Through supporting inventors and invention-based enterprises, we are committed to dual goals of strengthening the US economy and helping the poorest of the poor in developing countries.
Supporting Inventors and Inventive Enterprises
To create effective and appropriate inventions that will change lives requires people inspired to be agents of change through invention, and who are equipped or trained to effectively do so. We focus on providing support for projects that inspire youth to become the agents of change through invention and the creation of invention based businesses.
Young inventors require critical tools including:
- Cultivate the capacity to think critically, and identify real-world problems and possible solutions in the user’s context through questioning, empathy, idea generation, and design process thinking..
- A strong base of knowledge in skills necessary to invent, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
- The ability to learn to turn ideas into solutions through creating designs, fabricating prototypes, and incorporating entrepreneurial thinking.
This suite of tools, the Inventors' Toolkit, is powered by hands-on experiences that allow the inventor to turn ideas into inventions with impact. We focus on providing support for education projects and programs that incorporate the full Inventor’s Toolkit.
Further, to translate inventive ideas to impact requires creation of products and access to those products through self-sustaining businesses.
Experience shows that 3 elements are essential to the success of an invention enterprise. These are:
- Knowing the customer by having a deep understanding of the social and cultural context of the problem or opportunity being addressed
- Continuing creativity and technological innovation to take the first invention to a final product
- A robust value proposition for the end user such that the product will create demand and the enterprise will have a viable business proposition.
User-centered design can play an important role in powering the iterative improvements needed to translate ideas to viable products.
We call this the Invention Enterprise Blueprint. We focus on providing support for partners who can launch and mentor businesses that build on the Invention Enterprise Blueprint.
Focusing on the Greatest Impact
The path from an idea to an invention that improves lives features 5 key interdependent stages:
- Inspiring people to invent
- Providing invention related education and experience
- Supporting invention and launch of invention enterprises
- Mentoring and incubating invention enterprises
- Building a solid base of financial support and distribution systems to ensure the business is self-sustaining and the products can be accessed
The Foundation has reflected on where we can have the greatest impact in this pathway in the context of the landscape, constraints and opportunities in each country we operate in. It is clear to us that we have the greatest opportunity for catalytic impact at the early stages of the pathway.
With this in mind, we have a common path to impact within the geographies where we work – the US and developing countries. We work with partners in establishing and supporting programs that inspire youth to become inventors, stimulate and provide invention and entrepreneurship education, and support the launch, earliest incubation and mentoring of invention-based enterprises. By working through partners we intend to not only enhance the pipeline of inventors and invention-based businesses today, but also strengthen the capacity within the ecosystem for inventors and invention based businesses of the future. Read more about Our Programs.
We recognize that invention enterprises, in order to succeed at scale, ultimately must garner financial support other than grants to ensure the long-term availability of their products. Providing assistance and financing for the later stage scaling of businesses and dissemination of products is better addressed by entities with more extensive resources and deeper expertise in those areas. Therefore, we support our grantees and partners building invention enterprises in effectively positioning themselves for transition to later stage support from others for the scaling of enterprises, and marketing and distribution of products.