Skip to main content

The Lemelson Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-05-29

At A Glance

The Lemelson Foundation

45 S.W. Ankeny St., Ste. 200

Portland, OR United States 97204-3500

Telephone: (503) 827-8910


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Celebrity: Other

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $369,141,545

Total giving: $13,474,357






Established in 1994 in NV - Founded by the late Jerome Lemelson and his family. An engineer, inventor and holder of over 600 patents, Mr. Lemelson holds the record as the third most prolific inventor in American history, surpassed only by Thomas Edison and Carleton Ellis.

Purpose and Activities

The foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives, by inspiring and enabling the next generation of inventors and invention based enterprises to promote economic growth in the U.S. and social and economic progress for the poor in developing countries. Established by prolific U.S. inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in 1992. To date the foundation has provided or committed more than $175 million in grants and PRIs in support of its mission.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Developing Country Program

In developing countries the foundation works to leverage inventions' ability to address the problems of the poorest populations, through the support of inventors and entrepreneurs building invention-based businesses that either: create products that address basic human needs, or enhance the ability for the target populations to create and manage income, either directly through job creation or indirectly through improving their ability to earn or manage income in their current occupation (ie agriculture, etc). Among the foundation's work in this area are programs in India, Peru and Indonesia designed to identify and encourage inventors through the stage of incubation, as well as launch activities that will help to build more robust ecosystems for invention and translation of invention through innovation to entrepreneurship, within the host countries.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation has made PRIs in the form of a loan for the provision of affordable hearing aids, to an investment foundation to finance the inventory of led lights to replace kerosene lanterns and to an energy investment intermediary to disseminate solar energy systems to the rural poor in Tanzania. Historically, the foundation has made PRIs in the form of loans to organizations that aid the rural poor in Bangladesh, and African countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda through developing low-cost technologies, energy sources, and agriculture.

U.S. Programs

In the U.S., the foundation supports the invention-to-enterprise pathway with a goal of launching businesses that will strengthen the U.S. economy; although the foundation is sector-agnostic we do limit to businesses that will do no harm; and also have a strong commitment to sustainable development. Examples of U.S. initiatives founded by or supported by The Lemelson Foundation include: The Smithsonian Institute's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, The Lemelson-MIT Program and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Additionally, the foundation is adding a regional focus to its U.S. work to build and support a pipeline of inventors in our home state of Oregon by equipping them with the skills to invent and to develop invention-based enterprises that will contribute to economic growth in the state.

Fields of Interest

  • Business and industry
  • Economic development
  • Higher education
  • Science
  • Technology
International Interests
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Developing Countries
  • Latin America
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Low-income and poor people
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $369,141,545 (market value)

Expenditures: $20,484,285

Total giving: $13,474,357

Qualifying distributions: $17,486,760