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Student Inventors From Across the Nation Descend on Portland for Dynamic Entrepreneurship Conference

VentureWell hosts its 20th annual Open Conference March 4-5; honors DrinkWell for ground-breaking work to bring clean water and income to world’s poorest people

Published 03-01-16

Submitted by The Lemelson Foundation

 VentureWell, a not-for-profit organization that supports student inventors and entrepreneurs, will host its 20th annual Open Conference in Portland, Oregon on March 4-5 at the Downtown Marriott. Open is a conference on science and technology entrepreneurship in higher education that brings together students, faculty, business leaders, and investors – all with the aim to transform innovative ideas into scalable solutions for people and the planet. This is the first time that the conference has been held in Portland in a decade. 

“We’re proud of our success in stimulating science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship on college and university campuses for the last 20 years, and we look forward to continuing to expand the impact of our work over the next 20 years,” said Phil Weilerstein, president of VentureWell. “We’re excited to mark this milestone in Portland, a city that is known for its creative thinking, dynamic spirit, and eye to innovation.”

One of the conference’s highpoints will be presentation of the Sustainable Practice Impact Award, which honors a company or person who develops clean technologies, implements sustainable practices, or provides exceptional educational opportunities to university students. This year’s winner, DrinkWell, uses a micro-franchise model to establish local water businesses in arsenic-affected areas of Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, and beyond. Lynelle Cameron, President and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation, will keynote this year’s awards luncheon.

“VentureWell has been a key partner for 20 years in helping inventive minds focus on creating solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. “We are honored to be supporting the Sustainable Practice Impact Award alongside our ongoing investment in VentureWell. These commitments underscore both organizations’ strong dedication to advancing environmentally responsible technological innovations that improve the world.” 

The Lemelson Foundation, also based in Portland, is the world’s leading funder of invention in service of social and economic change and was instrumental in the founding and growth of VentureWell.

The dynamic conference offers many sessions and panels that tackle a range of topics, including:

  • Creating curricula for entrepreneurship

  • Connecting young inventor entrepreneurs to mentors

  • Examining the value of collaboration

  • Exploring Makerspaces in a university setting

  • Bridging the gender divide

  • Starting social ventures abroad

An attendee favorite is the Open Minds showcase, a competition that exhibits cutting-edge innovation from the twelve best student teams that VentureWell supports. This year’s showcase on the evening of March 5th includes two local Oregon teams: Hydra 3D, from Oregon State University, a 3D printer with multiple print heads to increase print speed and output, and the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam, a special high school team out of Salem that is inventing a thermoelectric generator to help people living “off the grid” in developing countries to access a power source.

About VentureWell

VentureWell is a 20-year-old not-for-profit organization that supports an emerging generation of science and technology inventors and the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems critical to their success. VentureWell builds communities of practice among faculty in higher education and helps early-stage innovators develop products and ventures that improve life for people and planet. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of our greatest 21st century challenges. Visit to learn how we inspire inventors to transform game-changing ideas into significant social impact.

The Lemelson Foundation logo

The Lemelson Foundation

The Lemelson Foundation

The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives. Inspired by the belief that invention can solve many of the biggest economic and social challenges of our time, the Foundation helps the next generation of inventors and invention-based businesses to flourish. The Lemelson Foundation was established in 1992 by prolific inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy. To date the Foundation has made grants totaling more than $190 million in support of its mission. For more information, visit

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