The inaugural edition of the Wisconsin Innovation Awards took place on Tuesday at the Memorial Union in Madison, the latest sign that the state of Wisconsin is carving out a niche for itself in the tech and startup sectors. The 10 winners were chosen from some 150 nominees for their novel ideas. The awards, which are planned to become an annual event as part of the week-long Forward Festival, were instituted by a steering committee made up mostly of executives from some of Wisconsin's largest enterprises.

Five of the winning companies are based in Milwaukee, three in Madison and one each in Appleton and Eau Claire, and the diversity of business sectors that were represented further shows, as Xconomy editor Jeff Engel, one of the judges, said, "the variety of ideas percolating in the Badger State." Indeed, the awardees ranged from high-tech sensor developers to the Milwaukee Bar Association, which worked with Marquette University to set up a mobile legal clinic.

Although not all 10 winners are primarily tech-related businesses, the importance of staying up to date with the latest innovations was clearly on display, with three of the honorees making use of cutting-edge technology for the advancement of health sciences.

Forward Festival, which runs through August 28, has been something of a show of force for Wisconsin's tech sector which, as this blog noted earlier this week, is clearly on the way up, with more startups emerging and remaining in their home state. New and established businesses alike can benefit from the local presence of IT services providers who can furnish them with comprehensive technology solutions. Apple support and training, DNS hostingFileMaker development and training and Mac consulting services are all available and useful tools for small and medium-sized businesses operating in any sector.