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Bill Gates unveils Youth Grand Challenges

British Science Association and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announce new education initiative for UK students

Posted by Hannah Oakman | November 07, 2016 | Teaching

The British Science Association have announced a new extra-curricular initiative for students in the UK: the Youth Grand Challenges.

Run by the British Science Association and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Youth Grand Challenges calls on students aged 11-to-19 to come up with innovative solutions that have the potential to change the world, and will reward the best projects from young people created in response. 

The Youth Grand Challenges will explore topics aligned with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Grand Challenges – unsolved scientific challenges that could lead to significant advances in terms of preventing, treating and curing diseases prevalent in developing countries.

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “The British Science Association prides itself on its work with young people, teachers and educators across the country, and I know that this scheme will be a big success.

“I think it is so important to involve people at a young age in scientific endeavour and innovation not just to spark their imaginations but also to allow them a chance to see the role they can and will play in the future – especially when it involves issues as topical as the Youth Grand Challenges.”

The new education initiative links with the British Science Association’s highly successful education programme, the CREST Awards, which has been recognising young people’s project work in science, technology, engineering and maths for over 30 years.

All students who participate in the Youth Grand Challenges will receive recognition, including a CREST Award at the appropriate level - Discovery; Bronze; Silver; Gold - as well as being entered into the national competition, where they will have the chance to compete for prizes worth up to £10k.

Bill Gates, who is in London for the Global Grand Challenges symposium this week, announced the launch of the Youth Grand Challenges on ITV’s This Morning on Wednesday, where he spoke about the importance of including more young people in cutting-edge research. He explained that today’s students are the scientific and technological leaders of tomorrow and harnessing their insights on these important global issues is vital when looking for fresh innovation and discovery.

This year’s theme for the Youth Grand Challenges is on infectious diseases, and students are encouraged to undertake project work on that overarching theme, such as investigating mosquito-borne diseases, identifying ways of improving sanitation in developing countries, or designing better transportation devices for delicate medicines such as vaccines.


Infectious diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. For example, each year over one million people die as a result of mosquito-borne diseases (source: Centre for Disease Control, Impact of Malaria 2016). Infectious diseases disproportionately affect developing countries, where deaths are predominantly caused by infectious diseases. Almost one third of deaths in LEDCs are caused by lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and tuberculosis (source: WHO).

Dr James Logan, Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and presenter on Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies, is an ambassador and VIP Judge for the Youth Grand Challenges. Speaking ahead of the launch, he said: 'It’s fantastic to be able to challenge students to use their skills, passions and interests to explore real-life topics that are at the forefront of research and development – rather than them seeing science as just another school subject.

“I really enjoy working with young people on my own research, not just because of their enthusiasm for the science, but also because they ask the questions I never think of!'

The entries to the competition will be judged by a panel of expert and celebrity judges, including Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies presenter, Dr James Logan, and young entrepreneur and Founder at Germinaid, Ciara Judge. The winning students will receive a money-can’t-buy prize, such as an international field trip to a laboratory in a developing country or a visit to their school from a renowned scientist working on global health issues. The winners will be announced in December 2017.

The British Science Association will provide multiple teaching resources and guides for educators, themes and ideas to inspire young people’s choices for their projects and support and advice for students partaking in the competition.

Teachers, club leaders and other educators can register for the initiative and find out more at:

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