At 3M, the story is often told about how this struggling sandpaper company grew to become one of the world's largest innovative companies - a highly diversified Fortune 500 company with operations in more than 60 countries.

3M was founded in the US in 1902 when five businessmen formed the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. They originally intended to mine a mineral deposit - which turned out to be useless for their purposes and were forced to use the mineral to manufacture sandpaper instead.

The first innovative success was the introduction of waterproof sandpaper which was developed in the early 1920's for the emerging car industry. From that time, 3M began its growth into many other markets. A major milestone occurred in 1925 when Richard Drew, a young lab assistant invented masking tape, to help car manufacturers produce the two-tone paint jobs popular at the time. This was the company's first step towards diversification and the first of the family of Scotch brand pressure sensitive tapes which today numbers over 900.

Throughout its 90 year history, 3M has invented and brought to market many more products that not only change the basis of competition but make our customers lives easier and better. Here are some examples:

1904: 3M makes its first sandpaper.

1925: Richard Drew, a young researcher acting on his own initiative develops 3MT ScotchT Masking Tape.

1930: Drew is at it again - this time he invents 3M Scotch Transparent Tape

1939: With war set to plunge Europe into darkness, 3M introduces the first road sign to feature ScotchliteT Reflective Sheeting - the first of the company's many reflective and retroreflective products.

1947: 3M steps into the audio age with Scotch Magnetic Audio Tape - the first commercially acceptable magnetic sound recording tape.

1954: Building on their 1940's technology, the company develops Scotch Magnetic Tape for use in the first recording of television pictures.

1960: In the health care field, 3M introduces Steri-StripT Wound Closures - the first medical closure tape.

1972: 3M Data Cartridge technology revolutionises computer data storage.

1980: Post-it® Notes hit the market - yellow sticky notes revolutionise message and note taking.

1983: As the CD age gathers pace, 3M introduces the world's first successful optical recording disks for information storage.

1990: Soft-edged foam masking tape developed in the UK is launched to the automotive industry, enabling swifter, cleaner and more accurate repairs.

1992: 3M Privacy PlusT Filter is the first computer screen accessory to combine privacy, glare reduction and radiation protection.

1994: The 3M Dry ViewT Medical Laser Imager incorporates break-through technology to eliminate wet chemicals and offer significant cost savings to hospitals and clinics.

1995: The World's first CFC-free inhaler for asthma sufferers launches onto the UK market - its first launch anywhere in the world.

1996: Structured Abrasives using 3M's proprietary microreplication technology create a whole new category of abrasives - lasting up to four times longer than conventional abrasives.

1997: Dental Products Division receives the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, the most coveted quality award in American business.

1998: 3M sets safety and health goals to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses by 25 per cent a year for three years.

2000: Michael Johnson wins gold in the 2000 Olympics 400 meter sprint wearing shoes made form 24 carat gold ScotchliteT fabric developed by 3M.

2001: 3M receives the National Points of Light Foundation Award for Excellence in Corporate Community Service.

2002: 3M is listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the leader in the Industrial Goods and Services category.

2003: 3M is awarded the Clean Air Excellence Award in the Category of Regulatory/Policy Innovations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2004: 3M is awarded a 2004 Energy Star award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy for its leadership in energy management.

2005: 3M is awarded the 2005 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention (MVP2) Award from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.

2006: 3M is recognised for the second year in a row by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy by winning the Sustained Excellence Award for Energy Management in recognition of continuous improvement in energy management.