Announcing the Winners of InnoLead’s 2022 Impact Awards

November 1, 2022

From outer space to Ukraine to the concourses of Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, the winners of this year’s Impact Awards were doing things first — and making a big difference.

We created the Impact Awards in 2018 to celebrate the people and teams inside large, established organizations who were creating quantifiable value through innovative and experimental projects.

Some companies nominate their own initiatives, while others are submitted to the process by our editorial team and judges (see below for the list of this year’s judges.)

This year, we’re recognizing nine winners and one special commendation. For more details about each initiative, please see our post about the 2022 Impact Award finalists.

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Our Winners

Airbnb — For leveraging its platform to provide emergency housing for 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Partners: Global Empowerment Mission, EURODIS-Rare Disease Europe, and Planting Peace

Rafal, a Polish Airbnb host, was one of over 48,000 Airbnb hosts who helped Airbnb place Ukrainian refugees in emergency housing. (Photo: Airbnb)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — For the FastPass proof-of-concept that worked to process prior authorizations in real time, by applying artificial intelligence. The program, FastPass, decreased costs; lessened burden to providers and patients; and lightened administrative load.

Partners: New England Baptist Hospital, Olive A.I.

BCBSMA’s FastPass uses artificial intelligence to process prior authorization forms in real time.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport — For creating and deploying the world’s first digital concierge in an airport, Iris, which helps passengers with information by using speech recognition and artificial intelligence.

Partners: IBM Watson, Soul Machines

Highmark Health — For its transformation initiative, thinkUP, which empowered employees to accelerate the core business’ growth by developing new approaches to cut costs and optimize time. ThinkUp has since evolved into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Highmark called Lumevity.

Innovators for Ukraine (In4Ukraine) — For helping to provide connections, donations, and relief to Ukrainians in need since March 2022. The group has hired six Ukrainian women; put several thousand dollars toward humanitarian support; and has created networks to help Ukrainians support and communicate with one another.

Partners: Massachusetts Innovation Network, ACTION Innovation Network, Mansfield Bio Incubator, Ukraine Forward

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and NASA — For their work launching a spacecraft that altered the course of the asteroid Dimorphos. This test proved NASA has the technology to alter the course of asteroids, which could some day protect the earth from disastrous hits.

DART’s mission was to alter the course of the asteroid Dimorphos, which it successfully accomplished. (Photo: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab)

Kitson & Partners — For its creation of Babcock Ranch, an intentional community in Florida. The community generates and uses solar energy and, partly due to its storm-proof infrastructure, had very few issues weathering Hurricane Ian.

Kitson & Partners’ Babcock Ranch leverages solar panels on rooftops and in open spaces to help provide electricity for the community. (Photo: Babcock Ranch)

Merchants Fleet — For its Condition Assessment Program, which allows clients to conduct their own vehicle assessments when renting and returning a vehicle for their fleet. This reduced average assessment times; cut costs; and greatly decreased the amount of manual labor needed.

 The Condition Assessment Program allows clients to do their own vehicle assessments, using photos that are processed by AI-based software to validate a vehicle’s condition. (Photo: Merchants Fleet)

Walmart — For its partnership with Gatik, an autonomous truck startup that uses driverless trucks to deliver merchandise between a Walmart dark store and a Walmart Neighborhood Market, one of the retailer’s smaller-format grocery stores. The trucks make between four and seven trips each day, and the operations have resulted in roughly 30 percent cost savings.

Partner: Gatik

World Central Kitchen — For its work serving millions of meals to people affected by natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and man-made conflict. As of May 2022, WCK was delivering food bundles and serving hot meals in more than 230 cities and towns across Ukraine, many of which did not have functional grocery stores. In the week that followed Hurricane Ian in Florida, it served 200,000 meals.

World Central Kitchen volunteers distribute food as a response to the war in Ukraine. (Photo: World Central Kitchen/

Congrats to all of our winners and finalists, and thanks to our judges for the 2022 awards. They were:

  • Robyn Bolton, Founder, MileZero
  • Erik Falck, Head of Innovation, Johnsonville
  • Jay Gerhart, VP — Innovation Engine, Atrium Health
  • Colleen Hau, VP of Product & Programs, Newlab
  • Michael McCathren, Senior Principal — Enterprise Innovation, Chick-fil-a; author, 6Ps of Essential Innovation
  • Uma Meyyappan, SVP — Head of Digital Innovation, LPL Financial
  • Curtis Michelson, Co-Founder, INFOdj
  • Gina O’Connor, Professor of Innovation Management, Babson College
  • Tracy Rossetini, R&D Director — Early Stage Innovation, Pepsico
  • Djuana Stoakely, Lead Strategic Designer — KeyString Labs, Entergy