About the NCIIA

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) encourages and supports invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship education at institutions of higher learning across the United States. The NCIIA supports the work of its members through grants, training, and other resources. NCIIA programs complement a traditional educational and career path through hands-on learning and practical experience that generate new technologies to benefit humans and the environment, and innovative businesses and business models.

The NCIIA was established in 1995 with support from The Lemelson Foundation and operates as a program of
Five Colleges, Inc., a higher education consortium located in Amherst, Massachusetts. With nearly two hundred institutional members comprising colleges and universities, public and private, large and small, in every region of the US, the NCIIA has become an important forum for educational innovation and institutional change. A current list of members is available at www.nciia.org. The NCIIA’s ongoing programs include:

  • Course and program grants for developing and strengthening curricular initiatives
  • Advanced E-Team grants to help student/faculty teams bring innovations from idea to prototype to market
  • Annual meetings for sharing of ideas and best practices among business, technical, and engineering faculty
  • Extensive web-based and print resources for the development and dissemination of knowledge in the field of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship education

About The Lemelson Foundation

The Lemelson Foundation celebrates and supports inventors and entrepreneurs in order to strengthen social and economic life. The Foundation is a private philanthropy established by one of the most prolific US inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. It uses its resources to inspire, encourage, and recognize inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, with a growing emphasis on those who harness invention for sustainable development where the needs are greatest. To date, The Lemelson Foundation has donated or committed more than $90 million in support of its mission. The Foundation’s programs stem from a three-pronged strategy:

  1. Recognition—The Foundation works to recognize and celebrate successful inventors and develops programs that reward inventive minds. It also supports policy and educational initiatives that foster cultural appreciation of innovative creativity.
  2. Mentoring—Because a wise advisor and a supportive environment can make all the difference in an inventor’s journey, the Foundation supports high-caliber mentoring and education for young inventors. This mentoring support helps innovative people overcome the many obstacles that may block the path leading from potentially significant innovations to products that change people’s lives.
  3. Dissemination—The Foundation believes in the value of spreading sustainable technologies that can create economic opportunity and improve lives in societies that can benefit most from such advances. It also researches and disseminates information that highlights the role of invention in society.

US Initiatives:The Foundation supports several grantees whose programs inspire and develop inventiveness in young people and foster appreciation for the critical role of invention and innovation in American economic, social, and cultural development.

International Initiatives: Understanding that invention and innovation play a critical role in improving living standards around the globe, in 2002 the Foundation launched Invention for Sustainable Development, a program to address the challenges facing the nearly three billion people trapped in poverty in less-industrialized countries.

Invention to Venture

Invention to Venture is a nationwide series of conferences and workshops in technology entrepreneurship for science and technology students and faculty as well as local entrepreneurial leaders and resource providers. Now in its fourth year, the Invention to Venture series has presented workshops in nearly every region of the United States, including such centers of academic innovation as Boston, MA; San Diego, CA; Chicago, IL; and Gainesville, FL. The introductory I2V teaches technology entrepreneurship basics, helps build networks, and provides a framework for moving ideas forward. Each year, several specialized workshops are also offered. Invention to Venture workshops are directed toward:

  • Students and faculty interested in technology entrepreneurship and commercialization of research
  • Members of the university community who are entrepreneurially ambitious
  • Business people seeking connections with university students and faculty
  • Investors seeking high growth potential companies
  • Businesses seeking to identify new technology opportunities

Invention to Venture is a program of the NCIIA with sponsorship from The Lemelson Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. Visit the website to learn more.

Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN)

The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) is supported by the Kern Family Foundation, located in Waukesha, WI. KEEN offers institutions access to vital resources for building quality entrepreneurship education programs that engage undergraduate engineering and technical students in hands-on learning.

KEEN provides a synergistic combination of:

  • grants
  • faculty fellowships
  • workshops
  • networking opportunities
  • tools and resources

The goal of KEEN is to make entrepreneurship education opportunities widely available at US institutions of higher learning, and to instill an action-oriented entrepreneurial mindset in engineering, science, and technical undergraduates. KEEN provides financial and other resources to grantee institutions for the development of entrepreneurship curricula, modules, and extracurricular activities like business plan competitions, speaker series, student entrepreneurship clubs, and seminars.

