Aurora self driving vehicles.

Technology looked a lot different 25 years ago when the first Tech 50 Awards were presented by the Pittsburgh Technology Council. There was an internet (just barely), cell phones were big and clunky (but not smart), and self-driving cars were science fiction (except for researchers at Carnegie Mellon University).

Today, during a pandemic on a scale that hasn’t been seen in 100 years, Pittsburgh’s top tech innovators are being honored for their resilience and adaptation.

There’s Aurora, built on decades of pioneering research at CMU on the challenge of self-driving vehicles. There’s MSA Safety, a 100-year-old manufacturer, finding relevance in keeping workers safe in hazardous situations. And there are young companies like CytoAgents, which is working on a way to blunt the Cytokine Release Syndrome/Cytokine Storm, an overreaction of the immune system associated with Covid-19.

This year, the often overshadowed Oakdale-based Pittsburgh Technical College took home multiple awards for Nonprofit/Education/Community Innovator of the Year and CEO of the Year.

The 2021 Tech 50 Awards were given out Wednesday night at the Wyndham Grand in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“It’s pretty amazing that the Tech Council has been celebrating the accomplishments of our tech companies large and small for a quarter of a century,” says Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO Audrey Russo. “Having the event in person after Covid forced a virtual Tech 50 last year made it even more special. To see the excitement and feel the energy of the winners and finalists is simply amazing.”

Here are this year’s winners:

Photo courtesy of CytoAgents.

Innovator of the Year: Life Sciences
CytoAgents is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the development of innovative pharmaceutical products for the treatment of life-threatening symptoms associated with Cytokine Release Syndrome, an overreaction of the immune system causing systemic inflammation.

Finalists: Ariel Precision Medicine, NeuEsse, Tobii Dynavox

Innovator of the Year: Manufacturing – The Kurt J. Lesker III Award for Excellence
MSA Safety
Since 1914, MSA has grown to include more than 5,200 employees across the world, protecting workers in over 140 countries against hazardous or life-threatening situations. MSA’s comprehensive safety products integrate a combination of electronics, mechanical systems, advanced materials and new technologies.

Finalists: Eaton, Intervala, PittMoss, PPG, Safe Space Technologies.

CEO of the Year
Pittsburgh Technical College: Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, president and CEO
Since 2019, Alicia B. Harvey-Smith has helped Pittsburgh Technical College expand its profile. As the college’s first president since becoming a nonprofit organization, her guidance has opened doors to the community and increased access to funding and enrollment opportunities.

Finalists: Teresa Whalen from CytoAgents, Nathan Martin from Deeplocal, David Kane from Ethical Intruder, James Gillespie from GrayMatter, Nick Bartel from Idelic, Jordan Saunders from NextLink Labs, James Haluszczak from NuMoola, Ben Wilson from Rivers Agile.

Self-driving truck. Photo courtesy of Aurora.

Innovator of the Year: AI/ML/Robotics
Founded in 2017, Aurora is building the Aurora Driver, a platform that brings together software, hardware and data services to autonomously operate passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks. Headquartered in the Strip District, Aurora employs 1,600 people.

Finalists: Gecko Robotics, Idelic, Locomation, Motional, Roadbotics

Photo courtesy of Tech Elevator.

Innovator of the Year: Consumer
Tech Elevator
Tech Elevator is an educational provider helping individuals and companies acquire in-demand technology skills. Through 14-week, full-time, in-person coding bootcamps, Tech Elevator teaches students with a variety of backgrounds to become software developers while helping them build necessary career readiness skills and career connections.

Finalists: BlastPoint, Brand Holdings, Digital Dream Labs, NuMoola

Innovator of the Year: Medtech/Health IT
TeleTracking Technologies, Inc.
TeleTracking believes it is unacceptable that patients can’t access the care they need — when they need it — due to operating inefficiencies and unnecessary cost barriers. For three decades, TeleTracking has pioneered the management of patients from admission through discharge, and most recently, has led the development of NASA-like health system command centers that provide critical, real-time information and transparency across all hospitals.

Finalists: ConnectiveRx, Data Ideology, Rimsys

Innovator of the Year: Start-up Company
Seiso LLC
Seiso is an information security consulting company that delivers cloud, enterprise and application security solutions; builds and operates security programs; and provides expert guidance and advice.

Finalists: Confirmed LLC, ERIN, HIKE2 LLC, My BFF Social, NextLink Labs

Innovator of the Year: Nonprofit/Education/Community
Pittsburgh Technical College
The private, nonprofit and regionally accredited institution is celebrating 75 years of preparing students for professional success. Degree-seeking students complete internships, clinical rotations or employer-partnered capstone projects before graduation.

Finalists: 412 Food Rescue, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, Carnegie Science Center, Commonwealth Charter Academy, Schell Games.

Innovator of the Year: Solutions Provider – Innovative Tech
Optimus Technologies
Optimus manufactures the Vector System, an advanced fuel system technology that enables medium and heavy duty vehicles to operate on 100% biodiesel, cutting carbon emissions between 75-100%.

Finalists: Aspinity, Deeplocal, GrayMatter, Hamiltonian Systems, Meter Feeder

Innovator of the Year: Solutions Provider – Services
Rivers Agile
Since 2008, Rivers Agile has fulfilled the need for quality assurance services in Pittsburgh and has matured into an end-to-end software solutions provider. Whether defining new software or refining an existing application or website, the company works with clients throughout the entire product lifecycle to help them achieve their strategic vision.

Finalists: Aspirant, CAI, River Point Technology, SDLC Partners, The Machine, TiER1 Performance

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.