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USF launches Florida Inventors Hall of Fame

Published Oct. 14, 2013

When Paul Sanberg visited the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Virginia recently, he noticed something. Very few of the honorees were Floridians, which didn't mesh with what he saw going on around him at the University of South Florida and all over the state.

"Why don't we do a Florida Inventors Hall of Fame?" said Sanberg, USF's senior vice president for research and innovation. "Why don't we plant the flag?"

And so started six months of planning for just that, based at USF. Florida now joins six other states with halls of fame designed to recognize state inventors.

Sanberg announced the hall's inaugural year at a USF Board of Trustees workshop Thursday on the Tampa campus. Leaders will meet next week to hash out details, including what the medals will look like and who will qualify as a Floridian. Sanberg said Gov. Rick Scott has expressed interest in handing out the medals at the first ceremony, which could happen in May.

The awards will honor current inventors as well as historic ones, like Thomas Edison, who had a lab in Fort Myers. The ceremony should pay for itself, Sanberg said.

"We hope to have this self-funded by having an event with people buying tables," he said. "We'd love to have a great donation if someone wants to take this on and give a monetary value."

The hall of fame's advisory board is made up of leaders from businesses, research universities, non-profit institutes and more. It includes presidents and CEOs of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, All Children's Hospital, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Moffitt Cancer Center and the Scripps Research Institute, plus the commissioner of patents for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. And, of course, USF president Judy Genshaft. See the full list here.

USF officials pitched it as a good use of the school's brand, but also a chance to rub elbows with big names from in and outside Florida.

"It brings in a lot of very prestigious people from around the world who get to know USF, and helps us position our faculty and people for honors and awards," Genshaft said at the meeting. "So it's a very wonderful endeavor."