EDT........Ideas, Ideas, Ideas…the Art of Recognizing Original Ideas
12:00 EDT……..Lab Snack Time & Group Networking
12:30 EDT……..Coffee with the Expert: Mary Lou Jepsen, Founder & CEO, Openwater
13:00 EDT……..A Random Walk on the Tightrope: Forming Teams  
14:00 EDT……..Out on a Limb: How to Conduct Customer Research
16:00 EDT……..Mentor Power Hour + lunch, dinner or nightcap
17:00 EDT……..The Road Less Traveled; How to Hypothesize and Build a Strategy
18:30 EDT……..VC Happy Hour!

TUESDAY – 14 July

10:00 EDT........Make Some Waves; Team Break Outs
11:00 EDT........Fools Rush In: Customers and Evidence Gathering  
12:00 EDT……..Lab Snack Time & Group Networking
13:00 EDT……..Born to Rebel:  How to Shake Things Up  
14:00 EDT……..Preparing for the Marathon: Patience & Attitude to Help you Lead a Start-Up
16:00 EDT……..Mentor Power Hour (team check in’s) + lunch, dinner or nightcap
17:00 EDT……..Drinks with the Expert: Zak Naizi, Founder and CEO, Circle Optics


10:00 EDT.......Making Waves: Team Presentations & Feedback
11:00 EDT…….A Bolt of Energy: How to Create MVP’s, + Prototypes
12:00 EDT …….Lab Snack Time and Groupthink Time
12:30 EDT…….Coffee with the Expert: Ruth Houbertz, CEO & Managing Director, Multiphoton Optics
13:00 EDT…….Cont. A Bolt of Energy: MVP’s and Prototypes
14:00 EDT…….Growing Pains: Team Presentations and Feedback
15:30 EDT…….Movers & Shapers: Innovation as a Career
16:30 EDT…….Mentor Power Hour (team check in’s) + lunch, dinner or nightcap
17:30 EDT…….Strength in Small Numbers: The Science of Innovation Teams
18:30 EDT…….VC Happy Hour


THURSDAY – 16 July

10:00 EDT.......Making Waves: Team Presentations & Feedback
11:00 EDT…….Give and Take: Best Practices for the Perfect Pitch
12:00 EDT…….Lab Snack Time and Groupthink time
13:00 EDT…….Meet with the Designer
14:30 EDT…….Coffee with the Expert: Peter de Groot, Executive Director of R & D, Zygo Corporation 
15:00 EDT…….Mentor Power Hour (team check in’s) + lunch, dinner or nightcap
16:30 EDT……Pitch Perfect: Finalizing Your Winning Pitch  
18:30 EDT……VC Happy Hour  


FRIDAY – 17 July

10:00 EDT........Making Waves: Final Team Preparation + Rehearsal
12:00 EDT........Final Pitches + Judging
13:00 EDT........Coffee with the Expert: Katharine Schmidtke, Director, Sourcing, Facebook, USA 
13:30 EDT........Cont. Final Pitches and Judging
14:30EDT.........Lab Snack Time + Group Networking
15:15 EDT........Pitch Panel Results
15:30 EDT........Closing Reception

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