Prize Objectives

The Lemelson-MIT Prize for invention 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 for invention 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 ago. A nominee for the 2019 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize must have received their bachelor’s degree in 1994 or later.
  • be named on 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. Note: While we require two patents to be eligible, on average our winners have at least ten.
  • 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.

How to Apply
Candidates must be nominated by a peer by November 30, 2018. Nominations are made via our online SlideRoom portal, which can be accessed by clicking the “Nominate” button on the Lemelson-MIT Prize website. Nominators may be assisted by another person who can enter the nomination information in SlideRoom and consult with Lemelson-MIT staff if questions arise. Further details regarding what is to be included in the nomination are below and on the SlideRoom nomination site.

Selection Process and Timeline

First Round submissions are due from nominators by November 30, 2018. Nominators whose nominees pass the First Round eligibility requirements will be notified by early-December 2018 and will be asked to complete a Second Round submission by January 18, 2019. A screening committee composed of MIT affiliates reviews all nominations and selects finalists.

Nominators whose nominees pass the Second Round submission review will be notified by March 20, 2019 and will be asked to develop a Final Round submission that is due by April 26, 2019. A national jury composed of experts from science, engineering, medicine, technology, and business then selects the winner from the finalist pool. The award winner will be notified in late spring 2019 and announced in the fall of 2019. Winners will be invited and encouraged to participate in Lemelson-MIT Program activities.

Nomination Instructions

There are three rounds to the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize nomination process and your participation is critical at all stages if your nominee advances. The First Round is a technical review to ensure compliance with prize rules. Nominations meeting eligibility requirements will be advanced to the Second Round submission. A small number of nominations will then progress to the Final Round submission. Details about each round appear below.

First Round Submission Deadline: Friday, November 30, 2018 at 5:00pm Eastern
The First Round submission requirements for nominators include:

  • Disclosure of Nominator Relationship to Nominee
    The objectives of this section are to help validate the nominator’s knowledge of the nominee, create transparency for review purposes, and ensure greater uniformity in the interpretation of nominator and nominee relationships on the part of the Lemelson-MIT Prize reviewers. 
  • Summary of Technological Inventiveness (3 pages maximum, 12-point font)
    Please summarize the nominee’s major technologically inventive accomplishments that you feel make him or her a strong candidate for the prize.
    • Explain what their technological inventions are and why they are significant.
    • 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.? Note: Should your nominee advance to the Second Round submission, at that time we will ask for further information about the societal impact of the nominee's inventions.

When completing this section, please keep in mind the following excerpt from our 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.

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.

  • Nominee’s Curriculum Vitae or Resume (5 pages maximum, 12-point font)
  • Patent Documentation
    Provide two complete U.S. patent abstracts for which the nominee is a named inventor, one of which is a product or process that has been commercialized or has potential or realized adoption.

Second Round Submission Deadline: Friday, January 18, 2019 at 5:00pm Eastern
Nominators whose nominees pass the First Round review are asked to complete a Second Round submission. The Second Round submission requirements include:

  • Nominee Biography (2 pages maximum, 12-point font)
    Please briefly explain what distinguishes the nominee and why this nominee should be recognized and rewarded. Provide a narrative description that highlights the nominee's major accomplishments, including important life experiences, awards, recognitions, publications, copyrights, trademarks, and invited lectures and conferences that have had a significant impact on his/her trajectory. This should be a narrative of what makes your nominee who s/he is and why s/he is being nominated, and not a listing of items from a CV.
  • Description of Societal Impact (1 page maximum, 12-point font)
    Please expand upon the nominee's technologically inventive accomplishments by describing how his/her inventions have had or could have a beneficial impact upon society.

When completing this section, keep in mind that technological 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 societal benefit.

  • Statement of Commercialization or Potential/Realized Adoption of the Nominee’s Inventions (2 pages maximum, 12-point font)
    Please describe how the nominee's inventions have been commercialized for broader use or have the potential to be adopted for broader use. Provide quantitative evidence, when applicable.
  • Description of Youth Mentoring and Outreach (1 page maximum, 12-point font)
    Describe ways in which the nominee has participated in or shown an interest in youth mentoring and outreach. Explain why the nominee might be an exemplary role model for young people. If the nominee is an academic, please describe mentoring/outreach activities that go beyond the typical responsibilities of a faculty member (e.g., student advising).

Final Round Submission Deadline: Friday, April 26, 2019 at 5:00pm Eastern
Nominators whose nominees pass the Second Round submission review will be notified by March 20, 2019 and will be asked to develop a Final Round submission. The Final Round submission requirements include:

  • Three Letters of Recommendation
    Three letters of recommendation are required, one of which must be submitted by the nominator. The recommendation letters should address but need not be limited to:
    • The candidate’s strengths as an inventor and role model
    • An assessment of the value of the inventor’s contributions to his/her field
    • 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.). Each letter should be on official letterhead, addressed to the Lemelson-MIT Prize Committee, and limited to two pages or less.

Note: Nominators may identify and reach out to potential recommendation letter writers early in the nomination process. However, nominators should not secure the letters unless their nominee is advanced to the Final Round submission stage. In the Final Round submission, letters must be requested via the SlideRoom nomination portal, which triggers an email to the letter writer with a unique link for them to upload the letter to the nomination.

  • Video Links (3 maximum)
    Please provide at least one and up to three links to videos of recent public presentations of the nominee about his/her work.
  • Other Supporting Materials (Optional) (compiled in 1 document, maximum of 10 pages)
    We encourage you to submit additional materials that support the nominee’s achievements, such as professional articles and press clippings. 

The final award winner from this stage will be informed in late spring of 2019 and a public announcement will be made in the fall of 2019.

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, micro­inventions. The Lemelson­MIT Program seeks to recognize the importance and impact of both macro- and micro­technological inventions and evaluates them within their respective economic, social and cultural contexts.

How does the Lemelson-­MIT Program define someone as "mid­career"?
The Lemelson-MIT Program defines mid-career as someone who has received a bachelor’s degree no more than twenty-five years ago. A nominee for the 2019 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize must have received their bachelor’s degree in 1994 or later.

Who can apply for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Candidates for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize must be nominated by another individual and cannot apply for the prize themselves. Individuals seeking to be nominated are welcome to approach a colleague or organization 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. Each inventor must have at least two patents, which could include two or more patents that include both of their names.

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

Who can nominators contact regarding questions during the application process for the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize?
Nominators can contact Betsy Boyle if they have any questions about the process.

How are the Lemelson-MIT Prize winners chosen?
All nominations that meet the First Round requirements will be advanced to the Second Round submission. Following that, there is a two-tiered judging process to select the winner:
Second Round Submission: A screening committee composed of MIT affiliates review the nominations and select finalists for the prize.
Final Round Submission: A national jury of experts from science, engineering, medicine, technology, and business review the finalists and select the winner.

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

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

When will the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner be notified and when will the winner be announced?
The winner and nominator will be notified in late spring of the awarding year and the winner is publicly announced in the fall of the awarding year. The award will be presented to the winner at MIT’s EmTech event during the fall of the awarding year.

Are there requirements about how the Lemelson-MIT Prize money must be spent?
No, 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 presented with the award at MIT’s EmTech event and encouraged to participate in Lemelson-MIT Program activities.