2023 Impact Awards: Finalists and Judging Panel

September 5, 2023

We’re excited to announce the finalists for our 2023 Impact Awards, which celebrate teams and initiatives making a difference inside big organizations. You’ll notice a distinct focus on deploying AI and automation; improving healthcare access and equity; and advancing sustainability in this year’s list of finalists.

Below are the 20 finalists, chosen from a set of entries submitted by members of the InnoLead community, as well as other projects highlighted as meritorious by our judging panel and InnoLead’s editorial team. You can learn more about our judges below. (InnoLead’s sponsors aren’t involved in the judging process, and we work to avoid conflicts of interest by not allowing our judges to evaluate or vote on projects that they are connected to in any way.)

We’ll announce the winners in early October, and honor them as part of our Impact 2023 annual conference, which takes place October 25th-27th in Cambridge!

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Impact Awards Finalists

Company: AARP

Initiative: AgeTech Collaborative

Description: The AgeTech Collaborative seeks to foster innovation at the nexus of longevity and technology. By connecting AgeTech startups, forward-thinking investors, enlightened enterprises, and creative testbeds in a collaborative space designed to generate big new ideas, this system is sending new products into a global economy worth more than $45 trillion. Startups involved in the collaborative have collectively raised more than $420 million, and impacted 575,000 customers.

Company: AstraZeneca

Initiative Name: Global Clinical Solutions Innovation Network

Description: At AstraZeneca, in Global Clinical Solutions, a new cross-functional innovation strategy allows for continuous innovative improvement. BrightIdea’s corporate innovation cloud manages all ideas for the entire organization. After an idea has been submitted, it is sent to an innovation governance board to ensure the idea is aligned with business strategy. Once it is approved, a minimum viable innovation team (MVIT) is created. Since launch, there have been 172 ideas submitted by AZ employees and 38 ideas have been implemented. Some ideas have resulted in larger strategies that have been elevated to the R&D Clinical Operations level. One particular idea, the Digital TMF Strategy, is now pushing digitization efforts for all clinical operations.

Company: BarthHaas Group 

Initiative: Pioneering the Hops Industry Through Innovation

German hops supplier BarthHaas Group is comprised of John I. Haas, BarthHaas, and Hop Products Australia. In 2021, the company formed a creative partnership, called Greenhouse GmbH & Co. KG, which supports the product and portfolio pipeline from idea to commercialization. 

The program’s overall structure includes four key components: the Core Team, Support and Mentoring Groups, Bank of Ideas, and Council. The Core Team is the central unit overseeing the company’s operations and strategic direction. The SMGs are specialized groups that bring diverse expertise to contribute to innovation and problem-solving with unique perspectives. The Bank of Ideas platform provides a centralized space to collect and manage innovative ideas generated. Ideas are scored based on strategic fit, technical feasibility, commercial viability, and economic potential. If approved, the highest-ranked ideas are evaluated further and progress to the next stage.

As a result of the partnership, in the last two years, the Greenhouse has delivered and commercialized three new products, including Hopkick, which is an all-natural hop flavor and aroma for beverages and beer.

: Bayer

Initiative: Bayer Life Sciences Collaboration Program

Descripton: To help advance the company’s goal of “Health for All, Hunger for None,” the pharmaceutical company sought to leveral internal collaboration and break down silos.

Bayer introduced a fun, creative twist to R&D with Avatar Mode, uniquely assigning AI-generated avatar photos and names to each participant. This approach allows scientists to shed their preconceived roles and embrace digital alter egos, sparking exploration of ideas free from hierarchical constraints or biases. The program, supported by Planbox’s innovation management software, also allows employees to address serious world challenges related to hunger and improving health in a more lighthearted and enjoyable way. The result is an immersive world where scientists become entrepreneurs, and ideas morph into action.

The initiative attracted roughly 5,000 participants in 60 different countries, with a participation ratio of 54 percent men to 42 percent women, dismantling geographical boundaries and unifying a global workforce through creativity and collaboration.

