We all know just how important innovation is to the future of business. It's what drives our organizations forward -- developing new products and services that have the power to change our lives, and change the world.
Yesterday, Fast Company magazine named its 2019 World Changing Ideas Awards. The list of 17 award winners "celebrates businesses, policies, and nonprofits that are poised help shift society to a more sustainable and equitable future."
According to Fast Company, an initial pool of almost 2,000 entries was narrowed down to a list of hundreds of finalists. These finalists were judged by a jury of social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, thinkers, designers, and an editor with the magazine.
Here are five of the award winners -- you'll find all 17 on the Fast Company World Changing Ideas Awards site.
1. General Excellence: Aira (Aira)
Using glasses with a built-in high-def camera and a speaker, or a mobile phone app, vision-impared people can "see" using Aira's product -- also named Aira. Currently, only about 53 percent of blind or low-vision students are able to successfully make the transition from their freshman to sophomore year of college. A test group of students using Aira's product have raised this statistic to 92 percent.
2. Education: Meraki Margdarshaq Project (Meraki Foundation)
According to Fast Company, the Meraki Foundation -- based in Delhi, India -- "has developed a method of working with impoverished and often overburdened parents in India to reverse neglect, attune them to a child's developmental needs, give them the tools to address those needs, and build support systems, so they're less stressed." Considering the fact that there are approximately 250 million disadvantaged children worldwide who are not provided with early learning, this project has tremendous potential impact.
3. Experimental: Spinnova (Spinnova)
Finnish company Spinnova has developed a machine that can grind agricultural waste and wood pulp into fibers that are then be turned into fabric for the production of clothing. According to Spinnova, the process uses 99 percent less water than growing cotton, which requires a significant amount of water. This is especially important in parts of the world where water is a scarce commodity.
4. Food: Apeel (Apeel Sciences)
A tremendous amount of food is wasted every year -- approximately one-third of everything that is grown. One problem is that fruits and vegetables often rot quickly after they are harvested. Apeel Sciences developed a food-derived coating that can help protect food from rot -- enabling it to be consumed instead of thrown away.
5. World Changing Company of the Year: IBM
IBM was chosen to be Fast Company's World Changing Company for 2019 because it has created innovative solutions for a variety of important projects that impact people and the world. Says Fast Company, "From disaster relief to food supply to artificial intelligence, the company is applying its technological know-how in surprising ways."