Technology Benefiting Humanity

Companies get involved in a lot of CSR efforts. Some seem to get an unfair amount of attention and others go on almost invisibly. I’m sure that’s the case for many companies – but there is one event that Intel has been involved with now for 7 years that is truly inspiring. Most “award” programs under-shoot my expectations by a large margin, but the laureates celebrated at the Tech Museum Awards each November, never cease to amaze me.

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In short, the Tech Museum Awards is an international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. Intel sponsors the Environment category, but several other companies are also invested in the event including Applied Materials, Microsoft, Accenture, SanDisk and the Swanson Foundation.

The Tech Awards have really achieved a sweet-spot in highlighting true triple-bottom-line approaches to some of the world’s most important challenges. The basic premise is to recognize individuals and groups from around the world that apply technology to humanity’s most pressing problems and deliver solutions to address the most urgent critical issues facing our planet.

Each year, 5 laureates are selected in 5 different categories – Environment, Health, Education, Economic Development, and Equality. Those 25 laureates gather in San Jose, California each November to celebrate their achievements and recognize each other. We are lucky enough to host the 5 Environmental laureates and provide a cash grant to the winner.

This year, the Environmental projects include a system using metal particles and cooking oil to remove toxics from ground water, seaweed that absorbs wastes from salmon farming and provides feed for aquaculture, a system to trap toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants, a way to convert invasive plant species into clean cooking fuel and a solar sail that combines wind, solar and hybrid technologies into a way to power boats. The project teams come from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Chile. Over the years, the range of both projects and geographical origination has been tremendous.

And, this just represents one of the 5 categories. I’ve been to the event in person many times. I’ve spoken to many of the laureates both before and after the event. I’ve even seen Wall Street Journal stories on some of the finalists, years after the event. But I still see almost no attention given to these projects by the national media. I just don’t get it.

I’m always amazed by how invisible this program is to the general public and even those stakeholders that would otherwise be interested. I’m sure there are 100’s of similar programs supported by other companies and NGO’s all over the world. Feel free to share your example in the comments – or let me know why you think they don’t get the attention they deserve.

3 Responses to Technology Benefiting Humanity

  1. Joann says:

    Dave,
    Here are some thoughts on your question, from someone completely outside the industry who knew nothing of these awards until today. a) Publicity for awards programs or honorees must be explicitly sought in advance. b) Are 25 laureates at once just too many for a journalistic mind to wrap around and cover in one article? c) SELF-PUBLICIZE…The sponsoring companies could pool resources to produce a 30-60 minute documentary on the 25 projects, to broadcast on public television (talk to stations before production) or Community TV, or podcast, Facebook, YouTube parts of the awards program or project descriptions. d) Are the chosen projects perceived as too tied in to a philosophy of “creating business opportunities for the company or… fostering a brand image” (quote from an Intel blog entry)? e) I have seen media reports on individual beneficial programs that employed relatively low-tech methods to enhance practicality and longevity. IT projects require a long-term commitment. f) TIME (and other mags) periodically has a technology issue, where some of these laureates should show up.