Chicago Innovation Awards winners include CTA Bus Tracker, Master Lock

Tom Kuczmarski, left, presents an Innovation Award to the founders of crowdSPRING.

The winners of this year Chicago Innovation Awards were announced Monday evening to a rapt audience of entrepreneurs in a packed Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St.

As the evening hosts and co-founders, Tom Kuczmarski, senior partner of Kuczmarski & Associates and Dan Miller, former business editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, pointed out, this has been a fertile year for innovation despite “ or possibly because of “ the prolonged economic recession.

Some 332 entrepreneurs were nominated in 2010, nearly 100 more than in 2009. Of those nominees, the 10 that were chosen ranged from relatively new companies to established firms that sought to develop new ideas.

The 10 winners were:

  • crowdSPRING, a marketplace for creative services;
  • Abbott Lab ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combination Test, which enables earlier detection of the HIV virus;
  • The Chicago Transit Authority online Bus Tracker system, which lets commuters know when their bus is expected;
  • Smart Medical Technology Liftaem patient transfer system, a way to physically transfer patients from one lateral surface to another with the assistance of a cushion of air;
  • Master Lock Speed Dial, which opens on directional movements instead of a rotary dial combination lock;
  • SoCore Energy, which created a portable solar mounting system for flat-roof commercial buildings;
  • MJSI Inc. HydroClean, a toilet tank insert that saves water;
  • USG Corp. Sheetrock Brand Ultralight Panels, which are gypsum panels that weigh an estimated 30 percent less than its wallboard competitors;
  • Lextech Labs iRa C3, a video command center that can be accessed on the Web or via SmartPhones;
  • Molex Inc. Circular MT Expanded Beam Interconnect, which addresses the need for reliable and easy-to-use connectors in the medical and telecommunications industries.

In addition, a Visionary Award was given to Rocky Wirtz, Rocky Wirtz, president of the Wirtz Corp. and owner/chairman of The Chicago Blackhawks, winner   of the Stanley Cup this year.  A Peoples Choice Award was given to Touch Taste Technologies and an Up-and-Comer Award to InContext Solutions.

— Suzanne Cosgrove