Chicago Innovation Awards recognize Midwest creativity

By Jesse Wright |

Staff Writer

 

Midwestern ingenuity will be honored at the annual Chicago Innovation Awards on Oct. 29 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.

This year’s awards show will feature a keynote talk imagining Chicago’s place in the future of tech led by Chris Gladwin and Penny Pritzker. The presentation will outline a plan to transform Chicago into one of the world’s tech hubs.

Executive Director Luke Tanen said the awards show was born out of a desire to show Chicago as a competitive hub of innovation by co-founders Tom Kuczmarski and business journalist Dan Miller.

“They were finally tired of Silicon Valley getting all the credit for innovation and they wanted to do something to shine a light on Chicago,” Tanen said. “They wanted to make sure that when people think about innovation that it does not just mean high tech and it does not just mean start-ups.”

Tanen said the awards recognize “high tech, low tech and no tech.” There are plenty of submissions to consider. He said 519 innovators were nominated for 25 awards this year. Despite the array of ideas and innovations, Tanen said there are some common traits.

“There are certain trends that we see in Chicago that might be unique to Chicago,” he said. “For instance, we see more B2B (business to business) innovations rather than B2C (business to consumer) innovations.”

Long term sustainability sets Chicago innovators apart, Tanen said. Unlike some tech startups, Chicago innovators seek to solve real, existing problems.

Tanen explained that Chicago Innovation judges look hard at business models and measurable, quantifiable outcomes, so there isn’t a lot of guesswork when it comes to which companies will be successful. “The winners rely on strong business models,” Tanen said. “There are not a lot of companies that are trying to get a whole bunch of users and then trying to monetize later.”

The winners won’t be announced until the awards event, but Tanen said food development is hot right now. “There was a higher than average amount of innovations in the food industry,” he said.

A regular source of innovation is healthcare and Tanen said education is another popular field for innovators in the Chicago area. He explained this is because innovators tend to look for problems to fix. “If those challenges exist, then you’re going to see people who want to address them,” Tanen said.

Tickets can be found at the event website, chicagoinnovation.com.

 

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