Prize Objectives

The Lemelson-MIT Prize seeks to highlight the pivotal role inventive activity plays in the achievement of positive social, cultural and economic goals. The objectives of the Lemelson-MIT Prize are to:

  • recognize and reward America’s outstanding mid-career inventors
  • celebrate individuals who enhance economic opportunity and community well-being through their inventive work and who have global perspective
  • increase awareness and foster the work of inventors and the potential for commercialization and wider adoption of their inventions
  • promote role models who can inspire young people to pursue creative lives and careers

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize must:

  • be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Be mid-career, which is defined as having received their bachelor’s degree no more than twenty-five years post undergraduate degree from the year of the award
  • be the primary inventor of two or more granted U.S. patents, one of which is a product or process that has been commercialized or has potential or realized adoption
  • serve as an inspiration to young people, through their creativity, outreach or mentoring activities

Candidates may be individuals or two collaborating inventors, and they must be nominated by one of their peers. Winners will be invited and encouraged to participate in Lemelson-MIT Program activities.

Selection Process

A screening committee composed of MIT faculty and MIT alumni review the nominations and select finalists. A national jury of experts from science, engineering, medicine, technology and business then selects the winner from the finalist pool. The winner must then be ratified by the screening committee.

Nomination Instructions

There are three stages to the nomination process: Initial, First, and Final Submissions.
Reviews are conducted between the Initial and First Submission stages to determine if your nomination will proceed.

A small number of nominations will progress to the Final Submission, which includes two letters of recommendation in addition to the nominator's. Nominators should identify and reach-out to potential letter writers early in the nomination process but not secure the letters unless their nominee is advanced to the Final Submission stage.

Following is a description of each stage of the nomination process and deadlines for the current cycle:

Initial Submission

Deadline: November 30, 2016
The Initial Submission asks you to disclose your relationship to the nominee, for a brief statement that summarizes your nominee’s major technologically inventive accomplishments and why he/she is being nominated for the prize, the nominee’s CV (five pages maximum), and requires patent abstracts (patent number, title, and authors) on at least two patents for which your nominee is the lead inventor.

Initial Submission Online Form Coming Soon

Explanation of Initial Submission Form Sections
Nominator Disclosure Form
The nominator disclosure form helps to validate the nominator’s knowledge of the nominee, create greater transparency for review, and ensures greater uniformity in the interpretation of nominee and nominator relationships.

Inventor Profile Summary
Explain why the candidate should be recognized and rewarded. Summarize the candidate's major technologically inventive accomplishments and why he/she is being nominated for the prize. (Please refer to the Definition of Technological Invention in the FAQ).

Curriculum Vitae or Resume
Please limit the length to five pages and summarize when necessary.

Patent Documentation
Submit two full patent abstracts. The nominee must be the primary inventor. Each patent abstract must include the patent number, title and authors listed in the order in which they appear on the patent documentation.

First Submission

Deadline: January 2017
Nominators whose nominees pass the Initial Submission review are asked to complete a First Submission.

The First Submission includes a Nominee Biography, a Description of Technological Inventiveness, and a Statement of Commercialization or Potential/Realized Adoption of the Nominee’s Inventions.

Explanation of First Submission Form Sections
Biography

Explain what distinguishes the candidate. Provide a narrative description that highlights the candidate’s major accomplishments, including important life experiences, awards, recognitions, publications, copyrights, trademarks, and invited lectures and conferences.

Description of Technological Inventiveness
Expand upon the nominee’s major technological invention(s): Explain what they are, and why they are significant. Describe how the candidate's inventive accomplishments have had or could have a beneficial impact upon society. Describe how the prize could potentially enhance the candidate's inventive work. Discuss the scope of the nominee’s work/and or perspective, i.e., are they thinking/working globally or focused on the U.S.? (Please refer to Definition of Technological Invention in the FAQ).

Statement of Commercialization or Potential/Realized Adoption of Inventions
Please describe how the nominee's inventions have been commercialized for broader use or have the potential to be adopted for wider dissemination.

Final Submission

Deadline: April 2017
Nominators whose nominees pass the First Submission review are asked to develop a Final Submission.

The Final Submission includes three letters of recommendation, of which one must be from the nominator. Nominators should identify and reach-out to potential letter of support writers early in the nomination process but not secure the letters unless their nominee is advanced to the Final Submission stage.

A description of the nominee’s Youth Outreach Interest and Experience, contact information for mentees, links to videos of recent public presentations of the nominee about his/her work, and materials that support the nominee’s achievements, such as professional articles and press clippings are also included in the Final Submission.

The Final Submission, including the letters of recommendation, are completed online.

