The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 12th annual Spirit of Innovation Awards by announcing Sherman + Reilly, Inc. as this year’s recipient. The manufacturer of power line installation and maintenance equipment won the honor for its leading edge work in creating the Safe Zone Cab System, which dramatically enhances the safety of power line operators.
Nearly 750 area business leaders attended the event, which honored eight local companies for developing innovative products, services and ways of doing business in the Chattanooga region. In addition to Sherman + Reilly, the luncheon recognized American Bicycle Group, Motion View Software, LLC and Woople, LLC as finalists for the 2012 Spirit of Innovation Award.
“The importance of innovation is nothing new,” said Ron Harr, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber. “From being the first to bottle Coca-Cola to inventing the tow truck, Chattanoogans have created whole new industries through their groundbreaking products and business practices. And we continue to see the evolution of innovation in our companies today – from the boiler to Combustion Engineering to Alstom as just one example.”
It’s for this very reason, said Mr. Harr, that the Chattanooga Chamber created the Spirit of Innovation Award in 2001 as America’s first community-based innovation award.
“Today, innovators are a different breed,” Mr. Harr said. “We’ve often had to search hard to find them, but in doing so and publicizing their stories nationally and internationally, the Chamber has leveraged this event to build Chattanooga’s brand as a premiere business destination. Spirit of Innovation is an important component of our overall strategy to foster the growth of startups and existing companies while prompting new companies to consider investments here.”
Along with the Spirit of Innovation Award presentation, the Chattanooga Technology Council named the winners of the Early Innovator Award, which honors emerging technology-based companies that have produced a groundbreaking prototype product or beta stage software application that represents the potential for a significant competitive advantage.
Also on hand at the event were Charlie Brock, executive director of The CO.LAB, and Jack Studer, a founding partner at The Lamp Post Group. In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month and Global Entrepreneurship Week, both of which are currently underway, Brock and Studer took a moment to announce GigTank 2.0 – a broadband-based business competition that challenges participants to develop pioneering applications for the next-generation Internet.
The luncheon culminated with a keynote presentation by Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. In his role at the Annenberg Innovation Lab, Taplin works with partners like IBM, Apple, Cisco, Warner Bros and Chattanooga’s own EPB to develop the next generation innovation economy. In his remarks, Taplin highlighted an idea called America 3.0 – a proposal to revive the spirit of regional experimentation to revive the nation’s innovation economy.
The Spirit of Innovation was the first regionally-based innovation awards program and remains one of the only events designed to promote and foster cutting-edge business activities in a specific geographic area.
About the Spirit of Innovation Award winner
Sherman + Reilly, Inc. created the Safe Zone Cab System, a fully-environmental enclosure for power line operators which includes a suite of features designed to protect them from potential danger. Ranked by OSHA as the ninth most dangerous job in the U.S., power line operators are regularly exposed to a myriad of environmental, operational and application risks. To minimize those threats, Sherman + Reilly built the Safe Zone Cab System, which encloses operators and features full digital controls and video surveillance of external conditions. In addition, the design also provides noise suppression, ergonomic seating and heating and air conditioning. This system represents a major change in the traditional approach to designing stringing equipment. As the product continues to take hold in the utility field, it is expected to emerge as an industry standard.
About the Spirit of Innovation Award finalists
American Bicycle Group (ABG) designed, engineered and manufactured the titanium legs for Curiosity, the $2.5 billion NASA rover which successfully landed on Mars Aug. 6. Best known as the maker of Litespeed and Quintana Roo, its signature lines of titanium and carbon bicycles, ABG fabricated the titanium framework supporting Curiosity’s combined wheels using Chattanooga craftsmanship and materials. Thanks to ABG’s efforts the Mars rover landed with pinpoint accuracy on its wheels rather than airbags – a first in aerospace history. This innovation allowed Curiosity to spend more of its limited lifespan collecting data and less time orienting itself. As Curiosity continues to collect priceless scientific information on locally-manufactured legs, ABG is emerging as a point of convergence between Chattanooga’s manufacturing heritage, outdoor story and ability to produce advanced technology.
Motion View Software, LLC developed a leading edge method for correcting orthodontic tooth alignment. Using Motion View's 3D Laser Scanners and Ortho Insight 3D software, orthodontists can convert scanned tooth impressions into 3D models and identify ideal positions for the orthodontic brackets for each tooth. This process saves vast amounts of office time and money by eliminating the need to make plaster models while also significantly reducing orthodontic treatment time for the patient. With the speed, automation and accuracy these technologies provide, orthodontists can now assess a patient and apply custom-made braces in a fraction of the time of traditional methods. Motion View's method also enables practitioners to provide more "direct to ideal position" tooth movement. This causes less trauma to the teeth and helps to ensure healthier gums, bone and tooth roots while offering higher quality long term results and shorter treatment times.
Woople, LLC designed a simple, affordable, fun and efficient eLearning platform. Woople allows anyone to educate, motivate and communicate in real time. Founded in 2009, Woople provides world-class education for strategic business partners ranging from Fortune 50 companies to small businesses. Through the eLearning platform, users can easily upload their own content or subscribe to customized learning experiences created by professional providers, trainers and teachers. Woople’s built-in accountability system enables managers to view user progress by day, week, month or year for single users and groups. Woople encourages users to participate in content creation and system development by granting them access to all backend tools. Though many platforms aimed at user-generated education are currently on the market, Woople is the first to provide an organizational solution that also enables individual users to be contributors.