The TechNite awards were presented Thursday by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council at the German Club Manor in Blacksburg. From left: Kim Snyder, Eddie Amos, Angela Pope Dickerson, Shierod Russell, Chad Burchett, Dr. Jessica Gilbertie, Dean Thomas (CytoRecovery), Martin Angst, Geoff Boyer, Amy White. Photo courtesy of RBTC.

A former executive of several technology firms, including the Blacksburg-based autonomous vehicle company TORC, and Rendyr, a Blacksburg-based startup developing a new kind of laser cutter, were two of the honorees Thursday evening at the annual Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite awards.

Eddie Amos, the former chief transformation officer of TORC, was named to the RBTC Hall of Fame. Amos also currently serves as chairman of Region 2 for GO Virginia, a public-private collaborative effort that encourages private-sector job growth.

In a news release, the council said Amos “was honored for the tremendous leadership and vision he provided the Roanoke-Blacksburg community throughout his impressive career.” 

Amos’ resume includes experience as a manager at Microsoft and chief technology officer at GE Digital, and he brought more than 35 years of tech industry leadership experience to TORC, the RBTC said.

Amos, who also served as the TechNite event’s keynote speaker, praised the technology, leadership and opportunities prevalent across the region, but reminded attendees that they should not “get too comfortable” and said challenges remain in areas such as workforce development and generating capital to attract startup companies.

“We must maintain our thirst for progress and our hunger for what lies ahead,” Amos told the audience gathered at the German Club Manor in Blacksburg.

Johnson & Johnson launches oncology innovation program focused on Roanoke-Blacksburg region

The innovation arm of global pharmaceutical and consumer products firm Johnson & Johnson has launched a new initiative in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region focused on treating cancer patients.

Applications opened Thursday for the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge, which seeks “potential solutions aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology,” according to J&J’s website.

Sally Allain, head of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS, which provides resources to startups, announced the new program Thursday at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite event.

Winning applicants could receive grant funding from a total pool of $300,000, a year’s residency at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, access to the JLABS network and mentorship from “experts across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies,” according to J&J.

Applicants must have a business footprint within the Roanoke-Blacksburg region to receive any monetary award and must stay in the region at least two years after the award, according to J&J.

Applications will be accepted through Aug. 11, and award announcements are planned for the fourth quarter of this year. Detailed criteria and other information is available at:

Rendyr, which has created “a first-of-its-kind portable laser cutter that dramatically improves access to rapid prototyping and digital fabrication,” according to the tech council, was honored with the Hart of the Entrepreneur Award.

The award, new this year, was given in memory of Bonz Hart, a Roanoke tech entrepreneur who was founder and CEO of software developer Meridium — later acquired by GE Digital — and who died last year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Russ Ellis, a regional technology entrepreneur who is president of the investment firm Common Wealth Growth and digital mapping software developer gNext Labs, said Hart was “sharing and supportive of so many entrepreneurs in this region.”

“He was truly an unsung hero in our region, and he will be sorely missed,” Ellis said.

This isn’t the first RBTC award for Rendyr; last year, co-founder Martin Angst received its Entrepreneur Award. 

Additional award recipients:

  • Amy White, dean of Virginia Western Community College’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics department, received the STEM-H Educator Award, which the RBTC said recognizes “an educator in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders.”
  • Geoff Boyer, who has spent 20 years teaching math and computer science at Craig County High School, received the K-12 STEM-H Educator Award, which recognizes “a K-12 educator in the Roanoke–Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders.”
  • Dr. Jessica Gilbertie, founder of Qentoros, which treats orthopedic injuries in horses, earned the Rising Star Award, which recognizes an early-stage technology company and “emphasizes the importance of small firms to our region’s technology economy.”
  • Chad Burchett, chief technology officer of Trova Commercial Vehicles, which manufactures vehicles and converts diesel commercial trucks to electric, earned the Innovator Award, which recognizes “an individual, a team, or organization that has blazed new trails in the areas of research and innovation.”
  • Angela Pope Dickerson, a manager at the Blacksburg-based blockchain company Bullish who helped found a Southwest Virginia chapter of the global organization Blacks In Technology to increase the representation of Black people in tech, earned the Regional Leadership Award, which “recognizes a member who succeeds in the workplace, but also leads by example by contributing significantly to the RBTC community.”
  • Alex Hyler, vice president and chief scientific officer for the cell-sorting startup CytoRecovery, received the Entrepreneur Award, which “recognizes a leader exemplifying what it means to be a risk-taker in technology.” 
  • KlariVis, which was founded by CPA Kim Snyder and develops an analytics dashboard for the banking industry, was honored as the Leading Small Tech Company, which recognizes a “company committed to advancing the region’s technology community and demonstrating excellence in people, programs, and projects within its industry.”
  • Intuitive Surgical, an international corporation with a manufacturing presence in Blacksburg that develops robotically assisted surgical systems, was named the Leading Large Tech Company, an award that “recognizes a company committed to advancing the region’s technology community and demonstrating excellence in people, programs, and projects within its industry.”
  • Rafael Davalos and Elizabeth McClanahan both earned the Ruby Award, which “recognizes an outstanding member who has proven to be a brilliant and valuable asset to the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.” Davalos is an endowed professor of biomedical engineering in the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Science and was the lead inventor at CytoRecovery. McClanahan is a former Virginia Supreme Court justice who now is CEO of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

Established in 1998, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is a membership association that promotes the Roanoke and Blacksburg technology community.

Matt Busse is the business reporter for Cardinal News. Matt spent nearly 19 years at The News & Advance,...