The R&D 100 Awards recognizes the best in industrial technology and research, but not all our winners are corporations. Many award-winning technologies emerge from college, universities, institutions and non-profit research organizations. Academic laboratories have in recent years enhanced their ability to generate innovative products, and winning entries are an increasingly common sight, more than three dozen in the past 10 years.
Stanford Univ. is one of a few academic institutions with at least 10 R&D 100 wins, the earliest coming in 1971 with the Speediffrax X-ray Diffraction System and the latest arriving in 2009 with the FemtoScope, which uses a single-shot, real-time process to stretch out a waveform and capture rare time-related events that are difficult to reproduce. It is often called a “time microscope”.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been a regular participant of the R&D 100 Awards in recent years, winning more than a dozen R&D 100 Awards, most with its Artificial Immune System in 2007 and High Performance Thermoelectric Materials in 2008. MIT’s earliest Award was won in 1972, for an interesting device call the Braillemboss. This was a braille page printer designed to emboss braille at a faster rate than the teletype machine, which was the standard interface for the blind.
The Univ. of Illinois, from its Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, has also won a large number of awards over the years, and was one of the earliest academic innovators to participate in the R&D 100 Awards. In 1967, the university won for a very early iteration of the Plasma Display Panel. This was one of the earliest multicolor displays for use with computers and preceded the more well-known Fujitsu displays. More recently, the Univ. of Illinois has been a crucial partner in developing of the The Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope (TEAM) Electron Microscope Stage (2009 winner), which was one of the world’s most powerful, high-resolution microscopes when it was launched in 2008. Able to image spatial features below 1 nm in size, TEAM-equipped microscopes are producing high-level nanoscale discoveries in many different fields today.
Other repeat winners reflect a long-time collaboration between universities and federally-funded research institutes. These include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Univ. of California, Berkeley, Ames Laboratory and Iowa State Univ. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Univ. of Tennessee.
Recent innovations from Iowa include the VE-PSI: Virtual Engineering Process Simulator Interface, a 2009 R&D 100 Awards winner which has found widespread use among universities and laboratories as a way to lets engineers integrate process simulation, computational fluid dynamics and computer aided-design software tools into one software package.
In 2010, the Univ. of California, Berkeley and LBNL won for their collaboration on a technology that used light-responsive carbon nanotubes to create the first cost-efficient, remotely triggerable, impermeable microcapsules. This “Chemicals on Demand” innovation consisted of smart microcapsules made from nylon spheres about the size of a grain of sand that enclose a liquid chemical sprinkled with carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes convert laser light to heat that bursts the microcapsule. The long-term utility of these microscale chemical tools has yet to be fully realized, but the invention has helped spur R&D in the biomedical, industrial chemical and electronics fields.
ORNL and the Univ. of Tennessee, meanwhile, have generated more than a dozen R&D 100-winning technologies as team. One of the more notable wins was in 1994 for the Parallel Virtual Machine, which was an important step toward distributed processing and grid computing. The first version was written at ORNL in 1989, and after being rewritten by Univ. of Tennessee, version 2 was released in 1991. Version 3 was released in March 1993, and supported fault tolerance and better portability. Emory Univ. also contributed to the development process. PVM has been supplanted by newer standards for passing information on parallel machines, but continues to find use and support in the public domain.
There’s still time to enter 2014 Awards!
In addition to a shorter, simpler form this year, the editors have decided to give participants an extra two weeks to prepare their submission. Friday, May 9 is the new deadline, so if you have a new product launched in 2013, consider entering!
What products qualify?
Any new technical product or process that was first available for purchase or licensing between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013, is eligible for the 2013 awards. This includes manufacturing processes such as machining, open source software, new types of materials or chemicals, and consumer-level products such as cameras. Proof-of-concepts and early-stage prototypes do not qualify, however; the submitted entry must be in working, marketable condition.
This year’s awards will be presented at our Gala Awards Banquet on Friday evening, November 7, 2014 in the Grand Ballroom at the Bellagio Las Vegas, Nevada—an entirely new, exciting venue for our awards with more surprises to be announced along the way.