The National Academy of Inventors (NAI)

The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities; governmental agencies; and non-profit research institutes. Currently, there are over 4,600 individual members, including Fellows, Senior Members, and Chapter Members, affiliated with more than 260 institutions worldwide.

Mission and Goal of the Academy

The NAI was founded to recognize and encourage inventors with U.S. patents, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and to create wider public understanding of how its members’ inventions benefit society.

Since its founding, the Academy has enjoyed a collaborative partnership with the USPTO. Most recently, this has been reflected in the joint project to expand access to the innovation ecosystem through a focus on actively valuing and leveraging every individual’s unique perspectives, talents, and contributions.


The Academy encourages all of its Member Institutions to form local Chapters. They provide a grass roots infrastructure for the NAI and a platform to recognize and encourage researchers and inventors while cultivating a culture of innovation in the local community. Day in and day out, Chapters can amplify and support the mission and goals of the Academy to increase a greater public understanding of the vital role research, innovation and patented technology plays in the well-being of our society.

History of the NAI

In early 2009, Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Economic Development at the University of South Florida (USF), pondered how many of his colleagues were inventors within his university community. Sanberg, a renowned neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and senior leader among his peers, held a luncheon and invited all USF faculty and staff who held an issued U.S. patent to attend. Over 100 innovators from across disciplines showed up for the event.

He soon realized a significant need existed to highlight the importance of recognizing academic invention and the important role that patents play in university research and innovation.

Soon after, the USF Academy of Inventors was established to recognize inventors on campus for their accomplishments in patents, licensing and commercialization. As Sanberg shared this concept with his counterparts at leading research universities around the country, it quickly became apparent there was a national need to change the culture within academia to honor those inventors who patent their discoveries and stimulate the economy by bringing their products to the marketplace. This realization marked the inception of the National Academy of Inventors® (NAI).

Thirteen institutions comprise the founding Charter Members. They are: the University of South Florida, Georgetown University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, The University of Akron, University of Cincinnati, Auburn University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Stevens Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Jackson State University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, The University of Alabama, and H.Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. You can view a complete list of NAI Member Institutions here.

The Fellows Recognition Program

At the Academy’s first Annual Meeting in 2012, attendees discussed how to meet the need for a high-level award to recognize and honor academic, government and non-profit research institute inventors for their contributions to society. The result was the establishment of the NAI Fellows program. Those chosen for induction have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. There are currently 1,898 Fellows of the Academy. NAI Fellow status is nationally recognized as the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors.

There are currently 1,898 Fellows of the Academy.

NAI Fellow status is nationally recognized as the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors.

The Senior Members Recognition Program

Building on the success of the Fellows program and driven by a desire to recognize the rising young stars of the Academy’s Member Institutions, the Academy established the Seniors Members program in 2018. Senior Members are active employees or faculty, scientists and administrators with success in patents, licensing and commercialization and have produced technologies that brought or have the potential to bring real impact on the welfare of society.

Currently there are 553 Senior Members whose selection has provided them with career-enhancing early recognition of their accomplishments and may set them on the path to being NAI Fellows in the future.

Our Partner: The USPTO

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and NAI have shared a close working relationship since the founding of the Academy in 2010. In 2022, that relationship was further strengthened and formalized in a five-year Joint Project Agreement (JPA). With the agreement, both parties are seeking to expand access to NAI and USPTO resources to historically under-served communities which include minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

An exhibit honoring the Fellows of the Academy is now open in the public area of the USPTO headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Annual Conference

NAI’s Annual Conference is held in June each year.

It brings together hundreds of the greatest minds on the planet and provides a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge and networking with cutting edge researchers and innovators.

The conference feature speakers and panels that address the role research and innovation plays in helping solve the critical problems facing the world today. The conference concludes with a ceremony and the awarding of medals to the newest class of NAI Fellows.