Chicago Innovation Blog

Chicago Innovation Awards Announces its 2018 Winners

by | Oct 29, 2018

cia-logo-750x124Chicago Innovation Awards Announces its 2018 Winners

25 organizations that embody the innovative spirit honored at 17th annual awards ceremony


CHICAGO – October 29, 2018 – The Chicago region’s most innovative organizations — those with new products and services that generate novel solutions to unmet needs — were honored at the 17th annual Chicago Innovation Awards on October 29, 2018 at the Harris Theater.

The Chicago Innovation Awards received nominations from 519 organizations in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  A panel of 13 judges selected the honorees from 100 finalists announced in early September.

“It’s a privilege to share this year’s winners with the world,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with journalist Dan Miller of the Chicago Innovation Awards. “The businesses and organizations we honor embody a commitment to fresh thinking, results, inclusivity, and economic growth. Chicago continues to recruit and develop talent that unleashes high-impact innovation.  It is our mission to celebrate and support these efforts.”

The Chicago Innovation Awards has proven a bellwether of success.  Notably, 98 percent of previous Chicago Innovation Award winners since the program began in 2002 – 255 in total – remain in business today. Many past winners have become attractive acquisition targets for large corporations or private equity, with 42 exits totaling more than $85 billion since 2002.  This year’s 519 nominees have accounted for 432 patents and $3.44 billion in revenues.

The themes of “lifting people up” and “innovation is for everyone” are front and center at the 2018 Chicago Innovation Awards

Throughout the awards ceremony, an emphasis was placed on the importance of celebrating Chicago’s innovators to fuel efforts to attract talent and investment to the Chicago region.  These themes of “lifting people up” and “innovation is for everyone” were central to the comments of the event’s co-hosts: Chicago Innovation’s co-founder Tom Kuczmarski and Executive Director Luke Tanen, CEO of World Business Chicago Andrea Zopp, and COO of Zeno Group Nancy Ruscheinski.

Receiving this year’s Spirit of Innovation Award and performing was the Chicago Children’s Choir, the nation’s preeminent youth choral organization, serving 5,000 students across the city of Chicago. The Chicago Children’s Choir has performed for such dignitaries as former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, and former President Bill Clinton. Additional entertainment that night included highly regarded dance troupe, The Future Kingz, semi-finalists on this past season of America’s Got Talent.

Demonstrating the breadth of innovation unique to the Chicago region, the judges selected the following companies as 2018 Chicago Innovation Awards winners in the main category:

  • Abbott for its non-penetrative FreeStyle Libre continual glucose monitoring devices for diabetes patients
  • Illinois Holocaust Museum for its interactive, holographic Survivor Stories Experience
  • Farmer’s Fridge’s P4, optimally stocked vending machines delivering same-day fresh salads
  • Advanced Valve Technologies’ EZ Valve, efficient installation of a valve in an existing under-pressure pipe
  • Molex’s 10 Gbps automotive ethernet backbone, providing industry-leading high-speed networks in connected cars
  • Sittercity’s on-demand babysitting app, Chime, which allows parents to review and book sitters instantly
  • UPshow, a fully customizable Social TV Platform for businesses
  • Cameo, a platform enabling consumers to book personalized video greetings from celebrities
  • Ensono M.O., a service management platform used to monitor and manage your entire hybrid IT estate
  • Sterling’s TerraLam CLT mats, a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable work platform for construction equipment

The Chicago Innovation Awards recognizes companies to watch in the future with its Up-and-Comer Awards.  The winners selected for this category are:

  • Codeverse, the world’s first fully interactive coding studio for kids aged 6-13
  • ExerciseBuddy, an exercise app designed specifically for those with autism and related disorders
  • Parker Dewey, which enables career launchers to work on professional, paid, short-term assignments for companies
  • Esquify, an AI-driven workforce management platform for legal reviewer teams
  • Jiobit, the world’s smallest and longest lasting tracking device designed specifically for kids
  • Truss, which uses AI technology to enable small business owners to lease office, retail and industrial spaces at ease
  • Unanimous AI’s Swarm AI, providing the interfaces and AI algorithms to enable “human swarms” to converge online
  • Catalytic Predict, which embeds machine learning into an automated business process in under 10 minutes
  • PanaceaNano, which takes early-stage nanomaterial discoveries and turns them into commercial products
  • GuardianVets, a B2B telehealth platform for after hour veterinary care

A special award, called the Chicago Neighborhood Awards, was given to three organizations that are solving needs in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods:

  • Lakeview Pantry, a food pantry that mimics the look and feel of a Whole Foods store in an effort to bring dignity to those who suffer the shame of poverty
  • Above & Beyond, a completely free addiction center that emphasizes compassion, finding purpose, and goal-setting
  • Aspire Chicago for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career Academy, an innovative job training and placement facility for adults with disabilities

The Chicago Innovation Awards presented its Social Innovator Award to BallotReady, which is a digital, non-partisan voter guide that provides voters with details on all candidates down the ballot.

Adler Planetarium received the Collaboration Award for The Aquarius Project, the first systematic attempt at a freshwater meteorite recovery, in partnership with The Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, Chicago Public Schools, NASA and the NOAA.

The Bra Lab was named the 2018 People’s Choice Award winner, receiving the most votes out of 34,000-plus cast.  It won for their patented bra design, which incorporates 3 separate pieces (cups, back straps, and shoulder straps) to allow women to interchange pieces to suit their wardrobe needs.

The Top 100 Finalists each received a scholarship to “The Practical Innovator” at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, a daylong executive education course that teaches the practical skills of innovation.

The winning organizations receive a variety of honors including the opportunity to ring the Nasdaq bell in New York City as well as participate in meetings with the mayor, governor and Cook County president.The Chicago Innovation Awards are supported by Diamond Sponsor Theron Technology Solutions, Gold Sponsors Comcast Business, Wintrust Financial and SMS Assist; Silver Sponsors Vedder Price, Exelon, LinkedIn and others.

About Chicago Innovation

Chicago Innovation, established in 2002 as the Chicago Innovation Awards, have grown from a single awards ceremony to a year-long series of events and activities designed to educate, connect and celebrate innovation in the Chicago region.  The organization’s expansion has included formation of the Chicago Innovation Women’s Mentoring Co-op to support female innovators, the Chicago Student Invention Convention to teach the innovation process to students in K-8th grade, Corporate Start-up Matchmaking to connect large corporations with emerging start-ups, and an Innovation MBA in partnership with IIT that offers graduate students with experiential learning and $10,000 scholarships.  For more information, visit To follow on social media, visit Twitter (@Chi_Innovation) and Facebook sites.