Organizers of the Edison Awards believe that by choosing Fort Myers as their new home, they came to the right place. They want to make the City of Palms the Cooperstown of innovation.
On April 20, the Edison Awards—for the second year in a row—will begin with a private party at the home of the awards’ namesake, longtime Fort Myers winter resident and inventor Thomas Edison. On the evening of April 21, the awards ceremony will take place at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center. Leading up to the awards during the afternoon, a “meet the innovators forum and innovators’ showcase” will feature Miles O’Brien, the former CNN and now freelance journalist, as moderator.
Carmichael Roberts, co-founder of Material Impact, a fund that backs resilient technology companies, and Bracken Darrell, CEO of design company Logitech, will be this year’s Edison Achievement Award honorees. They will speak and answer questions.
On the final day, April 22, groups will tour Babcock Ranch, the community off State Road 31 powered in part by a solar farm. A group of Southwest Florida students will be invited to an Experiential Learning Day for the Community to open the new amphitheater along the river in Fort Myers. And a group of former and current professional athletes will take part in a panel about becoming entrepreneurs after their playing days.
The Edison Awards can be used as a marketing tool for the companies that win them and pay to be considered for them. Last year, Impossible Sausage won a consumer goods award for its plant-based food. These are the types of nominations Executive Director Frank Bonafilia said he has been seeing in recent years—and especially this year.
“We are seeing a ton of nominations related to sustainability,” Bonafilia says. “Sustainability as it relates to housing. Buildings and housing and schools and even in farming. There are fully autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. You’ll have the opportunity to meet these people who are changing the world.”
The city of Fort Myers granted $50,000 a year for the first three years to the Edison Award, while the Horizon Council and Foundation of Lee County matched that while seeking an additional $50,000 from sponsors.
Inventions, including an electric jetpack designed by inventor Richard Browning, are slated to be on display and will be demonstrated. “It’s all about the future,” Bonafilia says. “The future of innovation. But it’s not just about innovation. It’s about, ‘How do we inspire the community in Fort Myers? How do we inspire them?’
“Anything is really possible,” he says. “That’s where the jetpack comes in, the autonomous vehicles. People take on these challenges because no one else would. We’ve got some big challenges—water, food insecurity. We’re trying to address that through innovation and building a bridge back to Edison and his legacy.”
Tickets for Southwest Florida attendees are $675; tickets for a VIP pass to all events are $1,100. Email Jean Bradley, jean @edisonawards.com to purchase tickets. For more information, go to edisonawards.com.