2022 Impact Awards: Finalists and Judging Panel

October 18, 2022

We’re excited to announce the finalists for our 2022 Impact Awards, which celebrate teams, initiatives, and individuals making a difference inside big organizations. You’ll notice a distinct focus on improving healthcare, responding to disasters and conflicts, and advancing sustainability in this year’s list of finalists.

Below are the 16 finalists, chosen from a set of entries submitted by members of the InnoLead network, as well as other projects highlighted as meritorious by our judging panel. (We worked to avoid conflicts of interest by not having our judges evaluate, submit, or vote on projects that they were connected to in any way.) You can learn more about our judges below.

We’ll announce the winners in these two categories, along with our Most Valuable Player honorees, in early November as part of our Impact Silicon Valley conference.

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Company: Airbnb

Initiative: Temporary housing for refugees fleeing Ukraine

Description: Airbnb has been working with non-profits to provide free, temporary housing to people fleeing Ukraine. As of August, and with the help of 40,000 hosts who offered their properties up for free or discounted emergency stays, the company was able to house 100,000 people, which was its initial goal when it announced the initiative in February. Its non-profit partners helped to identify marginzalized communities who could benefit from the housing — from people with rare diseases, to African students, to people who identify as LGBTQIA+.

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

Company: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA)

Initiative Name: FastPass: Reimagining the Prior Authorization Experience

Description: According to the American Medical Association, prior authorization is cited as the number one administrative pain point for provider organizations and customers, while also being a significant admin burden for payers. Health insurance company BCBSMA created FastPass, a solution that uses artificial intelligence to automate prior authorizations in real time, eliminating the need for faxes, phone calls, and manual processes for payers and providers. This approach reduced administrative burden for all stakeholders, and has decreased costs for providers and payers, which led to a decrease in turnaround time — from nine or more days to less than one day. 

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

Company: Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

Initiative: Iris, DFW Airport’s Digital Human Concierge

Description: DFW Airport created the world’s first digital concierge, Iris, which is a hyper-realistic,  animated digital persona that can help passengers with a variety of questions. Iris’ development began in 2020, and is based on research done with dozens of DFW customers. She can point customers toward restaurants in the terminal; offer flight information; detect emotions; and tell jokes to passengers. As she continues to operate, she continues to learn more from each customer interaction, helping advance her development. Since research found some passengers are less facile with technology than others, Iris is largely voice activated. 

Partners: IBM Watson, Soul Machines

Company: Eastman Chemical 

Initiative: Aventa Renew

Description: Eastman Chemical has created Aventa Renew, which is 100 percent compostable packaging. The material is formed by diverting waste from landfills and combining it with ethically sourced wood pulp. Aventa Renew comes in pellet form, and is intended to be turned into other packaging — it is used for  compostable food service packaging, but can also be turned into drinking straws and other products. The Renew pellets resemble nurdles, which are tiny plastic pellets that often pollute oceans; they are biodegradable and don’t leave behind any microplastics. The effort is part of Eastman’s mission to create circular solutions to solve issues with packaging waste. 

: Ford Motor Company

Initiative: Ford EVs and Bi-Directional Charging

Descripton: Few of the world’s legacy automakers have made as big a splash in electric vehicles than Ford. It introduced an electric Mustang, the Mach-E, in 2019, and the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck in 2022. The Lightning’s bi-directional charging capabilities, coupled with a home charging station called the Ford Charge Station Pro, allow the vehicle’s battery to be used as a backup during power outages and disaster situations. Earlier this year, Ford set up electric vehicles in a separate business unit from its gasoline powered products, and said it would invest $50 billion in growing that business (through 2026.) Ford’s share of the EV market in the US has jumped from three percent to seven percent, as of September. 

: Highmark Health

Initiative: thinkUP

Description: Highmark Health launched its transformation initiative, thinkUP, to enable its employees to develop new approaches that would cut costs and optimize people’s time, while helping the core business accelerate growth. The initiative increased employee engagement in change-related activities, and also freed up employees’ time through more than 150 robotic process automation projects. Ultimately, what started as thinkUP turned into Lumevity, an external consulting business focused on helping other companies with transformation. 

Company: HSBC 

Initiative: Simplifying contracts to promote customer engagement while driving sustainability

Description: HSBC realized its contracts were written by lawyers for lawyers, and were tough to decode for the average consumer. The financial services company decided to conduct research and create prototypes to make its contracts more readable for non-lawyers. In doing so, it made contracts inclusive and accessible; it decreased the number of words in each contract and increased readability. Customers said, “It felt like a whole layer of humanity had [been] put in. … It came from a real person.”

Company: ICON plc.

Initiative: Building and Maintaining a Sustainable System While Undergoing Significant Corporate Acquisitions

Description: ICON, a clinical research organization based in Ireland, acquired PRA Health Sciences, which significantly increased its workforce. ICON had integrated a system called Spark with Planbox. Spark allows teams to identify areas of focus, and create challenges that eventually deliver high-impact improvements; ICON had to integrate its new employees from PRA Health Sciences into the system, while simultaneously running a challenge titled “Global Strategic Solutions Talent Acquisition,” which generated nearly 500 ideas across the company, and attracted 25,000 votes from employees.