Kern Fellows, selected in the preliminary phase from private Midwestern institutions, will participate in capacity- building workshops that will support them in program planning and development. Kern Fellows and other educational leaders (KEEN Associates) will participate in the Kern Network, a collaborative community for idea generation, program building, and resource sharing. Kern Fellows will have access to, and will help build, the KEEN Curriculum Link, a networked collection of materials and resources for engineering entrepreneurship curriculum development.

For more information, visit the website!

BMEidea Competition

The Biomedical Engineering Innovation, Design, and Entreprreneurship Award (BMEidea) is a national competition seeking and celebrating the finest in student biomedical engineering innovation. The competition is sponsored by the NCIIA; MD&DI (Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry), a Canon Communications llc publication; and the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA), and endorsed by the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering Programs. Student award applications must be submitted online at www.nciia.org/login by April 4. Projects will be judged on the basis of:

  • technical, economic, and regulatory feasibility
  • contribution to human health and quality of life
  • technological innovation
  • potential for commercialization

Undergraduate and graduate student teams from NCIIA member institutions are eligible. Projects should focus on a new health-related technology, invented by students, and meeting a real clinical need.

Olympus Innovation Awards

Jointly sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and Olympus America, Inc., the Olympus Innovation Award Program recognizes the work of outstanding faculty members from NCIIA member institutions. The award program reflects Olympus’ commitment to supporting the future of US innovation by promoting excellence in educational leadership.

Now in its second year, the Olympus Innovation Awards program has expanded to include three awards: the Olympus Innovation Award ($10,000) recognizes a faculty member from NCIIA member institutions who fosters an environment of innovative thinking among students through inventive teaching methods, projects, and case studies. The Olympus Lifetime of Educational Innovation Award ($2,500) recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated a sustained contribution throughout a career to stimulating and inspiring innovative thinking in students at the home institution, and throughout academia. The Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award ($1,000) recognizes an individual who has inspired innovative thinking in students in a discrete area, and who shows the potential to make even greater contributions to the field in the future.

The winners of the 2006 Olympus Innovation Awards will be announced by Stephen F. Tang, vice president of Life Science Business Development at Olympus America on Thursday evening, March 23rd, at the opening banquet of the NCIIA 10th Annual Meeting.


RAPID, a collaborative project of the NCIIA and the Swanson Center for Product Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh, is an online network of rapid prototyping service providers. Click here to access the network through the NCIIA web site. RAPID’s mission is to provide resources for design, prototyping, and associated activities for the purpose of enhancing education in product realization and commercialization. The network’s academic objectives are:

  1. To improve access to design, prototyping, and manufacturing services for higher education, using Web-based technology
  2. To enhance collaboration among student teams across disciplines and institutions
  3. To broaden and advance product realization capabilities for NCIIA member institutions by providing shared access to cutting edge capital-intensive facilities
  4. To facilitate increased use of capital equipment dedicated to product realization at member institutions
  5. To expand funding opportunities for enhancing and sustaining state-of-the-art capabilities
  6. To promote scholarly exchange of successful pedagogical, entrepreneurial, operational, and research activities

“Rapid prototyping” describes any process that reduces the time required to develop a prototype. Machining, casting, and molding techniques are all loosely grouped under the rapid prototyping umbrella.

The RAPID network Web site provides E-Teams with assistance in choosing a prototyping process by offering general advice and by connecting them directly with the product realization service providers who can best meet their needs, with consideration for complexity, prototype size, and the amount of time required for completion.

The RAPID Web site offers descriptions of several key rapid prototyping technologies, including:

  • 3-D engineering
  • Rapid prototyping processess
  • Rapid manufacturing


Bmesource.org is a shared web portal for the biomedical technology design community. It provides a guide to high-quality, basic information about clinical problems and biomedical technologies that address them. A work in progress, this site already contains more than ten thousand links provided by ninety-nine associate editors at seventy- four universities. This project is funded in part by the Stanford University Biodesign Program and The Argosy Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the NCIIA, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Medtronic Foundation.

Recent data from bmesource:

Number of Universities now Pariticipating in bmesource: 75
Number of Associate Editors: 102
Number who had classes ending first quarter: 29
Number who submitted links first quarter: 10
Number of links submitted: 702
Number used: 188*

Through a grant from the NCIIA, editors have developed the Business & Law part of the site, which now has sxiteen sections holding a total of 106 topics. The number of links in Business & Law has grown from 450 in February 2005 to over 1,300 in February 2006.

Several conference sessions will present the latest bmesource.org updates.

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