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Lemelson-MIT Prize

Definition of Technological Invention

Technological invention is the process of devising and producing — by independent investigation, experimentation, and mental activity — something that is useful and that was not previously known or existing. Technological invention involves advances in the art and science of creatively applying knowledge for use in non-routine problem solving or new opportunity creation. This form of invention results in a wide range of outputs (i.e., new technological products or processes) that can have a positive impact upon human development. Invention is the "wellspring" of innovation; the latter often serves as a conduit for inventions to achieve social benefit.

Technological invention often involves crossing boundaries or past practice and convention, tying together academic disciplines in unexpected ways, redefining not only means but also often the problem itself, and challenging entrenched beliefs about the limits of the possible.

Macro-inventions are [technological] inventions of sufficient import that change the way we live, and spawn many improvement inventions, or micro-inventions. The Lemelson-MIT Program seeks to recognize the importance and impact of both macro- and micro-technological inventions and evaluates them within their respective economic, social and cultural contexts.

These definitions are cited in the Lemelson-MIT Program’s report INVENTION: Enhancing inventiveness for quality of life, competitiveness, and sustainability (see executive summary, p. 9).

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