Partner: Planbox

Company: IKEA

Initiative: RECUP/REBOWL: Restaurant containers with a deposit

Description: IKEA has launched the RECUP and REBOWL initiatives across Germany after successful trials in several stores around the country. The company is requiring a small deposit for reusable to-go containers, which can then be returned in exchange for the deposit. In its test run across three stores, the company says it kept 18,000 disposable to-go cups out of the wastestream — a number that will continue to multiply after expanding the initiative to 54 stores. 

Partner: RECUP

Organization: Innovators for Ukraine (In4Ukraine)*

Initiative: Providing relief to Ukrainians affected by war

Description: Innovators for Ukraine is a connected network of innovators that has helped to provide connections, donations, and relief to Ukrainians in need since March 2022. The group has traveled to Poland to speak with displaced Ukrainians and learn firsthand about their struggles; identified impact areas to expand upon; and made tangible contributions to Ukrainians in need. The organization, a not-for-profit volunteer initiative, has hired six Ukrainian women; put several thousand dollars toward humanitarian support and supplies; and has created communities, like one on Telegram, to help Ukrainians better support one another. 

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

*While Innovators for Ukraine does not meet the requirements laid out in the Impact Award submission guidelines, it was given special consideration because of its mission and immediate impact on an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Organizations: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and NASA

Initiative: Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) 

Description: Johns Hopkins APL partnered with NASA to design and launch a spacecraft that would try to alter the course of an asteroid. While the targeted asteroid, Dimorphos, does not pose a threat to Earth, the trial was intended to demonstrate that NASA could change the course of an asteroid, which could in the future protect the earth from potentially-disastrous hits. DART was the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration. And not only did it successfully crash into Dimorphos, but it shortened the asteroid’s orbit around another space rock by 32 minutes; anything more than 73 seconds would’ve been dubbed a success. How’s that for impact?

Company: Kitson & Partners 

Initiative: Creating an intentional and sustainable community, Babcock Ranch

Description: Babcock Ranch is a 17,000-acre intentional community near Fort Myers, Florida that aims to be a testbed for new technologies. It is intended to generate more power from solar energy that it consumes, and has 10 megawatts of battery storage. It also has a water management system to prevent and control flooding, and has been intentionally designed to limit damage from tropical storms — which helped it to survive Hurricane Ian this year. In the wake of Ian, Babcock Ranch opened a community center to host residents from other hard-hit areas and provide them with supplies and donations. 

Company: Merchants Fleet

Initiative Name: Condition Assessment Program

Description: Fleet management company Merchants Fleet previously had processors manually assessing its leased vehicles upon departure and return. That assessment would then be submitted to both Merchants and the customer, and it often took days to complete. This new program allows clients to do their own vehicle assessments, using photos that are processed by an AI-based software to assess their condition. In doing so, the average assessment time went from 21 days to 24 hours; Merchants saw an 80 percent reduction in cost for the program; and saved the company 2.5 years of manual labor hours. 

Company: Moderna

Initiative: Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Description: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, biotechnology company Moderna had never produced a commercial product. That changed with its COVID-19 vaccine, SPIKEVAX, which was the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be tested in humans. Over 700 million people have been vaccinated with SPIKEVAX globally, and it has exponentially increased the company’s revenue and quadrupled its workforce. Since the successful development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna has been working to use the mRNA technology to mitigate other disease threats globally. 

Company: Walmart

Initiative: Autonomous delivery trucks

Description: Retail giant Walmart partnered with Gatik, an autonomous vehicles startup, to begin using autonomous delivery trucks in Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered, and Lousiana. The trucks have already begun making the deliveries, with added safety measures in place, and have not had any crash incidents. In Bentonville, Arkansas, two driverless trucks regularly make a 7.1 mile trip to deliver goods to a Walmart distribution center. While the trucks do not require a driver behind the steering wheel, they currently operate with a person in the passenger seat; the hope is to move away from that in the near future. 

Partner: Gatik

Organization: World Central Kitchen

Initiative: Providing meals to people affected by disasters

Description: World Central Kitchen has thousands of volunteers that have served over 200 million meals to people in need, mostly those affected by natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and man-made conflict. The organization has served Ukrainian refugees, people in Florida impacted by Hurricane Ian, people affected by flooded villages in Pakistan, and more. The initiative, started in 2010, is led by José Andres, and the meals World Central Kitchen serves are based upon local tastes and ingredients. WCK has pledged that it will continue to work toward sustainability in its meal preparation and distribution. The WCK philosophy: “When people are hungry, send in cooks.”

2022 Judges

Our judges for this year included past Impact Award winners as well as past conference speakers and hosts of InnoLead events. We’re grateful to them for their involvement!

  • 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

(Featured image by Ariel on Unsplash.)