Where can I find funding for an invention or patent?
Foundations typically fund nonprofit public charities, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These are organizations whose purposes are charitable, educational, scientific, religious, literary, or cultural.
By and large, foundations do not make grants to anyone starting a for-profit business including to individuals for inventions or patents. If you are seeking funds to develop or market your invention, please consult the resources below for more information. Check out the business section of your local public library, too.
Social enterprise & fiscal sponsorship
If your invention has a strong social mission, it might fall into the category of social enterprise. Social enterprise, also known as social entrepreneurship, broadly encompasses ventures of nonprofits, civic-minded individuals, and for-profit businesses that can yield both financial and social returns.
A small but growing number of foundations provide program-related investments (PRIs) to social enterprises as well as nonprofits. PRIs are low-interest loans that a foundation can give to organizations or projects that match the funder's interests.
Another possibility: Seek a nonprofit that will act as your fiscal sponsor. Fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a 501(c)(3) public charity sponsors a project that may lack exempt status. This would allow you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under your sponsor's exempt status. An fiscal sponsorship between a nonprofit and a potentially for-profit business is rare and an attorney with a lot of experience in nonprofit law would be a must.
See also our related Knowledge Base articles:
- Where can I find funding for my business?
- What is a program-related investment?
- What is social enterprise?
- Where can I find information about government grants?
- Fiscal sponsorship articles
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Explore resources curated by our staff for this topic:
A partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lemelson Foundation that supports aspiring young inventors in grades 7-12 and college.
The U.S. Department of Energy encourages and supports inventors and businesses with promising energy-saving concepts and technologies. Check out their science and innovation home page too: https://energy.gov/science-innovation.
United Inventors Association (UIA)
Find a Local Inventor Club
Listed groups comply with UIA's Suggested Group Guidelines. Most hold regular meetings and provide basic resources for inventors. UIA is a national nonprofit dedicated to inventor education and support. Click on Inventor Resources for more resources.
New Media Rights
Guide to Intellectual Property & Fiscal Sponsorship Agreements for scientific,research,and archival projects
A lengthy guide to preserving everyone's rights in a fiscal sponsorship involving intellectual property.
Online and print magazine "committed to educate and inspire independent and professional innovators." Keyword searchable. "Resources" links to inventor organizations, info on scams, inventor-friendly companies, and more.
The Foundation supports invention and innovation directed at promoting sustainable economic and social development. The Foundation does not directly grant to individual inventors, but it will support charitable organizations. For-profit entities that pursue objectives closely aligned with the Foundation’s mission may be able to work with one of its partners. See the web site for more details.
National Inventor Fraud Center (NIFC)
NIFC wants to educate inventors about the patent process, steer inventors away from scams and toward consultants or companies that can really help you. Lots of resources.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
The Hall supports young inventors from pre-K through college.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)
Known as America's Seed Fund, the SBIR and STTR programs are competitive funds administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Grants and awards are provided to support small businesses developing new and innovative technologies.