Explanation of Final Submission Form Sections
Recommendations and Mentees

Three letters of recommendation are required, of which one must be submitted by the nominator. The recommendation should address but need not be limited to the candidate’s strengths as an inventor and as an inventor role model; an assessment of the value of the inventor’s contributions to his/her field; and a specific description of differentiating characteristics that help to set the candidate apart from other inventors in his/her field.

Recommenders should describe their affiliation with the candidate and specifically disclose any material relationships to the candidate (e.g., co-investor, current business partner, former business partner, etc.).

The letters should also be on official letterhead or otherwise state the recommender’s full name, title, employer, department, address, email address, telephone and fax number. Each letter should not exceed two pages.

Please provide the names and contact information for at least one and up to three current mentees of the candidate. Mentees may be undergraduate or graduate student advisees if the candidate is in academia, youth (under age 25) in the community if the candidate is involved with volunteer or community service, or interns at a company at which the candidate plays an active role, or any combination thereof. Mentees may be contacted for confidential input.

Youth Outreach Interest and Experience
Describe ways the candidate has participated or shown an interest in youth outreach. Explain why the candidate might be an exemplary role model for young people. If the candidate is an academic, please describe outreach activities that reach beyond the typical responsibilities of a faculty member (e.g., student advising).

Video Links and Other Supporting Materials
Links to videos of recent public presentations of the nominee about his/her work, and materials that support the nominee’s achievements, such as professional articles and press clippings. Please limit the length to ten pages and summarize when necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Lemelson-MIT Program's 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, 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.

How does the Lemelson-MIT Program define someone as "mid-career"?
The Lemelson-MIT Program defines mid-career as someone who is no more than twenty-five years post undergraduate degree from the year of the award, e.g.: a nominee for the 2015 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize must have graduated in 1990 or later.

Who qualifies as a nominator for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Nominators for the national awards are people with experience in engineering, science, medicine, academia, or business. Nominators may be inventors, venture capitalists, engineers, or other influential professionals. Nominators may step forward on behalf of a candidate to submit a nomination. The Lemelson-MIT Program  may identify and contact potential nominators of worthy candidates.

Who can apply for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Candidates for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize are identified by nomination only. Individuals seeking to be nominated are welcome to approach a relevant professional organization (science, engineering, medical or business) and/or regional inventors' groups to secure and support a nomination.

Can nominators nominate two candidates for the same award?
Yes, nominators may nominate a team of two inventors for the Prize.

How long are nominations for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Nominations are active for two years.

May candidates be re-nominated in subsequent years?
Yes, candidates may be re-nominated in subsequent years, if they have not won.

Who can nominators contact regarding questions during the application process or to review materials for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Nominators can contact the Lemelson-MIT Program at awards-lemelson@mit.edu if they have questions about the process or would like their application materials reviewed prior to the deadline.

How are the Lemelson-MIT Prize winners chosen?
The winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize are chosen by two independent screening committees composed of MIT faculty review the nominations and select finalists for the prize. A national jury of experts from science, engineering, medicine, technology and business then select the winner from both finalist pools. 

Does the Lemelson family participate in the selection of the winner?
No, the Lemelson family does not participate in the selection processes.

How will the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner be notified?
The Lemelson-MIT Faculty Director notifies the winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize by telephone after final deliberations are completed.

When will the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner be notified and when will the winner be announced?
The Lemelson-MIT Faculty Director notifies the winner and nominator in the late spring of the awarding year and the winner is announced in the early fall of the awarding year. The winner will also be recognized and invited to speak at EmTech MIT of the awarding year. 

Are there requirements about how the Lemelson-MIT Prize money must be spent?
There are no requirements as to how the Lemelson-MIT Prize winner must allocate their award money. The award is intended to recognize exceptional inventors and the profound impact their inventions have on the world.

How will the winner be announced/celebrated and what are the expectations of the winner?
The winner will be announced through a national media campaign, which will require their participation in the development of media materials including a press release, photos and video and a willingness to be interviewed and speak about their work, invention, and winning the Prize. The winner will be recognized and invited to speak at EmTech MIT and encouraged to participate in Lemelson-MIT Program activities

What happened to the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation?
Awards programs evolve over time, and the Lemelson-MIT Program has adapted its awards to keep pace with the recognition prize ecosystem and societal changes. 2013 was the final year that the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation  (previously named the Award for Sustainability) was awarded. The Award for Global Innovation replaced the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program from 1995-2006. The Lifetime Achievement Award recognized outstanding individuals whose pioneering spirit and inventiveness throughout their careers improved our society and inspired others.