Advancing STEM through the Health & Science Innovation Challenge

AstraZeneca is committed to making a meaningful difference for patients and communities beyond our medicines, through our sustainability activities. Our Health and Science Innovation Challenge is an annual opportunity for non-profit organizations to apply for charitable funding from AstraZeneca. Organizations that are interested in applying may submit an application for programs that either present a new approach, tool, or technology to solve a health challenge, or build knowledge and skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for K-12 or undergraduate students. Applications are evaluated based on a number of factors, such as outcomes and measures, community impact, and innovation.

This year, we received 115 applications from 28 states across the U.S. Each application went through a rigorous internal review process, and 17 organizations were selected to receive funding, totaling $150,000. Three organizations are building upon the successes supported by funding received during our 2016 Health & Science Innovation challenge. Learn more about the positive impact they are having: 


Colorado BioScience Institute 

The Colorado BioScience Institute’s, Research Experience for Teachers provides real-world, hands-on, and industry-relevant experiences by connecting 6th-12th grade teachers to a local STEM industry partner to gain firsthand knowledge. The program consists of a summer internship where teachers commit four weeks of their time to work at innovative STEM companies on real-world projects with the assistance of an industry mentor, as well as a professional development component centered on the National Research Council’s Next Generation Science Standards’ (NGSS).

The goals of this program are for teachers to enhance their lesson plans based on their experiences, increase student interest in STEM disciplines and careers, and increase opportunities for their students to engage with STEM mentors/companies. By incorporating the teachers into this STEM experience, they develop skills and confidence to enter their classrooms, better equipped to educate their students.

I took this externship to create connections for my students. If I meet 50 different people through this experience, those are 50 more people who I can bring into the classroom to connect with my students.

Stephanie Spiris George Washington High School teacher

Growing Great

GrowingGreat (GG) is a non-profit organization, located in Manhattan Beach, CA whose mission is to build nourishing, learning communities that empower children to make healthy food choices. AstraZeneca has supported two of their initiatives aimed at involving Spanish speaking parents in decisions that affect their children’s health and education through bi-lingual hands-on activities and resources.

In 2016, “Voy al super/I’m going to the supermarket” introduced a new Veggie Passport, which encouraged children to learn about fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. The passport, written both in English and Spanish, consists of two parts: a booklet that encourages children to familiarize themselves with fruits and vegetables while grocery shopping, as well as an activity guide that incorporates fun STEM activities children can do at home with their parents, involving healthy snacks.

New for 2017, “Aprendemos en el jardin/Learning in the garden” supports inner-city families in growing and eating their own vegetables. Funding will help to create school garden boxes where produce can be planted and used for lessons, and meals/snacks. STEM garden activities will be taught by GG at Para Los Ninos preschools, and will include a teacher professional development component. 

Not only does GrowingGreat staff engage our parent community in garden activities, but they have also developed a rapport with our parent leaders. They take the time to listen to Parent Collaborative concerns and ideas about creating a healthier community for their children, and they support our policy work within the retail sector to develop a Healthy Kids Club.

Carolina Barahona Program Manager, Student and Community Services, Senderos, Para Los Niños

University City Science Center

University City Science Center is a Philadelphia based non-profit organization, that consists of a network of innovators who aim to solve problems and fuel change. Their program, FirstHand, provides Philadelphia’s curious minds access to the knowledge and resources of the Science Center. Through a true workplace-connected learning experience, students from under-resourced schools and under-represented communities learn to use design-thinking principles to develop experiments, test hypotheses and work toward final projects.

Mentoring by resident scientists and entrepreneurs introduces youth to early-career role models in STEM fields. FirstHand was awarded the US2020 STEM Mentoring Award in October of 2017 for the second time in three years. 

FirstHand is about giving back to the Philadelphia area. The Science Center has a lot of good things going on here, and we want to keep a lot of good things going on here. So how do you do that? You give that little extra 5% and just do it.

Thomas Castner Mentor from Halo Labs

For a complete list of winners from the Health and Science Innovation Challenge, please visit our US Corporate Transparency page. To learn more about the AstraZeneca Health and Science Innovation Challenge, please click here.

Our US Corporate Contributions program provides designated funding to support initiatives linked to our core therapeutics areas, health and science innovation, and community support. Applications for the US Contributions program are accepted year-round on an invite-only basis, except during the month of July, when we open our application to eligible 501c organizations in the U.S.