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Arizona technology leaders honored at 2021 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation awards

Arizona businesspeople, students, educators and legislators were honored on Oct. 13 at the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation, an awards ceremony put on by the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Scores of people attended the Wednesday evening event at the Phoenix Convention Center downtown, with attendees donning tuxedos, evening gowns and even shoes — a stark departure from the work-from-home attire in use for much of the past year. This was the 18th edition of the GCOI.

The theme of the event was “resiliency” and speakers took the stage to discuss how Arizona’s technology sector adapted, contributed and even thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Despite the challenges we faced, leaders have stepped up to continue delivering critical technology across sectors,” tech council president and CEO Steven Zylstra said in a statement. “It was an honor to recognize the organizations and individuals who contributed incredible innovation throughout the year, as well as celebrate our state’s legislators, educators and future leaders during tonight’s event.”

Members of the Tech Council submitted nominations for the Innovator of the Year award in four different categories. The winners are as follows:

  • Innovator of the Year, Startup Company: EnPower, Inc. — A company making high-density lithium ion batteries in Phoenix.
  • Innovator of the Year, Small Company: GT Medical Technologies Inc. — A Tempe company that makes a surgically implanted device that combats brain tumors with radiation.
  • Innovator of the Year, Large Company: Aligned — a Danbury, Connecticut-based company that operates a large data center in Phoenix.
  • Innovator of the Year, Academia: Jim Schwiegerling, Ph.D. — a professor at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences that has developed implantable cataract replacement lenses.

In addition to the Innovator of the Year awards, several other companies and individuals received awards as well. 

Avnet CEO Phil Gallagher earned the Lifetime Achievement award and Tucson-based AGM Container Controls CEO Howard Stewart earned the Transformational Leadership Award.

On the company side, Qwick, a startup that makes a platform for on-demand staffing, won the Judge’s Award and Intel Corp. won the Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year Award, following the start of construction at the company’s $20 billion fab site in Chandler last month.

The Chairman’s Award went to Arizona State University for its work during the pandemic. The Council specifically noted ASU’s Biodesign Institute for its development of a saliva PCR test for the coronavirus and the university’s vaccination sites, such as the megasite previously in operation at State Farm Stadium.  

Legislator and student awards

The Tech Council also honored Arizona legislators, specifically for renewing the Small Business Capital Investment Incentive this past legislative session, a program more commonly known as the angel tax credit. The council named Arizona state Rep. Daniel Hernandez as the Representative of the Year and Sen. David Gowan as Senator of the Year; Gowan sponsored the angel tax credit bill.

The following state legislators were named as the “Tech 10” for their support of innovation in Arizona: Sen. Sean Bowie, Sen. Paul Boyer, Senate President Karen Fann, Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, Rep. Regina Cobb, Rep. Aaron Lieberman, House Majority Leader Ben Toma, Rep. Michelle Udall and Rep. Justin Wilmeth.

A group of Arizona high school students also earned the title of Future Innovator of the Year for their work: Marina Galasso of Tucson, Arjun Gupta of Phoenix, Karah Mayer of Tucson, Lilli Seebold and Nathan Lam of Gilbert, Bailey Tischer of Gilbert and Katherine Wei of Chandler. 

Jeremy Jonas, of the Tucson High Magnet School, won the Teacher of the Year Award. Jonas and all the winning students won $1500 each.

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