In partnership with The Lemelson Foundation, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors (AAAS-LIA) program was launched in 2014. The program's vision is to showcase relatable faces and voices in invention, i.e., faces and voices of
individuals who can inform, inspire, and influence thought leaders and global communities regarding the current grand invention challenges facing humanity and how those challenges might best be approached. A natural conduit for grand challenge invention is the academia-industry interface;
however, this nexus demands our immediate attention. Indeed, higher education provides a place of unfettered idea generation as well as the means to expose a diverse population of individuals to critical thinking and inventive skills, while industry provides translational expertise. Considering
that rates of entrepreneurship in the U.S. have fallen near a multiple decade low (1) and that invention and problem solving are the impetus for start-ups and, therefore, a significant source of job creation, the AAAS-LIA mandate has a purposeful urgency and criticality. Each year, a cohort
of seven to ten inventors are selected for the AAAS-LIA program; they are provided key speaking engagement opportunities, and they are encouraged to find opportunities of relevance to their own innovation spheres in order to inspire and encourage a new and diverse generation of inventors,
increase global understanding of the role of invention in creating new products and building new businesses, illustrate the importance of inventors and invention education in building economies and fostering innovation, highlight current challenges and opportunities surrounding invention,
and celebrate inventors who work to address issues of environmental sustainability and social good. The ambassadors have participated in the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) annual meeting for the past five years, spearheading discussion (or engagement) relevant to invention through panel
discussions. This year's panel highlighted the important connection of academia to invention, problem-solving, and entrepreneurship. The panelists also described their inspirations and challenges and how they inspire others. Most importantly, the discussion challenged the NAI audience to be
change-makers for the academic entrepreneurial ecosystem and, specifically, to recognize the criticality of fostering academic start-ups. This contribution provides brief context for the panel topic, an overview of the panel discussion, including an introduction to the AAAS-LIA program and
the panelists, and summarizing thoughts as to future directions.
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