How to Participate

The Lemelson Foundation works to improve lives through invention. Our Approach is to work with partners to create Our Programs to support inventors and invention-based enterprises, in support of dual goals of strengthening the US economy and helping the poor in developing countries.

The following are ways in which you can participate in this work:

Students, Educators and Parents

Students, educators and parents interested in learning more about inventing and how to turn ideas into inventions and invention-based enterprises with impact should contact our partners directly to learn how to participate in their work:

  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has museum exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities in Washington DC and at partner museums around the country. They also offer a number of online resources to inspire invention in youth.
  • The InventionX program from CleanTech Open offers an online resource to help students through the process and thinking behind selecting an idea, designing their invention and pitching their solution.
  • Oregon MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) provides after-school invention education opportunities to middle school and high school youth in our home state of Oregon.
  • The Lemelson-MIT Program, runs a national after-school program for young high school inventors, as well as a series of collegiate prizes for invention. Their website also offers links to various resources around invention.
  • At the collegiate level, VentureWell (formerly NCIIA) offers grants to educators to develop course work, as well as programs for college students looking to turn their ideas into invention-based businesses.
  • National Public Radio’s Joe’s Big Idea is a radio program designed to highlight how the scientific discovery process leads to technological inventions that improve lives.

Invention-based enterprises

Our US and Developing Country partners can be a resource in looking for how to turn your ideas into invention-based enterprises that improve lives:

  • US: VentureWell offers workshops and funding for college students looking to commercialize their inventions, as well as programs for university investigators and select global development programs.
  • India: Villgro, an Indian non-profit organization that incubates, funds and supports early stage innovative social enterprises that impact the lives of India’s rural poor..
  • Indonesia: Inotek, an Indonesian non-profit organization that facilitates development and dissemination of innovative technologies through invention-based enterprises in Indonesia.
  • Peru: NESsT, in international NGO present in ten countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe, to support technology-based social enterprises for development in Peru.

Additional resources can be found through US government sites including:

Potential Grantee Partners

Please see our Grantmaking Process page.

Foundations and Organizations looking for opportunities to partner or co-fund

Please see our Partnership and Co-Funding page.


The Foundation does not directly support inventors in the creation or development of individual inventions; however such support may be accessible through our partners, as noted in links above. Due to IRS tax laws, we are unable to provide funding directly to individuals, and therefore we cannot directly fund independent inventors. Below are some links to online resources for inventors:

  • The United Inventors Association (UIA) consists of nearly 15,000 members with 100 local inventor clubs that provide free educational information specific to independent inventors’ needs.
  • US Patent Office offers a resource page for inventors as well as a state-by-state list of patent attorneys, inventor organization and other resources.
  • The US Copyright Office provides information on copyright registration, law and protection by the Library of Congress.
  • The European Patent Office is the patent granting authority for Europe; it provides tools for patent applicants, including a patent search program and current updates on official and legal patent information.