The 2015 winners are Benton Calhoun, Commonwealth Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and one of the developers of new kinds of ultra-low-power wireless sensors; and James Smith, Henry L. Kinnier Professor of Environmental Engineering, inventor of an innovative clean-water technology.
“This is the first year U.Va. LVG has named two innovators in different areas of research and innovation,” said Michael P. Straightiff, executive director of the U.Va. Licensing & Ventures Group. “Our committee, comprised primarily of past Innovator of the Year honorees, simply couldn’t choose just one winner. We believe this outcome is a testament not only to Ben and Jim’s extraordinary qualifications, but also to the creativity of U.Va.’s faculty and the vibrancy of our innovation ecosystem.”
In addition to being full-time faculty members, both honorees are also entrepreneurs, a combination that can increasingly be used to describe faculty innovators at U.Va.
Calhoun is the co-founder of one of the most talked about start-ups in Charlottesville, PsiKick. The company focuses on ultra-low-power wireless sensors developed by Calhoun and his team at U.Va., and has been regarded by industry experts at the forefront of the generational phenomenon of technological connectivity, called “The Internet of Things.”
In 2014, PsiKick secured a major investment from New Enterprise Associates, one of the nation’s top venture firms. That same year, PsiKick was named one of the 60 “hot” startups by EE Times and it was profiled in the MIT Technology Review.
Smith is the founder of Pure Madi, a nonprofit organization working to bring purified water to the developing world, and MadiDrop PBC, a public benefit company incorporated to disseminate the MadiDrop, a clay disk invented at U.Va. by Smith and his team that makes use of nano-silver particles to purify the water. One MadiDrop can purify several liters of water for six months. He and his students have been working in the Limpopo Province in South Africa in collaboration with the University of Venda.
The Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award – named for the late U.Va. Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. (“Goose”) Henderson, a veteran of privately owned financial services businesses – recognizes University innovators whose research discoveries are making a major impact on society.
Calhoun and Smith will be honored April 16 at the U.Va. Licensing & Venture Group’s annual innovation award gala at the Jefferson Theater.