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The awards ceremony held in Oakland on Thursday. Photo courtesy of East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

Awards ceremony honors innovative East Bay health, tech and design companies

on February 1, 2013

The East Bay Economic Development Alliance celebrated creativity and innovation at its first annual awards ceremony Thursday. The event, held in Oakland at the Fox Theater, honored East Bay organizations that do work in the fields of clean technology, advanced manufacturing, food, information and communication technology, life sciences, engineering, design and education.

A total of nine awards were given out. The Legacy Award was presented to Novartis for its history of research and product development in the field of health care. The Catalyst Award went to Berkeley Skydeck, a “startup accelerator” and technology entrepreneurship center located in downtown Berkeley. The Business and Education award went to Bayer Healthcare for its research and development. Five companies received industry awards including Pandora, the Oakland-based internet radio company, and Ecologic Brands, a sustainable packing company located in Oakland.

Other finalists included the Oakland food company Commmunity Grains, Oakland-based LiveScribe, Inc., which manufactures a “smartpen” that links audio recording to handwriting, and EKSO Bionics in Richmond, which was selected for its work with robotic exoskeletons, a device that helps wheelchair users stand or walk.

Winner Ecologic Brands offers a container made from recycled, paper-based materials, mostly cardboard, reducing the use of plastic by 70 percent. The multi-component bottle consists of an outer shell and an inner plastic pouch.

“It nice to have continuous validation that your idea is working,” said marketing director Jack Wei, who accepted the Clean Tech award on behalf of his company. “It’s a two-way street. When I accepted the award I said, ‘You can’t become successful alone.’ You can have an idea, whether it’s good or not. You need the audience to be receptive. You need support around you.”

Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy also expressed his gratitude for the East Bay Innovation Award. “We are honored to receive an East Bay Innovation Award in the Design & Engineering category,” wrote Kennedy in an email message. “Pandora was founded as a platform to connect artists with their audiences and is the future of radio. Our dedicated team works hard every day to ensure we are delivering the right song to the right listener at the right time and it is this singular focus on our core technology that helps us achieve our mission to be the best personalized radio in the world.”

Organizations were selected based on two criteria—the nature or the technical process of the innovation and the impact of that innovation or company on the region’s economy, said East Bay Economic Development Alliance executive director Karen Engel.

The alliance was established more than 20 years ago and works in partnership with East Bay cities, counties, companies and special districts.  The goal of the organization is promote the East Bay and to create awareness about great industry trends and innovations created  by companies and individuals, Engel said. “What we are trying to celebrate is just the creative, artistic, innovative culture that the East Bay has and how that spurs entrepreneurships and spurs starting business and doing great things,” she said.

The idea for the awards ceremony came up when the Economic Development Alliance was reviewing the organization’s marketing strategies. The organization wanted to do more to showcase the work of the businesses that were providing new ideas, products and services.

“We received nominations from all over the East Bay region, so that was kind of cool,” Engel said. “From Richmond to Livermore to Contra Costa County. I think it’s a testimony to how widespread some of this is. It’s not just around UC Berkeley—it’s really up and down the East Bay.”

Submissions for more than 85 companies were reviewed by a panel of three independent judges who ranked their choices for finalists in each of the nine categories. The panel then narrowed down the winners from a field of 18 finalists.

The winners received an award statuette which was designed and manufactured in Oakland by Fathom Design Studio.

The Economic Development Alliance will begin looking for nominations for next year’s ceremony in October, Engel said.

To view a video describing each finalist, go here.


Legacy Award


Catalyst Award

Berkeley Skydeck

Business and Education Partnership

Bayer HealthCare

Industry Category Winners

Pandora (Information / Communication Technology)

Telsa Motors (Advanced Manufacturing)

Ecologic Brands (Clean Technology)

Livescribe (Engineering and Design)

Penumbra (Life Sciences)

St. George Spirits (Food)

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