Executive Leadership Awards

Nominations are Open for Executive Leadership Awards!

Submit your nomination for the annual Innovate@UCLA Executive Leadership Awards for one of the four award categories below. The deadline is May 1, 2024.

Award Categories

Emerging Technology Award

Awarded to the leader of an early-stage company with at least $20M in funding or $200M in revenue. Key criteria are delivering radically new and unique products or services that provide great value to their customers.

Public Sector Award

Awarded to the leader of a public agency a large sphere of influence and contribution to the community. Key criteria are providing tangible benefits to citizens and the community using innovative technology.

Enterprise Award

Awarded to senior executives, typically C-level, but can also include other senior executive titles, leading a company or division of a larger company. Key criteria emphasize the importance of brand, customer experience, and innovative technology in the final award decision.

Community Impact Award

Awarded to senior executives, typically non-profit officers, who have positively impacted their communities in ways that inspire integrity. Key criteria include significant outreach efforts focusing on ethical leadership, honesty, and sustainable impact.

Selection Criteria

The selected senior executive or organization exemplifies leadership in the vision and use of technology to achieve outcomes through their ability to:
  • Seek new innovative solutions creating a far more stimulating environment for change than during economically stable times.
  • Develop, communicate, and execute a strategic vision for the business that centers around technology as a critical advantage.
  • Leverage modernized, cutting edge technologies or proven technologies in an innovative or disruptive manner.
  • Maintain a track record of recognizing and successfully capitalizing on opportunities to utilize digital solutions/technologies.
  • Focus on delivering a differentiated, exceptional customer experience throughout the customer’s journey.
  • In addition, the selected executive should be receptive to receiving the award and able to attend the award dinner on September 26, 2024.

The 2023 Executive Leadership Awards Dinner (ELAD), hosted by Innovate@UCLA, was an inspiration, recognition, and networking evening. This exclusive event, held on Thursday, September 28th, at the UCLA Luskin Ballroom, brought together approximately 150 attendees to celebrate exceptional leaders and explore the profound impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the creative industries.

Helix keynote speaker
AI panel

Helix Wolfson, the Co-Founder of Infinite Reality and President of Metaverse Operations, took the stage as the keynote speaker. In a captivating presentation, Wolfson delved into the transformational role of AI in the creative envisioning process, providing insights into AI’s remarkable journey from history to its current game-changing applications.

The event also featured a thought-provoking panel discussion titled “AI and the Creative Industries.” Chitra Rajeshwari, Principal and Executive Director of Avasant, expertly moderated the panel. The panelists included Beverly Macy, Acting Executive Director of UCLA Center for Media, Sports, & Entertainment; Jeff Burke, Professor and Associate Dean at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television; and Charles Sims, Chief Technology Officer at United Talent Agency. Together, they explored the evolving connection between AI and creativity, examining its transformative effects and broad implications.

ELAD Awardees 2023

ELAD 2023 recognized exceptional leaders in the industry. Tim Ellis, Co-Founder & CEO of Relativity Space, received the Emerging Technology Award. Additionally, Justin Erbacci, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Chief Executive Officer, and Ian Law, Chief Digital Transformation Officer, were honored with the Public Sector Award. These awards celebrated innovation and technology-driven transformation.

Notably, Thomas Phelps, SVP & CIO of Laserfiche and Innovate@UCLA Executive Chair, and Heidi Pease, Head of Investment Products at Wave Financial, served as co-hosts for the event.

Beth Apillanes, Deputy CIO of Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), engaged in a fireside chat with Tim Ellis, and Thomas Phelps, discussing how Relativity Space utilizes 3D-printed rockets and AI and material sciences to propel humanity into space. This conversation shed light on the remarkable advances in space technology.

The evening concluded on a high note with a captivating performance by Chase Bell, a talented singer/songwriter and music producer. He performed “Chasing Your Dream,” a song that embodied the resilience of the entrepreneurial spirit and left attendees inspired.

The event was graced by several notable speakers, including Davida Johnson, Executive Director of UCLA Office of Advanced Research Computing, and Jim Rinaldi, Innovate@UCLA Executive Director.

Andy Schlei,  Retired SVP, Information Technology, Sony Pictures Entertainment & Avasant Fellow and Innovate@UCLA ELA Chair, chaired ELAD for the third year but has been part of ELAD for many years.

Why Attend

Meaningful connections and networking with IT Executive peers

Hear inspiring stories from awardees and gain insights from industry thought leaders

Beautiful atmosphere for engaging discussions over dinner and drinks



For current sponsorship opportunities, please contact Sponsorship Vice-Chair Greg Geary, Innovate Program Manager Snezana Sibalic . View the Sponsorship Prospectus for more information.

To see the full list of past Executive Leadership Award winners.