Nominations are accepted in the following Edison Award categories. Categories may be broken down into sub-categories which reflect the emerging innovations of each year.
Click each category title for an explanation of how Thomas Edison inspired each one. Visit the past winners pages to see examples of winning entries in each category.
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.
Athletics, Sports & Recreation
While sports and recreation were not central to most of Thomas Edison’s efforts, his body of work nevertheless has had an incredible impact in these fields. By introducing new innovations focused on productivity to workplaces and households around the world, people suddenly found themselves with more free time on their hands, a new luxury. Although history tells us that sports have been around since ancient times, more recent advances in medical science now have proven the health advantages of engaging in recreational activities, and the age of television has brought it to the masses. Recognizing these trends, today’s innovators are focused on using their ideas to create safe environments, enhanced experiences and maximum benefit to people engaged in these types of activities.
The Collective Disruption Award is presented to a group of organizations that together have conceived and developed transformative innovation through collaboration and co-creation. The organization(s) applying for this category may be established corporations, startups, social enterprises, as well as public or non-profit entities that have undertaken the challenge of working collaboratively with partners to create transformative innovation and market disrupting new solutions. The award can also be presented to an infrastructure or ecosystem platform provider that enables established large enterprise and entrepreneurial co-creation and collaboration.
Consumer Electronics & Information Technology
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.
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.
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."
Health & Wellness
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 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.
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.
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.
Media, Visual Communications & Entertainment
Thomas Edison's continuous innovations in the area of media not only led 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.
The first commercially purchasable fluoroscope for X-ray examinations was developed by Thomas Edison; the fundamental design of Edison's fluoroscope is still in use today.
NEW! - Space Innovation
Thomas Edison once said, "Someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun." For decades, our future in Space has captivated the imagination of millions and inspired many to dream of exploring strange new worlds and securing humanity’s future as a multi-planetary species. That future is here today. Space is rapidly becoming an everyday reality for a growing number of people around the world. A confluence of reduced launch costs and new technologies is bringing space within the grasp of many innovators and entrepreneurs. This budding commercial space industry offers solutions for a resource strapped planet and future colonization of other worlds. Opportunities for new innovations span a broad range of applications developed to solve problems here on Earth and that can be scaled to solve key problems in space. Topics sought for nomination cover diverse fields including space vehicles, propulsion systems, communications and sensors, habitats, sustainable ecologies, recycling and waste management, agriculture, biological and health sciences, nanotechnology, smart materials, alternative energy, resource extraction, manufacturing and construction, and more.
Despite his lack of a formal education, Thomas Edison was granted membership in 1927 into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a private non-profit organization established by Congress and President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology; membership in the National Academy is one of the highest honors in U.S. science.
Transportation & Logistics
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.