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Lemelson Gives $4M for Social Innovation

The Lemelson Foundation, an organization that believes invention is critical to solving the world’s most challenging problems, is pledging more than $4 million across six partners that create and advance social innovations for people who need it most in both the U.S. and developing countries.

The spring 2011 Lemelson grantees include Ashoka, East Meets West, Root Capital and SELCO.

“The Lemelson Foundation not only supports organizations that leverage technology and innovation to solve problems around the world, we invest in partners that foster and promote invention and entrepreneurship,” said Denis Prager, interim executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. “We know funding an individual invention can only go so far: Developing an ecosystem around innovation will ensure a breakthrough idea has lasting impact and can truly change lives.”

The Foundation frequently serves as the first line of funding for early-stage enterprises focused on sustainable technologies. The following spring 2011 grantees will be the catalyst for turning innovative ideas into impactful inventions that foster change in developing countries as well as local U.S. communities:

  • Ashoka , the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, received a grant to support two programs that address the needs of inventors: the Youth Venture program (receiving $270,000 over three years), which encourages young people to invent, and the Ashoka Accelerator program ($630,000 over three years), which will enable Ashoka to support inventors in getting their ideas to mass market.
  • East Meets West , a humanitarian organization working in health and education in Southeast Asia, will receive $1,500,000 over three years to support a partnership with Design that Matters, a design firm that works with social enterprises to develop new neonatal health technologies. Funding also will support the replication of East Meets West’s Breath of Life neonatal health program to new countries.
  • Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that supports grassroots businesses in rural areas of developing countries. The Foundation is investing $600,000 over three years and also is providing a no-interest, program-related investments (PRI) loan of $500,000 to support a fund that lends capital to farmer-owned cooperatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia to help purchase life-changing technologies.
  • SELCO , a Bangalore-based business whose mission is to enhance the quality of life in India by providing affordable solar technology solutions to the poor, will receive $650,000 over five years to expand SELCO Labs, a new arm of the organization that identifies, tests and helps commercialize technologies that meet the needs of the rural poor in southern India.
  • In addition to these grants, the Foundation is announcing support for The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, a global network of more than 110 organizations that connects innovators to resources and propels entrepreneurship in the developing world, and to Rosemary Anderson High School, a Portland, Ore., high school for at-risk youths.

Founded in 1993 by prolific inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, The Lemelson Foundation has devoted the past two decades to fostering creativity, celebrating the inventive spirit and providing inventors around the world with the opportunity to make an impact. With more than 600 patents to his name, Jerome Lemelson believed that invention was the core driver of economic and social prosperity.

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