Podcast Transcript: How to Win a Corrosion Innovation of the Year Award

This podcast features unique insights from Materials Performance (MP) Editor Rebecca Bickham, Managing Editor-in-Chief Gretchen Jacobson, and Staff Writer Ben DuBose regarding the upcoming 2021 MP Corrosion Innovation of the Year Awards program.

Topics include how to submit a nomination; details about the judging panel of corrosion experts, and what it is that they're looking for; new perks for the winners; and much more. Further nomination details are available at the awards web site, and a complete transcript is available below.

[introductory comments]

Rebecca Bickham: Gretchen, since you've been at MP throughout the program, can you tell us a little bit about how it came to be and what the motivation was to do this for the industry?

Gretchen Jacobson: Sure, Rebecca. Our MP Awards program started back in 2012. We wanted to give the corrosion community the opportunity to highlight the groundbreaking work, and this is a great way we thought we could do it. We are now holding it every other year, with the sixth awards event taking place at CORROSION 2021. The awards are based on nominations submitted to the MP website. The link to the awards site is available at www.materialsperformance.com.

For next year’s awards, our nomination period started on June 1, 2020, and it’s open until September 30. Then a panel of corrosion experts will judge the nominations and select up to 10 winners. They go through two detailed rounds of judging. The panel is represented by all areas of corrosion control and is selected by our MP technical editor.


RB: What are the qualifications for a product to be considered a corrosion innovation?

GJ: First, the innovation must have been in some sort of development on or after January 1, 2016. Of course, this date changes with each subsequent awards program. The innovation must be feasible and show the potential for a significant, positive effect on corrosion control. Our general innovation categories include Coatings & Linings, Cathodic Protection, Material Selection & Design, Instrumentation, Testing, Modeling & Risk Assessment, and any other corrosion mitigation technologies.


RB: Could you pleased describe the nomination guidelines?

GJ: I’ll start by putting out that individuals, organizations, and governments around the world are eligible to submit nominations. It’s also acceptable to self-nominate and to submit even more than one. It’s also okay to submit a previous nomination from a past awards program, but not if that nomination actually won an MP award. There is no cost involved, unlike some other awards contests. The nomination form can be downloaded from the MP Awards website, filled out, and then submitted. Now that I’m on the topic of the MP Awards website, you can see additional information, in addition to just the nomination and submission instructions for this year.

The last MP Awards program occurred in 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. We had more than 50 nominations, which is a record for us. Our panel of experts selected 10. You can see the winning technologies listed on the website, and there’s even a video of the ceremony. I’d also like to say that once this year’s nominations have been vetted, they will be posted on the website. Winners are announced by the NACE President and awarded trophies during conference. Also, these technologies may be presented at the following annual conference.


RB: I also wanted to mention that we are going to be featuring the winners in the July 2021 issue of MP and in articles throughout the year. We’ve heard great feedback from past winners, and they mention things like they are thrilled to be honored, they are happy to display their trophies at their conference booth and at the office. They’re also able to post pictures on their website. So the 2021 MP Corrosion Innovation of the Year Award winners will be honored at CORROSION 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah, just prior to the opening of the exhibit hall on Monday, April 19.

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RB: Welcome back to the podcast. Again, my name is Rebecca Bickham, Editor of Materials Performance. As we continue discussing the 2021 MP Corrosion Innovation of the Year Awards, I’m bringing on our staff writer, Ben DuBose, to talk a little bit more about the program. How are you, Ben?

Ben DuBose: Doing well, Rebecca. How are you?

RB: I’m doing great. Thanks for being here. Ben helps coordinate the judging panel for the awards, so let’s start there. Tell us some more about who is grading these innovations and what they’re looking for from the nominees.

BD: We can’t say directly who they are, for obvious reasons. We don’t want people reaching out directly to the panel because at some point you can run into a bias issue. We don’t want anyone asking for personal favors. We want there to be a separation so there can be an objective judging criteria to it that’s detached from the nominees themselves. The specific identities are confidential just to preserve the integrity, the neutrality of the awards program as a whole.

With that said, what we can say is that they represent the entire sphere or corrosion control. So when you look at the various categories that we have within the awards — Coatings & Linings, Cathodic Protection, Testing, Instrumentation, Materials Design, Chemical Treatment — there’s all these different categories, and we bring in people with expertise in each of these individual fields. That’s how we try to make the program as broad as we can to represent the entire corrosion control industry.

One of the reasons we do that, we have up to 10 winners. In our most recent class, 2019, we did have 10 winners out of a record of just above 50 total nominations. In terms of the actual winners, at the end of the process, those are not limited by category. For example, it’s not that you're only going to have one Coatings & Linings winner, one Cathodic Protection. All of these entries are numerically scored, and the highest, based on the numerical scoring, is going to win the award or going to be, in this case, multiple winners. If it happens in a given year, let’s say you have a bunch of really strong innovations within Cathodic Protection, then we can have three or four winners within Cathodic Protection.

