Vivienne Ming (left), Polly Armstrong, Judy Appel and Nancy Skinner at the Visionary Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan
Award-winner Vivienne Ming (left), Chamber CEO Polly Armstrong, School Board President Judy Appel and former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner at the Visionary Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce named neuroscientist Vivienne Ming, co-founder of Socos, biochemist Jill Fuss, founder of CinderBio, and computer game pioneer Will Wright, founder of Stupid Fun Club, winners of this year’s Visionary Awards.

“Running a business is hard. Running a business in Berkeley can be even harder at times,” said Berkeley Chamber CEO Polly Armstrong. She said the awards recognized individuals with the “imagination and persistence” to innovate in Berkeley.

The three winners come from dramatically different fields. Ming’s Socos combines machine learning and cognitive neuroscience to maximize students’ life outcomes (Ming will also be speaking at the Berkeleyside-organized Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas on Oct. 16). Fuss’ CinderBio uses extreme microbes — that survive in volcanic waters — to make a new class of ultra-stable enzyme formulations for applications like biofuels, industrial cleaning, paper manufacture and textile finishing. Wright, who created SimCity and The Sims, established Stupid Fun Club as a creative think-tank for experiments with robots and software. 

“Berkeley is a very comfortable place to be strange,” Wright said. “Berkeley is like the test tube for California. The experiments happen here first and then spread out.”

“I love the idea that this could be the world center for substantive, sustainable innovation,” said Ming, “and I’m immensely proud to be part of it.”

The Berkeley Chamber founded the Visionary Awards two years ago.

Each of the award winners was introduced by a video that explained their outlook and their work.

YouTube video

YouTube video

YouTube video

If you like the variety of news on Berkeleyside, you will like the variety of voices we present at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas. Buy one, get one free tickets are on sale now for the festival in downtown Berkeley on Oct. 16-17. Click here to see the full program.

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...