Access is a leading barrier to STEM education. 3M is working to help change that.
May 26, 2021

India’s youth population is a staggering 600 million1. That number is only expected to rise in the coming decade. Unfortunately, their potential to positively impact countless lives often goes unheard because many times they don’t have the resources and support to bring these ideas to life. 3M is on a mission to help change that.

For the past six years, 3M, along with the Confederation of Indian Industry-Karnataka chapter, an organization that works create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, has held the 3M-CII Young Innovators Challenge in India (YICA), an annual competition that brings together young innovators from across the country. Hopeful inventors submit their ideas in one of three categories:

  • Product innovation
  • Service innovation
  • Rural innovation


Many of the ideas from the 2020 winning innovations stem from the young inventors’ personal experiences. Nikky Kumar Jha saw that farmers in his small village – a major cultivation center for fruits and vegetables – were continually losing a big portion of their produce due to spoilage and distance to the market. So, he created low-cost, wheel mountable, microclimate storage bins that preserve and extend the freshness of fruit anywhere from five to 30 days. Another winner, Karthik M, had a friend who suffered a serious ankle injury. His family didn’t have funds to cover the high cost of an ankle rehabilitation device. That led Karthik to develop a simpler brace that would help bedridden patients return to a more active lifestyle.

Young innovators have the potential to make seismic change within their communities and around the world. The 2021 3M State of Science Index (SOSI) uncovered that 90% of the global population recognize the need for more people in STEM careers. At the same time, SOSI found that 70% of people believe an acute lack of access and inequities among women and diverse populations are the top two barriers to pursuing STEM education. But there are opportunities to get young learners involved in science in a more engaging way by showing them how science provides a platform to make the world better.

The 2020 YICA brought in a record-breaking 2,500+ entries which were whittled down to 23 finalists. Ultimately seven winners received $24,000 total in prize money. Since 2014, YICA has recognized more than thirty young innovators and supported them with a total grant of more than $80,000. During the Innovation Summit, a flagship CII event, the winners present their projects to a group of NGOs and corporate, industrial and business leaders, giving them additional networking opportunities. This annual event in India has helped bring innovations to life and ensured that previously untapped talent has an opportunity to improve lives and change the world.

1 India has 600 million young people – and they’re set to change our world | Ian Jack | The Guardian

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