By Floriane Fidegnon, CREST Youth Panel

On the 27 November, I was privileged to be the youth speaker at the Grand Challenges Conference in London, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was an opportunity to talk about the fantastic new initiative to encourage young people into research: The Youth Grand Challenges. I have always been a huge supporter of encouraging young people into STEM, much like I was, but I do believe that there is more that can be done.

Research into the CREST Awards by Pro Bono Economics suggests students who took a Silver Award scored half a GCSE grade better in science compared to a matched control group. For students who were eligible for free school meals, the picture was even brighter. They showed an increase in science GCSE grades of two thirds, and were 38% more likely to take a STEM AS level. Such opportunities create real social change, and it’s vital we continue to create opportunities for young people to get involved in real-world research.  

This is why the Youth Grand Challenges programme is so important. It will give students the opportunity to truly make a difference. It's open for all and challenges young people to explore beyond their usual boundaries, helping them to grow and develop into the leaders of tomorrow. As leaders in the field, you have a vital role in inspiring young people and promoting diversity within STEM, just as I was inspired by my mentors throughout CREST and my Nuffield placement.

The competition provides a chance for young people to enter the world of professional science, creating projects that explore topics at the forefront of research in global health. Even if it is one session talking to you about their work, that is so powerful and can make a change to young people and the way in which they see science in the world around them. I believe that young people have something to offer, too.  It is important to bring young people into the discussion, and to hear our ideas that may help shape your research and development.  We can bring a fresh and innovative approach by asking questions from a different view point. 

In the decades to come, we young people will be the ones to carry on your work and strive to create an even better society. To do this, skills and interests need to be built from a young age. It is only through the real-world, practical opportunities presented to me that I know what I want to do in the future, and have the belief to do so. These type of challenges help foster the scientists of the future. When my generation is faced with our own challenges in years to come, the skills we develop today will be vital in helping us to address them. The Youth Grand Challenges are not only about empowering young people to tackle our global challenges in the future.

I do hope that many scientists and researchers will help to make a difference by being a mentor for the Youth Grand Challenges. It could make a huge difference. There are many intractable problems to face, and having seen what young people can do given the right tools and inspiration, I believe that we are on the right road to truly make a difference.

If you are a scientist or researcher who would like to become a mentor, please head to to make this competition a success.