News Releases
2012 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index Reveals Barriers and Drivers to Becoming U.S. Inventors
January 25, 2012

Our friends at the Lemelson-MIT program have announced today their 2012 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which indicates that young Americans are acutely aware of the importance of invention and innovation in their personal lives, and within the context of the nation’s economy. Yet most feel there are factors that would prevent them from furthering education in or entering inventive fields, posing a threat to the pool of future U.S. innovators and the country’s economic prosperity.

A Threat to U.S. Innovation

The annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges Americans’ perceptions about invention and innovation, surveyed Americans ages 16 – 25. When asked about how new technology like smartphones and tablets influences and impacts their personal lives, 40 percent of respondents said they couldn’t imagine their life without it. Americans also have a clear understanding of the role invention and innovation play in the health of the nation with nearly half (47 percent) saying that a lack of invention will hurt the U.S. economy. Those surveyed, however, may not be the ones to take-on the challenge; 60 percent say there are factors that could keep them from pursuing an education or career in science, technology, engineering or math - fields that yield invention and lead to innovation.

Thomas Edison Chosen over Steve Jobs as Greatest Innovator

Lemelson-MIT Invention Index graphic -- Greatest InnovatorThough part of the “Apple Generation,” many young Americans surprisingly chose Thomas Edison (54 percent) over Steve Jobs (24 percent) as the greatest innovator of all time, demonstrating that education around the history of invention exists in today’s curriculum. However, it may not be strong enough to inspire young Americans to make the leap into innovative fields themselves. When asked what other factors would stop them from pursuing innovation-driving fields, nearly half (45 percent) said that invention is not given enough attention in their school.

Additionally, 28 percent said their education left them unprepared to enter these fields.

“Hands-on invention activities are critical, but few too many students have opportunities to learn and develop their inventive skills,” said Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention education officer. “This year’s survey revealed that less than half of respondents have done things like used a drill or hand-held power tool, or made something out of raw materials in the past year. We must engage students in these types of invention experiences as well as provide a strong STEM education to drive future innovators.”

Read the full press release

About the Lemelson-MIT Program

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding innovators and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering. http://web.mit.edu/invent/