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Are your products winning design, innovation, or breakthrough awards?
Dozens of companies and awards programs recognize new product innovations. The following five stand out. All five competitions are global with equal access. Any size company can afford to enter. Only products ready for commercial sale may compete. Achievement of any level of recognition is rewarded in the marketplace.
R&D 100 Awards: Since 1962, R&D Magazine has honored the top 100 innovations each year. The awards program encompasses five areas: mechanical devices/materials; IT/electrical; analytical/test; process/prototyping; and software/services. Additionally, a number of special recognition awards are bestowed for market-disrupting services, market-disrupting products, corporate social responsibility, and green tech. The key criterion for winning is technological significance. Judges from industry, services, and academia award points to each innovation, with the top 100 scores making the list. Notable among the 2017 winners and Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (9).
The International Design Excellence Awards: Since 1980, theIndustrial Designers Society of America has been giving out Gold, Silver, and Bronze IDEA awards. IDEA awards span many industries and disciplines including: commercial products; entertainment; home goods; and social impact designs. Additionally, there are personal recognition awards and special awards for individuals and companies, respectively, and several more. The key criteria to win are design innovation, user experience, client benefit, society benefit, and appropriate aesthetics. Nearly three dozen members of the jury make the decisions. There were 25 Gold, 52 Silver, and 64 Bronze Winners in 2017. Gold winners are housed in a permanent collection at the Henry Ford Museum.
Edison Awards: Since 1987, Edison Universe has been giving out Gold, Silver, and Bronze Edison Awards in 16 categories ranging from applied technology to consumer goods to health and wellness, and transportation and logistics. There’s also an Annual Edison Achievement award, which was won this year by the CEO of Lockheed Martin. The key criteria to win, each of which has three to four sub-criteria, are: concept, value, delivery, and impact. Nearly 135 people compose a nominations committee that makes recommendations to a 25-person steering committee, and it decides the winners. There were 45 Gold, 45 Silver, and 47 Bronze Winners in 2017 across the 16 categories.
Breakthrough Innovation Awards: Since 2008, Nielsen has recognized breakthrough innovations in consumer products. Only a few awards are given out each year. There were 18 Winners in 2017. Since inception, Nielsen has awarded only 110 U.S. products and 198 globally out of over 30,000 entries. The hurdles are quite high. First, the product must be distinctive and deliver a new value proposition to the market. Second, it has to have generated more than $50 million in its first year of U.S. sales. Lastly, it has to have generated more than 90% of year-one sales in year two. Both the size and longevity of achievement differentiate it from other new-product innovation awards.
CES Innovation Awards: Since 2015, the Consumer Technology Association has recognized innovative consumer electronics products. There are 28 award categories including 3D printing, cybersecurity, gaming, VR and AR, and smart homes and cities, and two award levels, Honorees and Best of Innovations. The key criteria to win include: engineering qualities; aesthetic design; intended use/function and user value, uniqueness/novelty; and comparative analysis to same-space products. Each category is judged by a three-member team composed of an industrial designer, an engineer, and a member of the trade press. Because everyone likes an award, there are oodles of Honorees. But, to win Best of Innovation in a specific category, products must exceed a minimum number of points. Thirty-six winnerswere chosen this year across the 28 categories.
Edison announces its award winners in the spring, Nielsen in early summer, IDSA in late summer, R&D 100 in the fall, and CES in January.
Are you planning to compete in 2018?
I just returned from a trip to China and wanted to write down a few reflections. The week began with a visit to Tsinghua University in Beijing with whom we’ve partnered to develop a design-thinking curriculum, and ended with a stop at IDEO’s Shanghai studio.
The people I met were mostly young entrepreneurial candidates for the design coursework. There’s an enormous entrepreneurial vein in China, and it’s not all about technology. I was interested to learn about the vast array of ideas they’re spinning up, from products and services to renewable energy to real estate to social entrepreneurship. The culture there is very commercial, but there was huge enthusiasm about how design could make them better business-builders.
And the faculty are listening: the Vice President and Provost of Tsinghua University expressed interest in bringing the latest on design thinking to China and incorporating design thinking into Tsinghua’s engineer education. It’s an exciting prospect to think that these graduates may be the next business leaders of China. This is a long play—it may take a decade—but eventually there’s going to be more people who are trying to solve problems through the lens of human beings and there’s a palpable enthusiasm about that shift.
Part of it will require transitioning from a “Made in China” to a “Created in China” sensibility. There’s evidence of a new focus on R&D: The 5-year plans that are coming out of the central government place innovation and climate change high on the agenda. And not a moment too soon, as other nations have taken up mass manufacturing and Chinese brands have to distinguish themselves not just on price point, but also on quality and new ideas.
Take DJI, the drone company. China’s scale propelled their business initially, but they now own about 70 percent of the global world market, according to the Financial Times, because they’ve invested in innovation and international growth. Other major players like Huawei and Tencent know, too, that they can’t just be a domestic play. That global mindedness represents both an opportunity and a challenge. Chinese companies can’t be run algorithmically anymore, they need to get creative about expanding their market.
One thing that left me breathless while I was there was how China has the ability to leapfrog systems solutions. I rode high-speed rail from Beijing to Shanghai and sitting in the station on one of the pristine trains you look out the window and see a white polished marble platform that stretches to infinity. They travel at a ridiculous speed completely silently and run with Swiss precision. We had seats in a business class cabin that was more comfortable than any airline I’ve ever flown. Compare it to dark, dank Penn Station and it puts American rail to shame.
If the Chinese can do that with trains I can only imagine what hospitals and cities could become if the human-centered design is practiced at scale here.
From what I saw, and granted it was a limited view, the appetite is there to learn those tools of creativity. They don’t want to understand design to become more like America. They want to understand design to become a better version of China.