What’s the Power of Technology in the Hands of Innovators? Check out the 2011 Tech Awards Laureates

I’ve been at Intel for over four years now, and one of the events people have kept telling me that I need to attend is the Tech Awards. This year, the crazy scheduling gods finally aligned and I made it up to Santa Clara for the 2011 Tech Awards. And I’m so glad that I did.

Last Thursday night, the Tech Museum honored laureates at the Tech Awards program, presented by Applied Materials in association with Santa Clara University. When I first arrived, I saw the usual things you would find at a gala dinner, lots of tuxes, women in long gowns (I managed to not trip over my feet, thankfully), and lovely table decorations. But then I quickly saw the displays of all of the laureates’ projects, with the laureates engaged in discussions about their work, research and innovative solutions. I quickly made my way over to the environment award finalists displays, given that Intel was the sponsor of this award at the event again this year. The three finalists in this category developed technology solutions related to water, including a community-based water treatment technology solution, composting toilets, and an online technology platform to help support decision-making and stakeholder engagement related to marine conservation. At the event, the $50,000 cash prize in the environment area went to a project by AguaClara, Cornell University, and Agua para el Pueblo.

Check out the videos from the three laureates in the environmental category:

AguaClara, Cornell, and Agua para el Pueblo

Ecotrust’s Marinemap

WAND’s composting toilets

The night also showcased solutions and laureates in the areas of education, health, equality, and economic development, with the awards sponsored by other leading tech companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, and Flextronix. Truly inspirational people to have the chance to meet and learn about the innovative ways they are tackling some of today’s toughest challenges using technology. I also really enjoyed the part in the program where the work of past laureates was higlighted — how they are now moving forward to operationalize and scale their solutions that they presented at the event only a year before.

The night underscored the importance of bringing together very different players to the table in examining the power of technology to solve today’s challenges – the necessary mix of individuals and small organizations and large companies.

As Jeff Skoll put it (the recipient of the 2011 Humanitarian Award at the event) “These individuals remind us of the power of one – but they also depend on an ecosystem of support. We need the power of many. But sometimes the power of one, or even the power of many is not enough and we need the power of ‘a great many’.” These laureates show how technology can be that essential connector that helps empower the “great many” to help solve today’s most pressing challenges.

It’s something that is at the heart of Intel’s vision and strategy: “Over the next decade we will create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth.” This year’s laureates greatly inspired me (and I know the rest of Intel attendees there that night) to keep pressing ahead on that ambitious goal. Congratulations and thank you to all of the laureates for all that they have and will accomplish.

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