This blog series features senior corporate executive from the 100 CIO/CTO Leaders in STEM publication sharing their insights on business and innovation from a technology and information perspective. Today’s Leader is Ashish Khandpur, Chief Technology Officer & Senior Vice President of Research & Development at 3M.
Chief Technology Officer & Senior Vice President of Research & Development
Dr. Ashish Khandpur is 3M’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of research and development leading over 8,500 researchers around the world.
An inventor on 10 issued patents, Ashish began his 3M career as a senior research engineer in 1995. Over the years, he held various U.S. and international technical and leadership roles in corporate research labs, division and subsidiary labs, and the company’s Asia Pacific region, as well as global R&D head of 3M’s largest business group, Industrial.
While in his native India, Ashish was responsible for establishing the country’s first product development lab for 3M. In January 2014, he began leading one of 3M’s biggest businesses, the Personal Safety Division. Later that same year, he was appointed 3M’s head of R&D and chief technology officer, reporting to CEO Inge Thulin.
Ashish holds a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering specializing in polymers from the University of Minnesota. Ashish is passionate about providing educational opportunities in STEM and sits on the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering’s advisory board, 3M Foundation Board and works with the 3M Women’s Leadership Forum. He and his wife have two daughters.
3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of innovative products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is a science-based diversified technology company that never stops inventing. With $31 billion in sales, 3M employs almost 90,000 people around the world – including 8,200 researchers – and has operations in more than 70 countries. 3M is not just a company that creates; it is also a company that cares. 3M helps to build sustainable communities through strategic social investments and thoughtful engagement of 3Mers worldwide. Since 1953, 3M and the 3M Foundation have invested more than$1.4 billion in cash and products in education and charitable organizations. In 2014, 3M invested more than $82 million in cash and products to support global educational, community and environmental initiatives.
The Youth and Technology
3M is a science-based company, so we are especially committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists. That is why we support a wide range of STEM initiatives, from funding college scholarships and sup- porting non-tenured faculty through research grants to partnering with elementary schools to enhance learning opportunities.
For more than four decades, we have worked with the Saint Paul Public Schools to donate STEM materials and curriculum. We have similar partnerships around the world. In my native India, for instance, our 3M team is working with a foundation to support a mobile science lab. It will travel to more than 45 schools, and expose 20,000 Indian students to scientific experiments and models.
3M’s technical community is also committed to donating its time and expertise. Each year more than 500 3Mers serve as mentors to students in the Saint Paul Public Schools. 3M received the Excellence in Mentoring in America Award by the National Mentoring Partnership in 2013.
Another example of 3Mers mentoring young people through the Young Scientist Challenge program. We co-host this annual competition with Discovery Education, and it lets budding innovators work directly with 3M scientists as part of a summer mentorship program.
You wouldn’t believe what we see from kids who are not even in high school yet. Last year’s winner – a 13-year-old from Pennsylvania – invented a compact battery designed to convert carbon dioxide into electricity. He says he was inspired by the 1.4 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity.
Through a partnership with DoSomething.org, 3M developed a fun and contemporary way of generating interest in STEM. More than 90,000 students participated in Science Sleuth, a texting game, where young people solved a mystery by using STEM concepts. Upon completion of the adventure students helped select classrooms in need to receive a 3M grant through DonorsChoose. The project funded over 4,000 classrooms and supported 191,000 students across the U.S.
Every year we see amazing things from young boys and girls across the nation. If you ever need a reason to believe in the future, you can look at these students. They see a solution in every problem, and our goal is to develop and inspire even more people who think like that.
In addition to investing in young people, three things come to mind when I think about what we need to do in the U.S. to continue to be at the top of global innovation and growth. First, a country is only as strong as its future leaders, which means strengthening our education system. By 2020 the United States will face an estimated shortage of 5 million educated workers. What does that say about our ability to continue leading the global economy?
STEM education is particularly important. American students rank 26th in science and 21st in math when compared to students in other countries, which hurts our long-term competitiveness. We must increase proficiency in STEM, and business can be a strong part-er in this effort by getting involved in local schools and communities.
Another priority is investment in research and development, because that is what traditionally has created an advantage for the United States – and also for 3M.
R&D provides the building blocks for solutions to so many of the world’s challenges, whether it is health care, air pollution, clean water or food safety. It also spawns new markets and new industries, which drives economic growth.
In recent years America’s investment in R&D has flattened, and other countries are now passing us by. This is a trend that needs to be reversed.
The world is evolving quickly, and technology will continue to disrupt the marketplace at a fast pace. Countries and businesses that stay at the frontier of scientific research and discovery will have the edge. That is why increasing investment in R&D – which our CEO refers to as the “heartbeat of 3M” – remains a primary strategy for our company.
Cultivating a diverse workforce is key. As a global company operating in over 70 countries, we view diversity as the appreciation of differences, and we use those differences as a competitive advantage. Diversity equals more ideas, which gives a business – or a country – a greater edge.
It is our team’s diversity of cultures, backgrounds and insights that powers our creativity. It’s that same diversity that equips us to serve our customers with break- through ideas.
Different people think different ways. Put a group of people from different cultures in same room, and they are more likely to come up with something amazing. Diversity is a strength for the United States and 3M, and we need to remain committed to building on that strength.
Finally, we must encourage young people to get involved in STEM, by making sure young people understand the importance of STEM. That means sup- porting programs that demonstrate applications to everyday life.
We also must remember that the easiest way to get kids involved in something is to make it fun and exciting. Earlier I mentioned our Young Scientist Challenge and our DoSomething initiative. 3M also sponsors a robotics competition for students. And every year, 3M “Visiting Wizards” perform experiments ranging from cryogenics to the science of music at local schools to open young minds to the wonders of science.
Science is not dry and theoretical. It is all around us, impacting everything we do in our daily lives. When harnessed the right way, science has the power to make the world safer, healthier and more prosperous, and we need to spark that passion in kids as soon as we can.