Foundation Overview

The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives.

Established by prolific US inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in the early 1990s, and guided today by the Lemelson family, we believe invention can solve many of the biggest economic and social challenges of our time. That’s why we work to strengthen the ecosystems where inventions can take shape, grow, and flourish. For more than two decades we have inspired young people from diverse backgrounds to tackle the world’s most daunting problems, advanced the field of invention education with a goal of reaching all children, and equipped entrepreneurs with the skills they need to start successful invention-based businesses. A private philanthropy, The Lemelson Foundation has investment assets of around $370 million and an annual budget of approximately $18 million. All told, we have provided over $200 million in grants and other investments to hundreds of organizations around the world.

We aspire to strengthen the invention ecosystem and empower inventors to solve the biggest global challenges and opportunities of our time, whether it’s ensuring equal access to a healthy life, providing clean water and sanitation, developing clean energy alternatives, rethinking how the world grows, shares and consumes its food, or building a strong and stable economy. We approach our work using a three-part framework we call impact inventing: 

  • Inventions should have positive social impact;
  • Inventions should be environmentally responsible—from the materials and processes used through final products that go to market; and
  • Business models should become financially self-sustaining. 

The Lemelson Foundation has created a culture of collaboration, continuous learning, and innovation. An entrepreneurial environment with huge flexibility and opportunities for impact has allowed the small team of 10 staff to create a large footprint and outsized presence for the Foundation. Commitment to diversity is one of The Lemelson Foundation’s core values as we work to foster an inclusive work environment. We cannot do our work without collaboration among people with diverse skill sets and backgrounds.

In the spirit of inquiry, learning and collaboration, all Foundation team members have the opportunity to periodically accompany Program Officers on site visits and engage directly with grantees and partners for ongoing exposure to the work of the Foundation.


A minimum of ten years of experience in progressively responsible hands-on leadership roles developing and building a cohesive team of professionals working across a range of issues and geographies is required. Experience working on a small team or in a small organization is critical. A demonstrated track record of management and team leadership, strategic planning and implementation, and impact measurement is also essential. This position will draw upon significant direct experience in organizational learning including the use of technology-enabled systems to capture and document strategy execution and impact. 

Familiarity with the fields of invention, education, entrepreneurship, and/or global development is preferred. However, a generalist who exhibits deep intellectual curiosity and a willingness to develop expertise without being “the expert” who is also adept at working across a diverse array of issues would be well suited for the position. 

Candidates will be considered from diverse backgrounds that might include nonprofit (foundation, NGO, social enterprise), public (donor agencies) or private sectors (strategy consulting). Local experience working with emerging/developing economies is an asset. A Bachelor’s degree is required with a relevant advanced degree strongly preferred.

The position is based in Portland, OR, and will include domestic and international travel, including developing countries.