Governor’s Innovation Awards for November 2009

Governor Linda Lingle today recognized three recipients of the Governor’s Innovation Awards for their role in helping Hawai‘i create an innovation-based economy and a stronger future for the state. The winners have developed innovative solutions to challenges, invented and implemented new technologies with worldwide applications, and contributed to the long-term economic well-being of the state.

“This month’s Innovation Award Winners have demonstrated that developing innovative solutions to improve our community is important in every sector of our society,” said Governor Lingle. “One recipient is leading the way in using science and technology to develop innovative retina treatments. Another is employing innovative ideas and partnerships to ensure that our youth do not miss out on athletic opportunities due to the current economic and fiscal challenges. Our third recipient is a government agency that has a proven record of developing innovative programs to help prepare those who made mistakes in the past to lead productive lives in our community.”

The recipients of the Governor’s Innovation Award for November 2009 are:

Innovation by an Organization: Retina Institute of Hawai‘i

The Retina Institute of Hawai‘i is regarded as one of the nation’s leading retina treatment practices, especially for its research and clinical trials. The Institute is currently participating in 13 clinical trials that allow it to offer Hawai‘i residents the latest state-of-the-art treatment and therapies. The Institute is also in the process of securing at least four patents on several types of retina surgeries. In addition to its advanced research and clinical trials, the Retina Institute of Hawai‘i has invested more than $300,000 to launch “Project Vision,” an innovative, non-profit mobile office that provides free retinal screenings via a converted 35-foot bus that is furnished with an examination laboratory and digital imaging equipment.

Innovation by an Individual: Keith Amemiya

Since taking the position of executive director of the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) eleven years ago, Keith Amemiya has devised innovative ways to increase and enhance opportunities for Hawai‘i’s youth to participate in high school athletics. Without counting on State funding, Amemiya formed strategic partnerships with Hawai‘i’s businesses and the community to expand the number of state championship tournaments, providing more opportunities for more student athletes – both boys and girls – from across the state to become involved. Hawai‘i now has the most high school sports championships in the nation – thanks to the pioneering work by Amemiya to find creative ways to establish championship tournaments in sports such as girls wrestling, air riflery, cheerleading, girls golf, girls water polo and judo.

This year, facing what could have been a monumental challenge when the Department of Education cut $1.2 million from Hawai‘i’s public school athletic departments, Amemiya used his innovative skills to form the HHSAA Save Our Sports campaign. Since July, the campaign has raised more than $1.3 million in private donations, ensuring that our student athletes will not miss out on opportunities to participate and excel in their chosen sports, despite the current economic and fiscal challenges. Amemiya will step down as executive director at the end of the year, but through his innovation, he leaves HHSAA with a stronger future and a winning record for Hawai‘i’s student athletes.

Innovation in Government: Dept. of Public Safety, Hawai‘i Correctional Industries

Hawai‘i Correctional Industries (HCI) continues to implement innovative solutions that allow inmates to learn job skills, while saving the State and private companies valuable resources. HCI, a self-sustaining division of the state Department of Public Safety, provides inmates with real-world work opportunities to help increase their employment prospects upon release. HCI has developed inmate work programs that provide printing services, labor resources, furniture making, and construction services. Over the years, HCI work crews have constructed playgrounds at elementary schools, installed office furniture at state agencies, cleared weeds and brush along State highways and packaged papayas for a Hilo company. The labor provided to the government agencies comes at significant cost savings, which is especially helpful as the State works to provide quality services with fewer resources. Inmate labor costs only 50 cents per hour and the inmates gain a positive work ethic while learning real-world skills that they can use to turn their lives around and create a stronger future for themselves when released back into the community.

About the Governor’s Innovation Awards

Governor Lingle initiated the Innovation Awards in May 2008 to acknowledge and encourage innovation across all sectors statewide. The awards recognize deserving individuals, companies, nonprofits, organizations and government agencies that are developing innovative products, services and processes. The award is part of the Lingle-Aiona Administration’s Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative, a comprehensive plan to transform Hawai‘i’s economy from one dependent on land development to one that builds on human ingenuity and the ability of Hawai‘i’s people to innovate.

The Governor’s Innovation Awards nominees are evaluated monthly by a 15-member selection panel comprised of industry, education and government representatives statewide. Nominations are submitted online and are judged on creativity; effectiveness in achieving a goal or purpose; transferability and adoptability by others; and significance in addressing an important local or global issue, problem or opportunity. The selection committee provides final recommendations to Governor Lingle for her approval.

For additional information or to submit a nomination, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *