Invention is critical to the future we all want

We need the people and systems to make that happen

With our partners, we work to cultivate the next generation of impact inventors, and strengthen the supporting systems that allow invention-based businesses to thrive.

The world’s challenges will not be solved by software alone.

The Foundation focuses on nurturing invention-based businesses that are developing unique, physical products to address global and community challenges and are destined for high growth.

Because these businesses often require longer time to market due to prototyping, manufacturing and building distribution channels, they are often overlooked by funders interested in fast results.

Where We Work

The Foundation works in the U.S. to increase access to invention education and entrepreneurship programs for impact inventors.
In developing countries, we provide educational opportunities and support programs for inventors creating scalable and sustainable technologies that improve the lives of the poor.

Invention Spotlight

Helix Steel

A micro rebar reinforcement that increases concrete’s strength and durability and decreases its carbon footprint.


A low-cost, rugged ventilator for newborns in developing countries with severe respiratory distress.


A sustainable, mushroom-based alternative to traditional synthetic packaging materials.


Lens technology that allows people with colorblindness to see a full spectrum of color.


An affordable, non-invasive anemia screener for developing countries.


A disinfectant spray to fight infectious disease that reveals when a surface has been decontaminated.

Our Initiatives

We are strengthening invention ecosystems in both the U.S. and developing countries to support pathways for inventors and inventions to take ideas to impact.

Our Grants

Since our founding, we have invested over $210 million in organizations supporting impact invention. Learn more about the projects we fund.

Primary and Secondary Education
Higher Education
Regional Ecosystems


In support of the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador program to raise awareness and inform influential audiences on the critical role of invention and the need for a robust invention ecosystem.

Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Inc.

In support of PBS NewsHour’s The Leading Edge programming and the development and distribution of invention-related education curriculum via PBS NewsHour Extra.

National Academy of Inventors

In support of the annual NAI conference that celebrates newly-inducted fellows and raises awareness of the power and importance of invention and the role students play in the translation of university-based invention into business and market opportunity.


In support of Joe’s Big Idea programming that explores the impact of big new ideas and the growth of the NPR SciCommer network, a community of collegiate scientists and engineers and faculty interested in improving their science communication skills.

Smithsonian Institution

An endowment to support the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation as part of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, and the Spark!Lab for youth and families to learn about the process of invention.

Society for Science & the Public

In support of age-appropriate invention content development and the facilitation of the Broadcom MASTERS Lemelson Prize for Invention and the Early Inventor Prize open to all participants in the Society’s Affiliate Science Fair Network.

Beyond Benign

An organization that disseminates green chemistry and sustainable science educational resources for educators, students and the community. Received support to develop and disseminate K-12 curricular resources and training that empowers educators and students to practice environmental sustainability through green chemistry.

Citizen Schools

A non-profit that partners with middle schools across the U.S. to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Received support to continue scaling invention education program including apprenticeship and teacher volunteer opportunities.


The Lemelson-MIT program raises the profile of inventors and their impact, and develops engaging education programs to provide youth the skills and knowledge to invent. Received support for the Lemelson-MIT Prize, Student Prize Program, InvenTeam Program and JV InvenTeam Initiative, MITES Fellowships, Lemelson Minority Engineering Fellowships, Lemelson Fund for the Student Machine Shop and Lemelson Technology Research Ignition Fund.

PSU Foundation

Portland State University’s foundation that cultivates and manages monetary and volunteer support for the university. Received support for Oregon MESA program activities, including organizational strategic planning for new invention education curricula, teacher trainings, expansion into new regions of Oregon and creating new international partnerships.

Smithsonian Institution

The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is part of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Received support to create a national resource dedicated to documenting, interpreting, and disseminating information about invention and innovation and its role in U.S. history and encouraging youth creativity.


A national coalition designed to support Invention Convention programs across the U.S. through convenings, national competitions and community building. Received support to build an enduring organization able to support a national Invention Convention ecosystem and enable more youth to experience invention.

Tides Center

The fiscal sponsor of Makers Ed which provides educators and institutions with the training, resources and community support needed to create Maker-centered learning. Received support for “Young Makers: Making to Invent” to develop and run a pilot program that will be scaled nationally among multiple partners.


A public media organization in Boston that enriches people’s lives through programs that educate, inspire and entertain. Received support to leverage the successful Design Squad Global platform and network to educate youth about environmental responsibility in both the U.S. and abroad.

Global Minimum

A non-profit that encourages young innovators and leaders in Africa, ages 15-20, to engage with critical thinking skills and hands-on learning programs to tackle challenges affecting their communities. Received support to continue scaling GMin’s educational programs in Kenya.

The Regents of the University of California, Berkeley

The governing body of the ten-campus public system of higher education in California. Received support to design and pilot outreach, education, mentoring and evaluation approaches to integrate environmentally responsibility in the Big Ideas Contest for college students in the UC system and Makerere University in Uganda.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The oldest technological research university in the U.S. Received support to establish the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio to honor and continue the work of VentureWell community member and premier educator Burt Swersey by inspiring and educating the next generation of inventors and helping them turn their ideas into products and businesses.

Rice University

A comprehensive research university in Houston, Texas, that fosters diversity and an intellectual environment to advance tomorrow’s thinking. Received support to create a high-quality invention education program in biomedical engineering in Malawi that spurs the development of products and invention-based businesses to address the health needs of the poor.


