The Lemelson Foundation knows there are big problems that need to be solved, and these grand challenges will require a range of approaches, solutions, products, and innovations. We believe the most important products invented in the next 20 years will be those that address critical social and environmental issues, and reach and serve communities with the greatest needs.
Real products and lasting solutions are the vehicles that will deliver meaningful change, solve urgent problems, and create sustainable economic value for all.
This is why the Lemelson Foundation is focused on supporting the development of inventions that rethink impact—projects like sanitation systems for the developing world, cost-effective medical devices, and more efficient, affordable sources of renewable energy.
We believe the products needed to solve the world’s biggest problems require careful, measured solutions. So rather than investing in invention for invention’s sake, The Lemelson Foundation is focused on what we call Impact Inventing.
First, the invention should have positive social impact. The Lemelson Foundation is committed to supporting inventions that solve important societal problems and address pressing community needs in ways that are additive and useful—problems worth solving.
Next, the invention needs to be environmentally responsible. The Lemelson Foundation seeks to help establish a generation of environmentally responsible inventors whose processes align with the principles of ecological sustainability. These principles encourage inventors to consider all reasonable options for materials and processes, and make informed decisions. Inventors should make carefully considered decisions to minimize the environmental footprint both during the invention process as well as of the final products that will reach the market.
Finally, to have impact, the business model around the invention needs to be financially self-sustaining. Our founder, Jerry Lemelson, believed that ideas can have significant positive impact if they can be transformed into real products that reach real people. So if an invention cannot be taken to scale and brought to market in a way that is financially viable, and ultimately self-sustaining, there is little chance that it will be transformative. Businesses that make real products have real impact. They stimulate job growth, they spur investment, and that in turn helps drive the economic engines needed to alleviate poverty, transform lives, and keep nations strong.
Given the daunting challenges we are confronting worldwide, The Lemelson Foundation supports an invention ecosystem focused on problems that are worth solving—and not simply problems that can be solved. We recognize the need for a strong supportive invention ecosystem to make this happen. We seek to inspire inventors to know they can make a difference.