The Lemelson Foundation Pledges $1 Million to the Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge

New grant will expand statewide support for Oregon College innovators

Carol Dahl


Portland State University announced today that The Lemelson Foundation has awarded a grant of $1 million to advance the Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge, also known as the InventOR program, within the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship. 

The grant provides additional resources for increasing the number of community college, university and college campuses participating in the statewide InventOR competition, which supports students in prototyping novel inventions and pitching their ideas to judges. Expansion of the program includes building invention and entrepreneurship ecosystems at Oregon institutions, launching local competitions at their institutions, and creating vehicles for their students to learn new skills and increase their networks.

InventOR winners

“The students in our program enter the workforce with a different mindset and many of them go on to start companies,” said Juan Barraza, director of student innovation at the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship and a mentor to InventOR student competitors across Oregon. “We are grateful to The Lemelson Foundation for sharing our vision of what’s possible when you create a place where students can be challenged to innovate.” 

InventOR, a program managed by Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship, challenges students to think about the environmental and social issues in their own communities and develop prototype inventions to address them. Along the way, they learn about design thinking skills, commercialization, and how to start a business. 

InventOR has grown from just a handful of schools participating in 2017 to a truly statewide event. In 2020, despite the pandemic, 18 student teams from [number] of schools across Oregon presented their ideas and prototypes virtually during a September event hosted by Rogue Community College. 

Turner Team Automotive

“The Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge demonstrates that, given the opportunity, students have incredibly creative and strategic ideas for improving our communities,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. “As an inaugural funder, we’re excited to see how this program has been a launchpad for invention-based companies and careers for Oregon students.”  

The grant from The Lemelson Foundation will provide resources for participating community colleges to cultivate and ignite the imaginations of inventors—the “inventor pathway”—and support innovators and entrepreneurs who convert ideas into products and businesses. Beyond providing opportunities for students, InventOR can help regions across the state develop invention-based companies that are the engine of the American economy, while generating quality jobs, a stronger and more productive economy, and solutions that tackle local and global challenges.

The Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge for 2021 kicks off with invention competitions at participating institutions and will culminate in a statewide competition planned for June 25, 2021. 

“Support from The Lemelson Foundation ensures that the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship can continue to bring InventOR to students across the state,” said PSU President Stephen Percy. “Portland State is committed to making students successful in their journeys toward fulfilling careers and I’m heartened to see this innovative program growing from our home base here in Portland to students in all parts of Oregon.” 

Learn more about InventOR at