When you explain that to people, one of the initial questions would be, “Do you have too much of your judging panel representing cathodic protection, aka more than some of these other fields?” Our response would be, “No, we have a panel that represents the entire spectrum. It just so happens, and of course it’s possible within a given year, you can have one field that’s really strong.” That’s why, on the front end with our judging panel, we make sure that these folks span the entire spectrum of corrosion control so that everyone is represented.

Then, at the end of the process, when we’re tallying up the numerical scores in all these various categories, we feel confident that the up to 10 winners, the 10 top-scored amongst all the nominations, are the best technical innovations within corrosion control in that awards cycle. That’s what we’re going for, regardless of whether it’s Materials Design, whether it’s Cathodic Protection, Coatings & Linings, Instrumentation, you name it. 

We want the 10 best technological developments, innovations, and that’s what we think we’re prepared to do with the way we’ve set up this program. It’s not as if you're limited, even if there’s one really great nominee in a certain field. Well, you can have two or three winners if the nominees warrant that. We’re not going to have an artificial barrier, and that’s possible because, again, we are representing the entire corrosion control field in this process, from the outset.

As far as what they’re looking for, the main thing I would stress is practicality. There are a lot of brilliant people within the corrosion control community. The technologies every single year that come out are tremendous. What I’ve seen from working with our judges — and these are people that are very accomplished within their fields, they’re professionals, they know this industry very well, they’re still in many cases actively working within it — they want to hear about the practicality of it. It’s not just the technology. Can you explain the technology, how it fits within the broader corrosion control field? Can you show evidence of how, in a laboratory setting or perhaps in the field, that it’s been useful?

So it’s not just the technology itself. There’s lots of really great things going on within corrosion control. The winners typically have an ability to communicate and show evidence of its practicality. I would say, when you're looking at submitting a nomination — I encourage anyone listening to do so, this is a very prestigious awards program, there’s a ton of benefits, which I know, Rebecca, you and Gretchen have already touched on and I’ll explain a little bit more as we go on over the next few minutes — in general, I would say focus on the practicality because a lot of people have very strong technologies. 

The difference is can you show — and many of our winners typically do — evidence in the lab, in the field. Can you explain how this fits in within corrosion control in 2020 or really the next few years, because when we’re talking about this upcoming 2021 awards cycle, we’re talking about what could very well shape the next decade within corrosion control.


RB: Thanks, Ben, for that explanation. For 2021, what are some of the new perks that the winners can expect to get?

BD: We’ve added some new wrinkles in recent years to the program. I think you and Gretchen already touched on the fact that they get a trophy, they’re recognized at CORROSION. Now we stream the ceremony live. We recognize them in the print issue of MP. That’s been there since the outset of the program, and I think it serves the winners very well. However, this is such a prestigious, very interesting program. We’ve talked a lot in the last couple of years about how we can expand this further to make this really valuable to the industry, because it should be to our winners. These are some really bright minds bringing great innovations to the forefront as it pertains to corrosion control.

There’s a couple of things that we’re doing. One, starting with the 2019 class, which was our most recent class of winners — we typically do this every two years — we started doing online articles about each of, in that case, the 10 winners. That goes a step beyond the mention in the magazine, which typically has a fairly brief description of each individual technology. 

The online articles give you a chance to see your innovation explained by — it may be me, it may be you — someone on staff at MP is able to translate to the industry and explain at greater length what this innovation is, what it can contribute within corrosion control. Of course, because it’s online, it’s something you can easily email and share. There’s great potential for online articles, which we’re doing for each of our winners, typically about 1,000 words in length. I think that’s a great exposure opportunity.

But then the biggest thing that we’ve added, Rebecca, is the speaking slot at CORROSION the following year. Or in this case, it’s two years after, because unfortunately we did not have CORROSION 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So the 2019 class will have their opportunity to present at 2021. 

But what we are doing new, starting with the 2019 winners, and this will absolutely carry over to 2021, those winners that are recognized at conference for winning Corrosion Innovation of the Year in a given awards cycle, the next year they will have the opportunity to take advantage of a complimentary speaking slot on the exhibit hall floor at CORROSION. So you will have an opportunity to present about your winning technology. And it makes sense, because MP is the official membership magazine of NACE. Of course, NACE operates the annual CORROSION conference. It’s the biggest event in the industry every single year.

With this, we’re able to tie it all together and give our winning innovations through the MP program — again, NACE’s official membership magazine — and with that, they’re able to present about their technologies and explain the benefits to a very targeted audience of people who are at CORROSION to learn about these types of new technologies and developments within the field. So I think that’s very exciting. 

The plan was for that to debut at CORROSION 2020 with our 2019 winners. Unfortunately, that did not get to happen because of the pandemic, which shook up a lot of things this year. But it will happen next year, CORROSION 2021, our last cycle. In addition to honoring this current cycle that we’re talking about, submitting nominations for the 2021, we’ll also be recognizing 2019.

