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Program Refocuses and Renews Its Commitment to Support and Inspire Up-And-Coming Inventors

Cambridge, MA, Revised September 5, 2006 — These days, millions of Americans could tell you all about Taylor Hicks, but ask them what David Hughes, Henry Kloss, Philo Farnsworth or Vladimir Zworykin accomplished and you're likely to draw a blank stare. But without Hughes's microphone, Kloss's acoustic loudspeaker, and Farnsworth's and Zworykin's innovations that contributed to the television, the latest "American Idol" would likely not have become a household name.

"Our culture does a wonderful job glorifying entertainers and athletes, but it often relegates to obscurity the creative people whose ideas truly make profound differences," said Merton Flemings, director of the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For more than a decade the Lemelson-MIT Program, with funding from The Lemelson Foundation, has honored the unsung heroes of science, technology and engineering, who have improved our lives through invention. But new challenges exist in today's changing world. Among them are the need to improve the educational system, attract more young people to lead inventive lives, and to address the sustainability needs of the planet and its people. These challenges have led the Lemelson-MIT Program to expand its efforts to address these pressing issues.

To do so, the Lemelson-MIT Program's $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the most-prestigious cash award for invention in the United States, has been refocused to help bring inventions from younger, mid-career researchers into mainstream society. In addition, the Lemelson-MIT Program is introducing a new $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability, which replaces the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award. This new award supports individuals whose inventions enhance economic opportunities and societal well-being in developing and/or developed countries, while protecting and restoring the natural environment.

"Some of our highest priorities at MIT are to prepare the next generation of inventors whose ideas can improve the world and call attention to the need for new solutions to critical energy, environment, public health and other challenges," said Susan Hockfield, president of MIT. "The recognition and financial support that comes from the Lemelson-MIT Program Awards and the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams invention grants for high school students are extremely important to help the United States remain at the forefront of science and technology."

"It is our responsibility to show younger generations how science, technology, engineering and math — the fundamentals of invention — can be intellectually stimulating, financially rewarding and, most importantly, a lot of fun," added Dorothy Lemelson, chair and president of The Lemelson Foundation.

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New Awards for Inventors
Beginning in 2007, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize will be awarded to mid-career inventors, whose inventions are in medicine and healthcare, computers and telecommunications, consumer products, energy and environment, or industrial products. The award is intended to honor these inventors and to help them bring their inventions to the marketplace. The award criteria favor inventors who are active mentors for youth and who dedicate time to encouraging them in science and technology.

The new $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability will support inventors whose products and processes are viable and sustainable and have high potential to improve quality of life for future generations. This award is intended to increase awareness of critical sustainability issues around the world.

Candidates for both awards are nominated. Nomination applications for the 2007 awards are currently available at http://web.mit.edu/invent/a-main.html. The deadline has now been extended from October 6 to October 27, 2006. Both winners will be announced in spring 2007.

In addition to these two awards, the Lemelson-MIT Program is also expanding its $30,000 Student Prize to other research universities. The Lemelson-MIT Program is providing funding and a competition framework for the $30,000 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Student Prizes will recognize outstanding graduate and undergraduate students at those institutions who are pursuing groundbreaking research and innovation and have demonstrated remarkable inventiveness. In 2008, the Lemelson-MIT Program will partner with two additional universities to offer the Student Prize.

The Lemelson-MIT Program also has plans to significantly expand its Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams grants initiative, which gives teams of high school students a real-world invention experience and up to $10,000 to conceive of an idea and build a prototype. During the past academic year, 29 high school teams across the country either received new or continuation grants to work on inventions ranging from a neural-directed wheelchair for paraplegics to a computer mouse that can be worn as a glove. With the help of corporate partners, MIT alumni chapters and additional outreach, the Lemelson-MIT Program intends to steadily increase the number of InvenTeams projects supported each year.

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About the Lemelson-MIT Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. It accomplishes this mission through outreach activities and annual awards and grants, including the prestigious $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize and Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams, a non-competitive, team-based invention experience for high school students. Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the world's most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the non-profit Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. More information is online at http://web.mit.edu/invent/ and http://www.inventeams.org/.

About the Lemelson Foundation
The Lemelson Foundation celebrates and supports inventors and entrepreneurs in order to strengthen social and economic life. The Foundation is a private philanthropy established by one of the most prolific U.S. inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. It uses its resources to inspire, encourage and recognize inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs, with a growing emphasis on those who harness invention for sustainable development where the needs are greatest. To date, The Lemelson Foundation has donated or committed more than $100 million in support of its mission.

About the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

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