The Avery Dennison Foundation launched the Spirit of Innovation scholarships in 2012 with our partners, the Institute of International Education. The idea behind the program was simple: Each year, we’d provide college funds for high-achieving students in their first year of studying science, engineering, or technology in India, where Avery Dennison has a significant presence. Scholars would be chosen through a competitive process. And we would supplement their scholarships with opportunities for professional mentorship and networking.
As it turned out, the program worked out even better than we planned. In all, we were honored to support and encourage more than a hundred young innovators.
Winning a scholarship wasn’t easy. To stand out among the hundreds of high-achieving students who applied each year, scholars needed more than an impressive resume. They also had to apply science and technology to invent something in short supply: practical solutions to real-world problems.
The solutions they produced were ingenious and inspiring. Some were complex, grounded deep in such fields as machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science. Others were the deceptively simple products of clever engineering.
Some of my favorite projects demonstrated social responsibility—a dimension we emphasized in the program. There were many environmentally friendly concepts, such as solutions leveraging solar power, water purifiers, and eco-friendly transportation. And there have been a number of projects that support disaster response, including remote ambulatory monitoring and search and rescue technology to locate disaster victims. Many students over the years generated ideas for making daily life more livable for people, and that’s exactly the community of scholars we wanted to build.
Of course, conceiving and developing an idea was only half the challenge. Scholars also had to defend their inventions in a rigorous critique session with working scientists, entrepreneurs and educators—a tough audience who often marveled at students’ preparedness and grace under pressure.
In 2022, those students included Anisha, who was interested in developing technology to help detect cracks in dams and ocean pipelines, to save water and prevent oil spills; Varun, who envisioned using the energy generated by cars themselves to power street lights in rural areas without access to the energy grid; Himanshi, who developed an app to provide support for people experiencing mental illness; and Navya, whose project aimed to provide data analysis for precision farming that could improve low crop yields.
The program evolved over the years. We were elated to see more young women apply and participate in the program over time. In fact, women made up more than half of our last two scholar classes. Another change: Due to the impact of COVID, we were forced to postpone the program for a year, so in the subsequent year offered scholarships to second-year students in addition to first-years. We didn’t want to miss a full year of talent!
During this year’s ceremony, I saw in the faces of scholars, as I did every year, hope—a welcome reminder that humanity still has the capacity to meet our greatest challenges. I think of all 105 scholars who came through the program as points of light in a network of hope—a chain of innovation, possibility, and optimism now woven throughout India and the world, with each of our scholars going on to touch lives in ways large and small, expanding hope exponentially in a world that needs their gifts.
The Spirit of Invention program was always intended to operate for 10 years, so its ending was not a surprise. From here, the Foundation will be investing in other education programs.
Still, it’s bittersweet to say goodbye. Come next August, I will miss the earnest faces of a new class. But I know the program’s influence will continue through the lives and work of the remarkable young people who took part in it. May their example inspire all of us to be more creative and do what we can to make the world better. May their example give all of us hope.
We thank our partners at the Institute of International Education for a decade of recognitions, celebrations and memories.