Not many people know of the existence of invention grants. As the name hints - these are grants of money, offered to inventors to help them launch their creative ideas and commercialise them.
Having a great idea for a unique invention is one thing, but turning your vision into a real working product, and selling it, is often a different story.
While there are many ways to reduce the amount you will need, by being frugal and by boot strapping your way to commercial success, at the end of the day, the process of inventing and commercialising your invention, requires a substantial financial investment.
Let's face it. Money, is something most budding inventors don’t necessarily have. However, if you’re considering giving up on your dream just because you lack the funds, there cound be a silver lining in the form of invention grants.
Invention grants are a godsend for talented inventors with limited cash.
They are grants of money that are offered to support inventors with a unique idea that can bring its providers substantial returns.
Innovative new products, and the commercialisation of new ideas, help drive the economy forward.
Most governments, including the United States’ and the United Kingdom’s, offer invention grants to needy, qualified inventors.
Universities and colleges often support innovative new developments through idea incubators and competitions for invention grants.
Non profit organisations might offer invention grants to help promote inventions in their area of activity.
In many cases the nature of an invention is relevant to the advancement of a specific area, or agenda. Is your invention helping make the world greener and more ecological? does your invention help promote the safety of children, or their education?
Think creatively on the areas that are relevant to your invention. A simple gadget for food preparation can be viewed as helping people prepare healthier food at home and thus reduce obesity. Voila, you might find the appropriate non profit supporting those ideas to help you with a grant.
There is no lack of organisations willing to help promote new inventions - but you need to know where to look. And you also need to wear a new hat - no longer just an inventor, you now need to think as a marketer, and a business person.
When applying for investments in your product idea, be it from invention grants, private investors or competitions, you need to look at your idea as a business and pitch it accordingly.
While you can start looking at all invention grants available out there, the better way is to take a hard look at your invention idea, and think creatively about which organisations might fit your product and be most inclined to support it.
If your invention idea has a strong social benefit to it, or a mission to help society in some way, you might be able to make a claim that it falls under a social enterprise. Social entrepreneurial endeavours are now very popular and don’t necessarily need to be not-for-profits. As long as your invention idea can generate both financial and social return, it’s worth looking into grants aimed at social entrepreneurs.
Which topics and values are relevant to your invention? is it of clear social value? if not, can you come up with benefits to society in some shape or form from your invention?
After all, inventions are here to improve our lives, and in some shape or form add value. (well most inventions do... ).
Once you have brainstormed and identified all the different areas relevant to your specific invention idea, start researching organisations that promote those values or campaign for those same agendas.
Look for grants they might offer, that could be relevant to your invention. Even if they don't necessarily offer 'Invention grants' per se, consider approaching them with the suggestion of supporting your invention, if making your product available in the market, matches their social objectives and promotes similar goals to theirs.
Here are some inventions grants to consider. Most of them are aimed at new technologies and ground breaking research. If your invention doesn't fall under these categories, don't give up.
Do your research, and find institutions that are relevant to the area your invention will improve, and try to take advantage of other grants and funding options. do your research - many options exist.
Small Business innovation research - This US government program, offers grants to small businesses that are pursuing research and development activities. If you have a new invention idea you are currently developing, definitely check this program. Participating Federal Agencies award more than $2 billion in small business government grants, every year. (for en example of an invention that received 6 years of support through this program, check out Chris Mullin's electronic sunglasses.)
To see their requirements and fill an application check out their web site
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST offers several grants for students inventors and faculty members from different fields.
These grants can range from $5,000 to over $1 million, and are offered to institutions of higher education, hospitals, non-profit organizations, commercial organizations and governments.
National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) –The NCIIA offers E-Team grants (excellence and entrepreneurship grants) that can range from $1,000 to $20,000. To apply, you should be a student or a faculty member from NCIIA member institutions and have at least two active students involved in the project.
The Invention Disclosure Electronic Application System (IDEAS) –Offered by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), IDEAS’s Technology Maturation Fund is provided to LANL researchers sponsored by one of Technology Transfer Division’s Technology Management Teams.
Grants.gov is the number one website curating information about grants offered by the federal government. Look into areas relevant to your invention to try and find potential grants that are going to be of value.
U.S. Department of Energy –Inventors in the field of energy efficiency or renewable energy technologies can choose from the numerous Advance Research Projects Agency – Energy grants available.
Each of these has its own qualifications, but they aren’t as strict as the other inventors grants mentioned earlier.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) –USPTO offers one of the most attractive invention grants around – the Green Technology Pilot Program. This grant is designed to support inventors specializing in fighting pollution, energy conservation and development of renewable energy sources.
UK The U.K. Government – The British government offers funding through its Green Investment Bank to inventors with ideas for low carbon manufacturing and low carbon economy.
The Australian Government (in Association with Shell) –The Australian government joined forces with Shell to offer the Australian Innovation Challenge grant. You can easily get up to AUD 30,000 if you have a great idea that can benefit fields such as environment, manufacturing and agriculture and food.Australian Innovation Challenge grant
'Quick Cash' Grant Program - This privately owned product (not an organisation) was recommended to us by two different readers, and has great reviews on the web - so we have decided to add it to our list of resources.
The product which is reasonably priced at 49$, includes a database of 100 US and Canadian grants giving resources as well as templates that you could use and adapt to apply for grant money.
One of their templates is specifically geared towards invention developers ( they call it the : Invent-tech invention grant template). While not all of the grant resources are geared towards inventions developers, it might be worth pursuing some of the grants suggested in the database, if you think you can fall under a different relevant category. At the end of the day, once the money is in your pocket, you can use it for whatever you need it for - including developing an invention idea.
Heard about any other invention grants or institutions that are appropriate for new inventors to approach? write them down, and help us create a a database of invention grants.