Moving forward, when you win a Corrosion Innovation of the Year award, the following year you’ll have an opportunity to present that at conference as well. I think that’s a further opportunity beyond just the editorial mentions and the benefits that we can give you in terms of NACE publications. This is something that we can — we’re working with our events staff at NACE, and so that could give our winners a bigger opportunity and platform for their innovations as well. 

I would say that’s something to keep in mind that should be a significant perk in the years ahead. If you win, it’s not just a trophy. It’s not just the mentions in MP and the online articles. You're going to get a speaking slot now as well. Hopefully, that brings even more juice to this MP Corrosion Innovation awards program.


RB: That is really exciting. Is there anything else new about the program this year?

BD: Yes, there’s a couple of little things that we’ve made, small changes. One, the nominating cycle is open now, as I believe Gretchen mentioned. It started in early June, and it runs through the end of September. One thing that we’re building out is a fillable PDF. It should be launched very soon. One of our first entrants gave us some feedback. Right now the system is you go to the awards website, which you can get at www.materialsperformance.com or NACE.org/MPInnovationAwards. You download a Word document, you fill it out, you email it back to us. I believe the email address is MPInnovationAwards@nace.org. But you can find that confirmed on the website. 

The point is, you download these Word docs and you send it back. For people on phones or tablets, it’s a little inconvenient because it’s hard to know where the download goes at times. We got some feedback that it would be easier if we had a fillable PDF, so that’s what we’re going to be adding in the next few days. It will be even easier to apply. You fill it out on the PDF and you either email it or send it directly to us so it will be easier to nominate than ever before, in our opinion.

The other thing that’s new this year is the deadline. Right now, as I mentioned, the nominating period opened on June 1, and it runs through the end of September. Typically, the majority of nominations come in towards the end because that’s just the way the world works. Everything is deadline driven. The reason that it’s a little bit higher in the calendar than usual — in the past it’s been late October, late November — I want to explain to our audience why we’re doing that. 

By having it in late September, it helps with regards to the judging panel that I was talking about earlier, and it helps us recruit the best judges that we can. The quality of the judges is going to have a pretty strong correlation with the quality of the program. As an industry, we should want this awards program to do well, because it recognizes the best technologies, the best developments within corrosion control. These earlier deadlines help us by recruiting the best judging panel possible.

The reality — let’s say the deadline was at the end of November, that we pushed it back hypothetically. Well, that’s going into the holiday period, and a lot of people are going to have many other responsibilities going on — their normal job, their family, their friends, all sorts of responsibilities that make it pretty difficult to judge around that time of year. Then you get back from the holidays in January, we all know what that’s like trying to catch up. Really, things have to be finalized at least a couple months before conference. 

I think CORROSION 2021 is scheduled for April, and the awards have to be finalized at least a couple of months before that because we have to get the trophies printed out, we have to plan the logistics of the ceremony, we have to ship things. There’s a lot of logistics and planning that goes into this. In order to do that, we need to have the judging cycle — because it takes time.

There are multiple rounds of judging that go into this. That takes a lot of time, Rebecca, for our judging panel to go through. If we’re asking them — these are very busy and accomplished people — if we’re asking them right around the holidays to drop everything and get it back to us within a couple of weeks, multiple rounds of judging? Then it’s going to harm our ability to have the best judges because it’s just not realistic to expect them to be taken away from their normal jobs, and of course over the holidays their families, all their other responsibilities, to do that. 

The reason we are pushing up the deadline to the end of September — and I encourage you, if you're listening, if you have an award, get it in sooner rather than later — we are pushing that up because if we are able to get these nominations in by the end of September, then that helps us from a recruiting standpoint for the judging panel that we’ve talked about.

The earlier the nominations are in, the better chance we have to recruit the best judges because they are going to have time to properly judge and rate all these submissions, so that at the end of the day, we are confident that we have the best innovations in the industry and that the MP Innovation of the Year Awards program is in fact reflective of the best developments of that particular year or that particular nominating cycle, I should say, because it can be within five years.

We want to make sure that we have the best corrosion control technologies represented, and the way to do that, get those nominations in early. If you do that, then it helps us from the standpoint of having the judging panel as strong as possible, as representative as possible, to make sure that we are getting the best graders that we can, to make sure that these awards are everything they could and should be, and that this program represents the corrosion industry in the way that we all think and know that it can.


RB: Thanks so much for coming on, Ben, and telling us all about the program.

BD: No problem. Always glad to help out. Welcome to the podcast, Rebecca. It’s great to have another voice on the MP side. I’m glad you're doing this, and I’m sure our audience looks forward to hearing more from you in the future.

RB: Well, I’m excited to be doing it. Thanks so much. This is where we’ll end things today.

[closing statements]