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Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong introduces the Visionary Awards at the Skydeck on Monday night. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Scientist Steven Visco and developer Patrick Kennedy received the inaugural Visionary Awards from the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce on Monday night in a casual ceremony at the startup accelerator Skydeck in downtown Berkeley.

Chamber CEO Polly Armstrong said the awards were designed for “those individuals with both the imagination and persistence to innovate in the City of Berkeley. Our town has a long history of activism and is proud of its heritage. However, our colorful history has also fostered a cautious if not skeptical view of change and the role that local businesses play in the economic health of the city.”

The awards drew a healthy crowd from Berkeley’s business community, as well as political leaders and institutional heads. Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, School District Superintendent Donald Evans and Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan were among those at the ceremony.

PolyPlus Battery co-founder Steven Visco. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
PolyPlus Battery co-founder Steven Visco. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Visco is CEO, CTO and co-founder of PolyPlus Battery Company, which has been in Berkeley since 1991. He’s also a guest scientist in the materials science division of Berkeley Lab. PolyPlus is working to commercialize lithium-water, lithium-air and lithium-sulfur batteries it developed, which last far longer per gram of weight than other commercially available batteries. The hope is that Polyplus’ technologies will replace the lithium-ion batteries used in, for example, the current generation of electric cars.

PolyPlus and its 27 employees are based in west Berkeley.

Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests has developed housing, live-work space and commercial property, with a particularly concentration of projects around downtown Berkeley. Panoramic sold its portfolio of seven rental properties to Equity Residential in 2007 for $146 million, the largest real estate transaction in Berkeley history. More recently Panoramic has been working on micro apartment projects in San Francisco, which it calls SmartSpace.

Berkeleyside’s Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas is two days of provocative thinking, inspiring speakers, workshops, and a big party — all in downtown Berkeley in October. Read all about it, be part of it. Register on the Uncharted website.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...