Two companies that have transformed the Massachusetts economy and a distinguished brain researcher who has changed the manner in which Americans view sports injuries have been named inaugural recipients of the Vision Award from Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
General Electric of Boston, Nuance Communications of Burlington and Boston University brain researcher Dr. Ann McKee will receive the honors during AIM’s 2016 annual meeting May 13 at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.
The Vision Award recognizes companies, organizations and individuals who have made unique contributions to the cause of economic opportunity in Massachusetts and the well-being of the people who live here. The award reflects AIM’s mission to stand for jobs, economic opportunity, innovation and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.
“The 4,500 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts are delighted to honor two companies and one individual who have truly changed the way we live,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord.
“GE has redefined the way we view Massachusetts. Nuance has shaped the way we interact with technology. And Dr. Ann McKee has outlined an entirely new set of assumptions for athletic safety from the professional level to youth leagues.”
General Electric, a founding member of AIM in 1915, altered the economic development landscape of Massachusetts when it announced in January that it would relocate its corporate headquarters to the Seaport in South Boston. GE will bring roughly 800 jobs to Boston and create a GE Digital Foundry for co-development, incubation and product development with customers, startups and partners.
The company already has a significant presence in Massachusetts, with nearly 5,000 employees across the state in businesses including Aviation, Healthcare, Oil and Gas and Energy Management. In 2014, GE moved its Life Sciences headquarters to Marlborough, and in 2015 announced its energy services start-up, Current, would also be headquartered in Boston.
CEO Jeffrey Immelt explained the move to Boston: “Today, GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations… Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically-fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world.”
Nuance Communications is a global pioneer in voice-recognition and imaging software that bridges the gap between humans and the technology they create.
The $2 billion-a-year company is best known for providing the voice recognition technology that underpins many digital personal assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S-Voice and Ford’s Sync.
But Nuance’s largest business segment is providing software that allows healthcare professionals to dictate and capture patient information that streamlines electronic medical records. Today, more than 500,000 medical professionals use Nuance's products in some capacity.
Nuance employs 14,000 people – with more than 1,000 in Massachusetts – and maintains regional offices in 35 countries. Its international headquarters is located in Dublin.
The company describes its work this way: “Technology should work in service of people, and adapt to the way people communicate instead of forcing people to adapt to the machines.
“We are pioneers in making technology fluent in all things human: from understanding spoken words and extracting their meaning to adaptively and seamlessly interpreting the swipe of a fingertip…And we continuously evolve the ability to perceive the nuance of words, actions and meaning – to fit into your life, your business and your world.”
Dr. Ann McKee has brought the issue of chronic brain trauma and its effect on athletes and members of the military into the forefront of American consciousness. Her research establishing a link between repetitive head impacts and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former professional football players prompted the National Football League to acknowledge in March a connection between the sport and degenerative brain disorders.
The league’s admission came at a Congressional hearing just moments after Dr. McKee had presented findings showing that dozens of former players who had died were afflicted with the disease. The NFL reached a $765 million settlement in 2015 over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players.
Dr. McKee’s research is also influencing youth sports. PopWarner, the world’s largest youth football league, made rule changes in 2012 to begin limiting contact during practices “in light of developing concussion research.”
Dr. McKee serves as chief of neuropathy for the Veterans Administration, Boston Health Care System. She directs the CTE Center and Brain Banks for the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center and Framingham Heart Study. She is also professor of Neurology and Pathology at Boston University School of Medicine.
The AIM Annual Meeting is expected to draw some 750 senior business leaders form throughout Massachusetts. The event will feature a keynote address by Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and presentation of the annual John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award.