Partner: Planbox

: Black & Veatch

Initiative: Digital Equity Bus

Description: The Digital Equity Bus (DEB), crafted the global engineering and construction firm Black & Veatch, is a mobile classroom used by Evergreen Goodwill to bring digital equity to underserved populations. It features SMART Board technology, Wi-Fi access, adjustable desks, seating for 9-12 people, an ADA accessible ramp, and room for multiple instructors, as well as a retractable awning allows for even more instruction space outside as weather allows. Goodwill uses the DEB to conduct workforce development classes, and it has already been put to work supporting Ukrainian refugees with English and computer literacy classes in a welcoming, efficient, and cost-effective way.

In its first year of operation, the DEB delivered five seven-week classes, and ten single day workshops. Black & Veatch is preparing to launch a second bus with Evergreen Goodwill, and has been in discussions with other organizations about how this initiative can impact their ability to help the people they serve.

Partner: Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington

Company: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA)

Initiative: Mental Health Advocacy

Description: BlueCross and BlueShield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) is working toward an ambitious goal — to be a leading health plan for mental health access and coverage. The approach to reduce barriers requires using a combination of technology and high-quality, empathetic service to navigate members to available clinicians, well-matched, convenient, and affordable; to limit out-of-network use; and provide ongoing support. By conducting extensive consumer research featuring ethnography, interviews, surveys, and secret shopping, they found dissatisfaction from patients with the fit and match of providers, a mismatch of payer expectations that in-network providers are available, and more. BCBMSA plans to counter these issues with network and innovation expansion such as decreasing wait times, improvements in digital navigation such as providing a self-navigation assessment, and better forms of advocacy such as follow-up contact requirements.

More than 200,000 BCBSMA members have leveraged new digital assets related to mental health services, and expanded its insourced provider network by more than 3,800 clinicians.

Company: BMW

Initiative: The BMW Generation 6 Battery

Description: Batteries currently account for roughly 40 percent of the price of a BMW electric vehicle. The BMW Gen 6 battery aims to cut the price of battery packs in half, which would enable BMW’s EVs to compete on price with its internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In addition, energy density will be increased by 20 percent (storing more energy in the same pack size), charging time will be reduced by 30 percent, and the new cells will enable BMW’s top vehicles to offer 30 percent more range. BMW also hopes to drastically reduce the emissions of its production; the new batteries are expected to move into production in 2025.

Organization: Boston Globe Media Partners

Initiative: Hack Day & Idea Pitch at Boston Globe Media Partners

Description: Boston Globe Media hosts a twice-yearly Innovation Week, including a Hack Day & Idea Pitch activity. These activities consist of employees being able to present to senior leadership ideas that they believe would be impactful new products, services, or activities for the company to offer or take part in. By investing in a customized digital platform, Brightidea, that allows ideas to be surfaced from anyone, the results have been building a culture of celebrating and welcoming innovation across the organization. Over 300 ideas have been pitched through this new program by more than 200 different employees. One group created a business plan for a standalone new brand with a newsletter, distinct identity, and a creative social campaign that would connect younger readers in Boston to our existing journalism. They called it the B-Side, with plans to expand to other cities.

Partners: Brightidea

Organizations: Doosan Bobcat

Initiative: The All-Electric Compact Track Loader 

Description: Unveiled in 2022, the Bobcat T7X,  developed by Doosan Bobcat, stands as the world’s first all-electric compact track loader. By replacing traditional hydraulic systems with an all-electric drive, it eliminates emissions and significantly reduces vibrations. The T7X requires less than one liter of eco-friendly coolant, a stark contrast to the 216 liters used by equivalent diesel/hydraulic models. The T7X’s zero emissions feature is a significant leap forward in reducing the construction industry’s environmental impact, aligning with worldwide sustainability initiatives.

