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The Tech Awards: An Imperative to Us All

Peter Friess

     What makes the Tech Awards so compelling is its altruistic mandate to use technology to benefit humanity.  The Laureates we honor are personally driven to make the world a better place.  In the process, they inspire us all. The Tech Awards is not about discovering new laws of nature or conducting complex experiments.  In fact, most Laureates work hard to find creative ways to use proven technologies, rather than invent new ones. Our Laureates’ most valuable characteristic is the ability to act as a social entrepreneur.  They are familiar with the parts of our world where basic survival needs are not being met.  They know first hand that relatively simple ideas, which often do not need a lot of money to implement, can make a fundamental difference.
     Sometimes, these ideas come from the community where a solution is needed.  An example comes from one of our 2007 Economic Development Laureates, Association La Volute Nubienne, which has developed a system for constructing earthen buildings with vaulted ceilings  which require no timber.  This new approach preserves trees, and provides cooler, more comfortable homes for thousands living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ideas also come from major companies with well-equipped labs and trained researchers.  For example, 2007 Laureate Vaxin, Inc. is developing rapid-response bird flu vaccine.  Side  effects  associated  with  the  current  vaccine  are  reduced  or  eliminated  with  the new technology. Whether award-winning ideas emerge from a village or a laboratory, the Laureates behind them demonstrate a solid understanding of technology and entrepreneurship. They take their ideas further by developing effective business plans and building sustainable models to scale up their impact. Impact is not always easy to measure, especially for innovative ideas in the early stages of implementation. The Tech Awards program reaches out around the world to find the people and projects making the greatest impact in five categories (Environment, Education, Equality, Economic Development, and Health). Selecting the top twenty-five Tech Awards nominees requires the skills of an experienced jury that is familiar with a wide range of global issues and able to apply carefully-considered criteria.  The Tech is very grateful to Santa Clara University for its willingness to complete this challenging annual assignment. The jury does an outstanding job identifying which of the hundreds of social entrepreneurs nominated for Tech Awards are working on the most crucial issues of our time, and which are making the greatest impact.
The Tech Awards is now in its seventh year.  In that time, we have reviewed more than 4,000 nominations from virtually every country on Earth, and recognized 175 Laureates.  Many winners comment that coming to Silicon Valley for “awards week” has given them practical insights on how others are taking ideas to market and scaling them up.  The opportunity to learn and share continues long after the events are over. The Tech Laureates are benefiting from pro bono support provided by Ogilvy Public Relations. Ogilvy’s team is drawing attention to our program in new markets as far away as Asia and Australia.  This kind of coverage can only help our Laureates increase their visibility and impact.  Many Laureates leverage the exposure and connections they receive from this program to garner additional publicity and support from other sources. If one examines the winning projects from a distance, it can be easily seen that many solutions that make a big difference in developing countries also can solve problems in the industrial world as well.  These opportunities are most evident in the fields of energy, water, and health.  2005 Laureate Harish Hande, who is replacing dangerous kerosene lamps with solar lighting, captured this eloquently in his acceptance speech: “Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine that you have only one light bulb in your home.”  After opening our eyes, we were blinded by the hundreds of spotlights illuminating the Tech Awards stage.  Harish noted that, in one hour, we used more energy than a person in rural India would use in a lifetime.  What an imperative that is to all of us!

The Tech Museum Awards

The Tech Museum Awards honor those who are using technology to address the United Nations’ 15 most urgent global challenges facing humanity and the environment. 

Each year 25 Laureates are honored.  Five recipients share $250.000.

Nominees are being sought for the 2008 Tech Museum Awards.  The Nominations

Deadlline is March 24, 2008.  Reward those making a difference and nominate today at .

About the Author

Dr. Peter Friess joined The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA in April of 2006, and is chartered with driving the content, programs, and Silicon Valley business and education partnerships essential to “inspiring the innovator in everyone.”  Friess has extensive museum experience having helped create and then direct the Deutsches Museum Bonn concerning research and development in Germany after 1945. The challenge was to build a museum about contemporary scientists and their achievements.  As director of this museum, he collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution (2001) to create an exhibition about the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Prize which since has been traveling around the world.  He led projects for the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Bavarian National Museum, as he navigated between the worlds of art and science. This reflects his education: Friess started his career as a master clockmaker and restorer (1982).  Thereafter, he studied the history of art and received his Ph.D. (1992) from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich with a dissertation on Art and Technology. Friess’ plan for The Tech is to make it a place where the secrets of Silicon Valley can be discovered; his goal is to convert The Tech from a local science center to an institution focused on relevant subjects of the time for visitors from around the world.

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