Lemelson Foundation

OVERVIEW: This Portland funder is all about fostering the development of inventions that improve lives and the economy. Locally, the foundation helps underserved youth in the community become inventors.

FUNDING AREAS: New inventions, U.S. economy, youth

IP TAKE: While this funder takes a national and global approach to support for inventors, it has a soft spot for Oregon groups. Try suggesting a local education program for high school student inventors.

PROFILE: The Lemelson Foundation wants to inspire the next generation of inventors and invention enterprises. It was established in the early 1990s by Jerome Lemelson and his wife and children. The foundation created three core U.S.-based programs and later added programs for developing countries. Now in its third decade, Lemelson is committed to strengthening the U.S. economy and those of developing nations. In Oregon, where Lemelson is based, the funder is devoted to underserved youth.

This foundation is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and focuses its local attention on helping youth become inventors and create enterprises that improve lives. Lemelson usually focuses on businesses that consider the environment in their endeavors.

This foundation does not directly support individual inventors with their new and creative endeavors. Instead, it connects youth with a long list of partners that support inventors. This includes education groups like Oregon MESA, which provides after-school invention and education opportunities to middle school and high school students. Lemelson also partners with invention-based companies and other foundations looking to co-fund a cause.

U.S. support breaks down into three categories: inspiration, education, and incubation. Funding goes to raise the public profile of inventors and inventions to inspire the next generation. Invention education for young students is supported, as are resources and training for early-career inventors and college students. Themes include how inventions can create jobs, boost the economy, and engage youth in meaningful work. This can include support for STEM education and critical thinking tools.

Unfortunately for grantseekers in Oregon and elsewhere, the foundation does not request nor typically fund unsolicited applications. Instead, it’s all about long-term strategies with trusted partners—locally, nationally and globally.

However, you can submit a preliminary inquiry with a concept note to let the program staff know about your idea, but only after you submit an eligibility quiz. Program staff will get in touch if there is funding potential. The process from proposal request to award letter usually takes about six months. The required forms are sent to applicants when a full proposal is requested.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 503-827-8910. The mailing address is 1455 NW Overton Street, Suite 500, Portland, Oregon 97209. There are about nine staff members here, including several program officers.

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