Partners: Planbox

The Doosan Bobcat T7X

Company: General Mills

Initiative: Celebrating the Intensive Approach’s Transformational Influence

Description: Since January 2021, General Mills has leveraged its “Intensive Approach” with various business teams such as Cereal, Meals, Baking Snacks, Dairy, Pet, Food Service, and Global teams to revolutionize the way General Mills approaches new product innovation.

This approach reliably gets to bigger ideas in a fraction of the time – typically 4-6 weeks, versus the traditional 12 month-plus approach. Cross-functional business teams have undergone 30 intensives, and created 45 big opportunities that are each responsible for $15 million or more in sales. The approach leverages best practices such as lean start up, agile, and design thinking, while continuously adapting and refining these principles. This repeatable, proven approach has fostered a culture of innovation and resulted in significant positive outcomes for General Mills.

Companies: IBM and NASA

Initiative Name:

Description: Built from IBM’s collaboration with NASA, the model is used to convert satellite data into high-resolution maps of fires, floods, and other landscape changes. This technology helps to process Earth’s past, and can give insights on what is in store for the future, in terms of climate change trends. This project is the first-ever foundation model for analyzing geospatial data.

Company: ICON

Initiative: Supercharging Productivity in Clinical Trials

Description: ICON, a Dublin-based contract research organization serving the pharma industry, has been embarking on an ambitious journey to bridge the confidentiality gap that often constrains collaboration. The SPARK challenge represented a groundbreaking collaboration between ICON’s Strategic Solutions division, the Innovation and Informatics team, and its external sponsor partner. Over 100 participants joined forces, contributing more than 50 innovative ideas, leading to targeted improvements in areas such as transforming how patients were assessed to enter clinical trials, cloud infrastructure realignment, quality oversight plan implementation, and onboarding enhancement. One data point: patient assessment transactions began sooner, increasing efficiencies in that process from 84 percent to 98 percent, while also enhancing trial delivery quality and sponsor satisfaction.

Partners: Planbox

Company: Lawrence Livermore National Library

Initiative: Controlled Nuclear Fusion

Description: In December 2022, 192 of the most energetic lasers in the world bombarded a tiny pellet of hydrogen atoms with such intensity, they fused together to create helium and — most importantly — excess energy. That outcome, known as fusion ignition, generated 3.15 megajoules of energy output, even though the laser delivered only 2.05 megajoules to the target. The federally-funded R&D lab’s breakthrough in nuclear fusion could be used to produce energy with near-zero carbon emissions. By July 2023, the lab repeated the experiment, delivering an even higher energy yield.

Partner: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)

Organization: L’Oreal

Initiative: HAPTA

Description: HAPTA, by the L’Oreal Groupe, is the world’s first hand-held computerized makeup applicator designed for those with hand-motion disorders, arthritis, Huntington’s Disease, and stroke-related motion challenges. The device uses motion stabilizing technology to stay level, constantly adjusting to the user’s position. That makes the application of beauty products easier and more accessible for a wider range of consumers.


Company: Microsoft

Initiative: Bing Chat

Partner: OpenAI

Description: Bing Chat, launched in February 2023, is Microsoft’s conversational chatbot, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 large language model. But unlike OpenAI’s version, it can pull in recent information from across the web, and provide users with source links for the answers it provides. You can also upload images and ask Bing Chat for information about them — like who painted a particular work of art.

Organization: Moffitt Cancer Center

Initiative: GROW and the Pirates of Automation

Description: Moffitt Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated treatment center, is the only one in the state of Florida. The Moffitt Digital Innovation team launched an awareness campaign, “The Pirates of Innovation,” in August 2022, with a call for innovative ideas to help drive efficiencies and invite nominations for those willing to learn to code and automate their inefficient work processes to save time for their departments. GROW (Get Rid of Waste), a subset of this campaign, is a business process automation initiative that is building a culture of innovative automation at Moffitt by training team members in various operational departments to eliminate inefficient ways of working. Through the annual program, each band of Pirates is trained and up-skilled to automate, solve business challenges, and GROW — get rid of waste — together.

