Edison Awards

Edison Award Categories

Each year, nominations are accepted in the following fifteen Edison Award categories. Categories may be broken down into sub-categories which reflect the emerging innovations of each year. True game-changing innovations can create their own categories.

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Applied Technology

Little did Thomas Edison know that, upon the completion of his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory in 1876, he would invent the process we know today as Research and Development. At Menlo Park - and later at West Orange - Edison used a systematic process of innovation to churn out new-to-the-world technologies, including the world's first phonograph, the incandescent electric light, the system of electrical power, motion pictures, and the alkaline storage battery. These technologies transformed the lives of virtually every individual in the developed world from the 1870's to the 21st century.

Submissions to the Applied Technology category are also
considered for the Collective Transformation Award.

Consumer Packaged Goods

Edison believed products should be easy to buy, and priced in a way that multiple audiences could enjoy them. Edison marketed several types of phonographs ranging from super-premium to bare bones lines, ensuring that Edison records could be enjoyed by millions. He worked with concessionaires and created licensing arrangements to ensure broad distribution for all his Edison-branded products, ranging from motion pictures to batteries.

Edison Green Award

The Edison Awards were established in 1987 to honor Thomas Edison's wide-ranging contributions to technology and consumer products, as well as to inspire and foster continued innovation. The Edison Green Award™ is designed as a platform to recognize efforts by an organization to reduce participating community's carbon footprint, create Green Collar jobs through new innovation methods and improve community health and self-sufficiency.

Electronics & Computers

In addition to his extraordinary accomplishments in applied science, Thomas Edison is credited with several basic science breakthroughs. One in particular, called "The Edison Effect," came about as Edison was undertaking experiments on the early incandescent electric light. He noted that carbon from the filaments he used was being deposited in a particular pattern on the inside of several glass light bulbs. Edison's work demonstrated how a stream of these deposits could be manipulated and caused to follow specific paths. "The Edison Effect" became the underlying discovery leading to the invention of the vacuum tube, giving birth to the modern Electronics and Computer industries.

Energy & Sustainability

Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent electric light transformed the world of commerce as we know it, enabling workers to labor - and generate revenue - beyond daylight hours. But Edison was also a major proponent of energy conservation, and espoused the use of carbon-free energy forms as early as 1905 - when he invented the world's first storage battery. He said, "I'd put money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

Industrial Design

Thomas Edison believed that innovation included not only the world of technology but the world of design. He was very focused on creating products that worked with the way people lived. Many of Edison's original phonographs, movie projectors, and Dictaphones are pleasing even to the contemporary eye because they were designed for high functionality, high quality, and lifestyle integration.

Innovative Services

Service innovation is about doing things better and doing better things. It can be multi-dimensional, involving technology and product innovation, customer interface and service delivery, organizational innovations and innovations related to new network and value chain configurations. In Edison's era, it was extraordinary for people to receive electrical power service when they were accustomed to using coal, kerosene, whale oil, wood or other forms of energy. Edison created a safe, convenient way for power to be consumed in homes and businesses, demonstrating that innovation is just as much about creating access to a product or delivering it as it is about inventing the product itself.

Lifestyle & Social Impact

Thomas Edison believed that innovation was fundamentally a social force. He felt it permeated all aspects of our lives and our society. His view of innovation as a force for positive change fundamentally shaped his sense of purpose: "...bringing out the secrets of nature and applying them for the happiness of man. I know of no better service to render during the short time we are in this world."

Living, Working & Learning Environments

Thomas Edison not only developed a systematic approach to innovation, he designed interior spaces and work environments that were conducive to fostering innovation. His Menlo Park and West Orange Laboratories offered unique interactive spaces as well as areas for solitude. The culture of innovation in Edison's workplaces was palpable to visitors and employees alike. Edison also designed innovative living spaces. Most notably, he developed a system for pouring entire two-story homes from concrete, offering low cost shelter for families.

Material Science

With significant media attention in recent years focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology, materials science development has been propelled to the forefront across countless industries. Materials science applies the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering, incorporating elements of applied physics and chemistry. More than 100 years ago, Edison reported that, "We've already discovered the secret of transmuting metals," and speculated that 100 years hence, houses would be made of steel and books would be printed on leaves of nickel.

Media/Visual Communication

Thomas Edison's continuous innovations in the area of media not only lead to new products and platforms, they also were a gateway to establishing new enterprises and industries. His media products and technology inventions provided opportunities for mass accessibility that revolutionized the way we interact with media on both a local and global level. Edison's introduction of the Kinetophone allowed individuals to watch moving pictures while listening to music on the Phonograph. His subsequent design and standardization of 35 millimeter celluloid film took the platform a step further by allowing studios to reduce costs and increase distribution. Wider film distribution caused movies to emerge as a popular form of mass entertainment, which laid the groundwork for what has become the motion picture industry.

New Retail Frontiers

Shifting demographics, more educated consumers, new channels-among other trends-require modification of existing approaches and processes and the creation of new avenues to satisfy the needs of customers. Edison often leased space in retail establishments to demonstrate his products, especially the photograph. Many people in that era thought the devil was what made the phonograph speak, so having the chance to demonstrate the product "live and in person" in a store helped dispel these fears. Edison also delivered his phonographs door-to-door, branching into the new frontier of "bringing the store into the home." Edison believed that customer education was crucial to establishing confidence in product quality - as well as encouraging future purchases.


In a radical statement for his day, Thomas Edison believed that physicians of the future would focus on wellness and preventive care rather than disease alone. He stated, "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."

Thomas A. Edison Marketing Award

The Thomas A. Edison Marketing Award honors extraordinary cases in which the integration of marketing, market and customer thinking has been a key driver in the genesis and development of a new product, service or offering. The Award recognizes the leadership role that marketing plays as an inherent and critical factor in every aspect of the innovation - from inspiration, discovery and development to distribution, positioning and introduction of a concept. Nominees for the Award will be judged on how marketing has driven the development and defined the market success of innovations including new economic and business models, service models, networking models, communications, promotional and media models, among others.


One of Edison's most profitable but little known inventions was the Electric Railway. Edison pioneered railroad electrification in 1880 when he built a prototype electric railway at Menlo Park running about one-third of a mile. Edison powered a small electric locomotive using a dynamo generator functioning as a motor, with current supplied from a generating station in back of the laboratory. These systems were eventually expanded, then patented and sold. Importantly, Edison's storage battery (1905) was also used to power Model T automobiles and municipal vehicles nationwide.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Thomas A. Edison

The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.

Thomas A. Edison

If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas A. Edison

The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.

Thomas A. Edison

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress.

Thomas A. Edison

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

Thomas A. Edison
Edison Universe
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