An organization established through Foundation support that provides funding and resources to help U.S. student inventors move their technology ideas from lab to market. Received support to build a pipeline of students inventors through E-Team grant and training programs, and new courses through faculty grants to cultivate the conditions that nurture inventors.

Ankur Capital

A venture capital fund that provides flexible capital to innovative business models that can address core challenges in agriculture, healthcare, skill development and education. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) to enable investment in innovative enterprises, including those in the seed stage, that produce tangible results to empower the poor in India.


A non-profit membership organization that encourages the global engineering community to develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods. Received conference support for the 2018 ASME iShow, a global competition for hardware-led social innovation hosted in the U.S., India and Kenya.

Aspen Institute

An organization that fosters value-based leadership that encourages reflection on ideals and ideas that define a good society and provides a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. Received support for a multi-year research project with USAID, Omidyar and Argidius Foundation to uncover best practices around global business acceleration.


A private company in India that engages in the research, development and assembly of connected medical devices that relay data to a central server. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) to provide support for PicoLabs, alternative diagnostic procedures for underserved, poor populations in India.

Gearbox Limited

A professional engineering and prototyping space in Nairobi, Kenya, for hardware inventors that offers the training, facilities and network for them to design and develop products to improve lives. Received support to develop 20,000 square-foot shared office and manufacturing space and training for inventor entrepreneurs.


A medical device technology incubator and accelerator based in India building an innovation ecosystem anchored by MedTech Accelerators and a network of partners to enable affordable MedTech innovation by entrepreneurs and startups. Received support to create and publicly disseminate a validated database of critical unmet needs for medical device technologies serving low-resource populations in India.

Kenya Impact Innovations Foundation

A non-profit affiliated with Kenya Impact Incubator Ltd. that seeks to prove the viability of a social business incubation model in Kenya. Received support to continue business incubation activities focused on building a pipeline of scalable invention-based enterprises that address unmet health needs for low-resource populations in Kenya and throughout East Africa.


A social impact fund platform that is a new type of investment vehicle separate but aligned with Villgro Innovations Foundation, designed to invest in and provide high-touch incubation support to early-stage enterprises with a focus on social impact in India. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) in Menterra Social Impact Fund 1, an Indian Alternative Investment Fund-Social Venture Fund.


An organization that develops and supports social enterprises through incubation programs in regions of South America. Received support to continue to scale incubation programs throughout the Andean region, including Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and the Brazil Amazon Basin, and build a larger pool of Invention-Based Enterprises (IBE).

Promethean Power Systems

An organization that designs and manufactures refrigeration systems for cold storage and milk chilling applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) to provide personnel support to commission new milk chillers in rural India, maintain milk chillers in the field and train dairy farmers with limited incomes.

SELCO Foundation

An open-source non-profit that engages in field-based R&D and ecosystem building for the deployment of clean energy solutions that alleviate poverty in tribal, rural and urban poor areas. Received support to help identify, evaluate and commercialize technologies that meet the needs of poor people in India.

Unitus Seed Fund

An India-based venture fund that invests in startups innovating for the masses in the areas of education, healthcare, financial technology and consumer business. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) to help startups prepare for growth by providing seed funding, strategic and operating support, access to industry connections and growth capital.


A venture capital fund partnered with the Tenet Group of IIT Madras, a first-of-its-kind incubation, seed and early stage fund in India. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) in the Ventureast Tenet Fund II, focused on developing technology companies to address the needs of people in rural India.

VilCap Investments

An investment fund that aims to invest in the highest-potential entrepreneurs and inventors in target sectors of agriculture, education, energy, financial services and health. Received support for Program-Related Investment (PRI) to make portfolio company investments in early-stage, invention-based enterprises that strive to make a positive social or environmental impact.


An organization that enriches rural lives in India by enabling innovations to reach the market. Received support for the incubation and launch of high-impact, highly scalable, invention-based enterprises in India and to provide support for replication of the Villgro Innovation Foundation model in select developing countries.

Oregon Community Foundation

A foundation to improve lives of all Oregonians through the power of philanthropy. Received support for the 2018 Oregon Capital Scan research project to address the topic of capital availability for emerging and growth-stage companies within the state, with a goal of highlighting the role of invention-based enterprises (IBEs) in the regional economy and promote a robust Oregon invention ecosystem.

OSU Foundation

Oregon State University’s foundation that raises and manages funds for university projects, including the Mobile Invention Camps offered in rural Oregon. Received support for The Office of Precollege Programs at Oregon State University’s Mobile Invention Camps to reach students in under-resourced communities and to highlight the role of invention-based enterprises (IBEs) in the regional economy.

Portland Children’s Museum

A museum that is home to Opal Beginning School and Opal Charter School that serves children ages 3-5, and the Center for Learning that makes visible the ways children think, imagine, design, invent and create using the tools of the arts and sciences. Received support for research into K-5 invention education curriculum.

PSU Foundation

Portland State University’s foundation that cultivates and manages monetary and volunteer support for the university. Received support for Portland State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship’s InventOR program to inspire student inventors and to refine the curricula of the pre-college invention education programs for underserved students through Invention Boot Camp.

TiE Oregon

A non-profit membership organization affiliated with the global TiE network that seeks to further the success of innovation-driven enterprise in Oregon. Received support to provide the TiE Young Entrepreneurs program to high school students from under-resourced backgrounds in Oregon and train educators in Oregon and at TiE chapters globally.