Organization: The Nature Conservancy

Initiative: Building Innovation Capacity for Environmental Impact

Description: The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest environmental NGO. While the existing lab successfully drives innovation in pockets of the organization, they realized that this approach doesn’t create broader capacity for innovation that is urgently needed. So, they committed to a bold and unique approach to helping staff in every department understand, embrace, and develop innovation skills. In 2023, innovation fundamentals were introduced directly into employees’ existing jobs through a longitudinal, project-based learning approach. Administrators are already seeing changes in the workplace like organizational, communicative, and intuitive understandings.  Business outcomes include things like increased donor close rates, using automated transcripts to replace note-taking by assistants, and automating the HR workflow to accelerate the hiring process.

Partner: Danger Fort Labs

Organization: OpenAI

Initiative: ChatGPT

Description: OpenAI, the San Francisco-based research and development company that created the generative AI sensation ChatGPT, launched its flagship product publicly in November 2022. The chatbot, based on OpenAI’s large language model, is conversational and allows for Q&A in any domain, language translation, copywriting, lyric writing, customer persona development, and much more. By January 2023, ChatGPT had hit 100 million active monthly users, making it one of the fastest-growing apps in history.

Organization: OSF HealthCare

Initiative: OSF HealthCare & Marti: Pioneering Health Equity

Description: OSF Healthcare, a nonprofit healthcare system headquartered in Illinois, partnered with the venture studio High Alpha Innovation to develop and narrow a pool of ideas to a few winning concepts in a rigorous week-long Sprint Week. High Alpha hired entrepreneurs from their network to lead the company, while OSF Healthcare provided initial capital at formation. Through this process, OSF HealthCare and High Alpha identified a significant societal and organizational challenge: Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), which especially affects African-American children. Though the disease affects three times the number of people as cystic fibrosis, it only receives nine percent of the funding. OSF HealthCare and HAI collaborated to launch Marti, a site that brings access, literacy, and transparency to SCD patients and caregivers. This solution reduces the administrative time that SCD Care Coordinators and doctors must spend on activities like outreach, scheduling, and basic education, allowing members of the care team to operate at the top of their license and focus on delivery of care. And it creates a new billable event for hematology practices, “principal care management,” potentially generating more than $1,200 per patient, per year.

Partner: High Alpha Innovation

Marti Health’s interface

Organization: Purdue

Initiative: DIAL Ventures

Description: DIAL Ventures is a venture studio within Purdue Applied Research Institute, the nonprofit applied research arm of Purdue University in Indiana. Its objective: to create successful startup companies in Agtech and Foodtech, and improve those industries’ digital capabilities. The initiative contains a venture studio creating and de-risking startups through deep industry partnerships to drive ideation and concept development; a fellowship program vetting and developing successful entrepreneurs; and industry partners providing insights and capital to create advantaged startups. Croft, an early product of this studio, is one of three startups that have launched within the first 18 months of the studio’s existence. It is a workforce platform that aims to simplify and streamline the process of hiring temporary agricultural workers.

Partner: High Alpha Innovation

Thanks to our judging panel!

Our judges for this year included past Impact Award winners, as well as past conference speakers and hosts of InnoLead events. We are very grateful for their participation this year!

  • Nat Arlander, Head of the Plasma Innovation Hub, Takeda
  • Eric Braun, Chief Development and Innovation Officer, Asian Women for Health
  • Jodie Brinkerhoff, VP of Innovation, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Bob Czechowicz, Senior Director of Innovation, GS1 US
  • Robin Gissing, Deputy Chair of the University of West London’s Computing Industry Consultative Committee
  • Michal Preminger, Head of Innovation for East North America, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
  • Anne Roberts-Smith, Section Supervisor & Innovation Program Janney Grants Lead, The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Djuana Stoakley, Strategic Design Lead, Entergy
  • Emily Stuis, GTM Innovation Agenda & Sourcing Lead, Pfizer
  • Chris Varley, Principal of Goodyear Ventures, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

(Featured image by Ariel on Unsplash.)