Charging Ahead in Chattanooga

The other day we blogged about the Cool Product Expo that is held each year at Stanford University out in Palo Alto, Calif. It’s amazing what new inventions are coming forth from inventors, manufacturers and engineering students.

Bringing attention to these great new ideas is important to foster greater appreciation and understanding of the innovation process. The Cool Product Expo is one way to do that. In Chattanooga, Tenn. they have another nifty way: they ask local companies to compete each year and pick a local winner among the innovators. Named for a far-sighted local innovator, The Kruesi Award for Innovation is a real standout approach to acknowledging the new ideas that change our lives.

I have been honored the last three years to be a judge for the Kreusi Award. The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce received 31 entries this year and a local panel of judges pared that down to eight honorees. I was involved in the second round of judging, where we had to pick the finalist who will be announced later this year. So I can’t tell you who won, but I can tell you about some of the very cool entries and you’ll see how difficult it was to choose among them.

The first thing that struck me about this Chattanooga effort is the diversity of the judges who participated. Besides me, here’s the list, with representatives from several continents, chaired by the very astute and capable Jim Kennedy with Kenney, Coulter, Rushing & Watson:

  • Sylvain Castonguay, Centre d’Expérimentation des Véhicules Electriques du Québec (CEVEQ)
  • Eric Cromwell, Tenn. Dept. of Economic and Community Development
  • Denise Germain, Ford Global Technologies
  • Graham Hillier, Centre for Process Innovation, UK
  • Kazumi Iino, Japan External Trade Organization
  • Ed Krausse, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering
  • Sam Leiken, Council on Competitiveness
  • Pascal Marmier, SHARE Boston, Consulate of Switzerland
  • Tom O’Neal, Univ. of Cent. Fla. Technology Incubator
  • Richard Seline, New Economy Strategies
  • Tom Springmeier, Texas Instruments
  • The quality of the entries, all with roots in Chattanooga, is impressive as well. We picked one of them as the winner and then two runners up. After the awards are announced in Chattanooga, I’ll let you know who they are and why they got the nod. The eight honorees, their entries and websites are:

  • Accurate Automation. An unmanned ocean racer drone with artificial intelligence, now being used by DoD.
  • Blue Mountain Avionics. A new ‘glass cockpit’ of solid-state instruments at a fraction of the cost for comparable equipment in sport aircraft.

  • Brake Tech Tools. A tool that provides better, easier and more accurate measurement of brake wear in trucking fleets.
  • Clarity. Telephones that use digital processing to improve communications for people with hearing loss.

  • Cleveland Tubing.Expandable plastic pipe for use in drainage.

  • eSpin Technologies. A process and machinery for the mass production of nanofibers.

  • Glenveigh Pharmaceuticals. Application of an existing drug for a disease of pregnancy that previously had no effective treatment.

  • Ten Cate Grass North America. a more durable and long lasting synthetic grass fiber for playing fields.