Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Women of Innovation: Awards banquet celebrates women in STEM


Winners of the Iowa Women of Innovation Awards were announced Monday night during the tenth annual event at Prairie Meadows.

The event was hosted by the Technology Association of Iowa. The winners of the 2017 Women of Innovation Awards were:

  • Research Innovation and Leadership: Dr. Alicia Carriquiry, Iowa State University
  • Academic Innovation and Leadership: Deborah Kent, Drake University
  • Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership: Amy Lank, American Power Systems, Inc.
  • Leadership Innovation: Michelle Bates, BluPrairie
  • Company Innovation and Growth: Kum & Go
  • Rising Star: Bailey Anderson, Principal Financial Group
  • Diversity Champion: Amanda Pietsch, John Deere
  • STEM Champion: Chris Cournoyer, Quad City Engineering and Science Council
  • Legislative Advocacy Leader: Debi Durham, Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority

A high school and college student each were recipients of $2,500 scholarships:

  • Collegian Innovation and Leadership: Patricia Izbucki, Iowa State University
  • Youth Innovation and Leadership: Danielle Panning, Valley Lutheran High School

    Women of Innovation
    Brian Waller, President of the Technology Association of Iowa, speaks during the Women of Innovation Awards banquet Monday night at Prairie Meadows.

Brian Waller—President of the Technology Association of Iowa—told Clay & Milk before the event that sometimes Iowans do themselves a disservice about the lack of diversity in the tech community rather than focus on the richness of Iowa’s tech community.

“Sometimes I think we need to rest on the fact that we need to profile and highlight women who are doing great stuff, rather than talk about the lack of them,” Waller said. “And tonight is really a great personification of that.”

Waller said in 2018 the Technology Association of Iowa is going to focus on the women in the tech community, rather than talking about the lack of perceived women in the industry.

“Not only are women doing technology and STEM-related stuff here in Iowa, they are changing the world through technology and that’s the story we want to get out more,” Waller says. “So if you’re a young girl and you want to change the world, you can do that with technology and science-based industries.”

Women of Innovation: Awards banquet celebrates women in STEM | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now