The Science Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that connects innovation and technology in the region, will honor immigrant entrepreneurs in its Innovators Walk of Fame.
The “walk” itself consists of large concrete blocks inscribed with the names of notable entrepreneurs. The Science Center adds new names every other year as part of a biannual contest. Nominees can come from Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Northern Delaware.
The project started in 2013 as a way to celebrate the Science Center’s 50th anniversary. At first it honored legacy innovators such as Lockheed Martin and Buckminster Fuller.
“Then two years ago, we realized that Greater Philadelphia’s tradition of discovery and innovation is really diverse, and Greater Philadelphia is a very diverse place,” said Jeanne Mell, vice president of marketing communications and community engagement for the Science Center. “We wanted to look at the Innovators Walk of Fame through different prisms.”
In 2015, the Science Center honored women entrepreneurs. One notable Delaware pick was DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek, who helped develop kevlar.
As for this year’s theme, Mell said immigrants and entrepreneurship have always been synonymous.
“A lot of people can really relate to the whole concept of immigrant entrepreneurship and the bootstrapping attitude and drive that immigrants have,” Mell said. “They come to this country often with nothing, and really based on their own wits and determination have to care for a family and themselves.”
Although the theme was selected before the last presidential election, Mell is aware of the current political climate surrounding immigration and sees the contest as an opportunity.
“I think regardless of the dialogue on immigration, we wanted to recognize immigrant contributions to the economy and the world,” she said. “That said, I think the conversation that has been going on has really dove-tailed with our theme this year.”
Nominations opened Monday, March 6 and will run through Friday, May 19, 2017.