INVENTING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
New Report Urges More Technologies
That Address Social and Environmental Concerns
Washington, DC — Developing countries need more
inventors and innovators—men and women who are committed to
tackling poverty through the invention and application of new technologies.
That is one of the conclusions of a new report prepared by the
Lemelson-MIT Program, with support from the National Science Foundation.
The report says that while the economies of developing countries
will benefit from technological innovation, these should be inventive
solutions that serve both social and environmental goals as well
as market demand.
“Creating economic opportunity and long-term stability in
developing countries cannot be a matter of “business as usual,”
says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, executive director of LEAD International
and one of the authors of the report. “To date, the fruits
of human ingenuity have bypassed some three billion people—the
world’s poorest. Even the advances in standards of living
that invention has provided for some have caused irreversible harm
to the global environment. We need to focus on developing sustainable
solutions to alleviate current problems and create future benefits
for a global society.”
The report is the culmination of a year-long study by 56 leading
experts drawn from the worlds of invention, research, business,
not-for-profits and the media. The group was charged with the task
of reviewing the pillars of invention and applying what we know
about inventive ingenuity to solving some of our most pressing global
The Lemelson-MIT report concludes that the incentives for invention
and innovation for sustainable development—worldwide—are
low, and barriers are high. To address these areas of need, the
report makes several recommendations. These include:
- In developing countries, special attention should be given
to education reform to stimulate inventive creativity, interdisciplinary
research and original thinking at all levels. Intergovernmental
organizations, including UNESCO, could play a lead.
- More attention should be directed to investing in local invention
and innovation, particularly that which helps create employment
and enterprises in poor countries. USAID and other bilateral donors
should encourage and support more social entrepreneurship in such
countries and stimulate counterpart agencies to do the same.
- Corporations and banks should do more to promote sustainable
development by understanding the specific needs of social entrepreneurs
and providing them with access to finance, investment, mentoring
and technical support. The benefits to corporations would include
providing key entry points to new markets.
- New models of intellectual property protection should be considered
that would stimulate creativity and product diffusion to all areas
of the world. Inventors and innovators everywhere should be given
incentives to share their knowledge and market their products
widely, in order to globalize the best ideas for sustainable development.
- Efforts to promote inventive creativity should include assistance
with human rights, freedom of speech, justice and the rule of
law, since these are the environments in which inventive creativity
can best flourish.
top of page
Looking forward, the report advocates a focus on invention and
innovation that will allow people around the world to enjoy a better
quality of life, without compromising the ability of future generations
to do the same.
“Globalization has made it impossible to consider this issue
from anything other than an international perspective,” says
Ehsan Masood, UK science journalist and another of the report’s
authors. “Obstacles to inventiveness need to be tackled around
the globe if we are to seriously move towards sustainable development.
Both developed and developing countries need to focus on creating
new solutions that avoid the old trap of solving one problem and
Complete findings from INVENTION: Enhancing inventiveness for
quality of life, competitiveness and sustainability will be released
at noon on Wednesday, April 21st at the National Press Club. The
report will be presented for review and discussion at an Invention
Assembly, Friday, April 23, at 9:30 a.m. at the National Academy
The Assembly will present an integrated summary of the findings
from five workshops comprising the invention study. Leading scholars
and practitioners will examine the topic of invention from the perspectives
of history, cognitive science, education, intellectual property
law and sustainable development. Assembly participants will provide
feedback on their report and public policy recommendations.
For more information on the final report or the Invention Assembly
Each year, the Lemelson-MIT awards program honors both established
and rising inventors, for their ingenuity, creativity and contribution
to American invention. This year’s Lemelson-MIT Awards Ceremony
will take place on the evening of Friday, April 23rd at the National
Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The awards ceremony will
serve as the capstone to the Invention Assembly and will honor the
2004 winners of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize and the $100,000
Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
ABOUT THE LEMELSON-MIT PROGRAM
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Lemelson-MIT Program
aims to raise the stature of inventors and provide resources and
inspiration to make invention and innovation more accessible to
today's youth. It accomplishes this mission through outreach activities
and annual awards, including the world's largest prize for invention—the
$500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize.
Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the world's most prolific inventors,
and his wife, Dorothy, founded the Lemelson-MIT Program in 1994
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is funded by The
Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy committed to honoring
the contributions of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs, and
to inspiring ingenuity in others. More information on the Lemelson-MIT
Program is online at http://web.mit.edu/invent.
top of page