Mathematical sciences review highlights contributions to UK society and economy

Supplementary content information

A new review "The Era of Mathematics" (PDF) led by Professor Philip Bond and published today, explores the critical role of mathematical sciences to the UK's increasingly innovative economy. It highlights their wide-ranging social and economic impact and makes nine recommendations about how to ensure the UK becomes a world leader in mathematical science knowledge exchange.

Recommendations made in "The Era of Mathematics" include:

  • The establishment of an Academy for the Mathematical Sciences to facilitate links between academia, government and industry
  • The creation of a minimum of 100 additional PhD places per year dedicated to training mathematical scientists
  • Tripling of the funding that goes to mathematical sciences

In a knowledge-based digital economy, mathematics forms an essential component of every major technology from renewable energy through genomics to smart cities. Building on a study "Measuring the economic impacts of mathematical science research in the UK" (PDF) by Deloitte in 2012 where it was estimated that mathematics contributed over £200 billion annually to the UK economy in 2010, think pieces within "The Era of Mathematics" review reflect on the pervasiveness of mathematics across these and other areas including climate, healthcare and entertainment.

Professor Philip Bond, Visiting Professor in the Department of Engineering, Mathematics and Computer science at the University of Bristol, and Visiting Fellow in the Oxford Industrial & Applied Mathematics Centre at the University of Oxford, led the review and in it says: The outstanding power of mathematics to clarify complexity, to provide accurate real-time solutions and improve decision making in complex and challenging contexts must be effectively harnessed.

In an environment of significant pressure on government and industry to deliver superior services with constrained resources, there is ever increasing impetus for all sectors of the UK economy to engage with the mathematical sciences.

Skilled mathematicians of a high calibre are needed and they are in short supply. To support innovation in the UK a larger workforce both within and outside academia is required.

"The Era of Mathematics" was the result of a research community meeting held at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in autumn 2015 and the subsequent establishment of an Expert Review Committee and open Expressions of Interest process in 2016.

The review aimed to address key questions around knowledge exchange in mathematics including successful characteristics; incentives; mechanisms and enablers; and resourcing. It was facilitated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN).

Speaking at the official launch of the review, held at the House of Lords last night Thursday 26 April 2018, EPSRC Council member and peer Baroness Neville-Jones, said: Sophisticated mathematics underpins our national security and underlies many advances in cybersecurity which help to protect businesses and institutions and to keep our private data secure.

Dr Caroline Hargrove, Chief Technical Officer for McLaren Applied Technologies, also spoke at the event and said: If you digitally model your products, systems and services, you can continuously measure and improve your performance. For McLaren, this robust mathematical approach underpins our activities and is essential to remain competitive, whether in Formula 1, automotive or in technology.

Notes for Editors

Key Recommendations

Governance

  1. An Academy for the Mathematical Sciences (MS) should be established in order to facilitate links between academia, government and industry. The Academy should act as the focal point and coordinating centre for the community and draw on the deep expertise of the existing learned societies.

Skills

  1. Government and universities should create, at a minimum, 100 additional PhD places per year dedicated to training mathematical scientists looking to generate impact with their work. These PhDs should have a greater emphasis on breadth in training, with business and computer coding skills included in addition to deep mathematical expertise.

Resources and Infrastructure

  1. To counter the underfunding of the MS research pipeline and adequately underpin MS in the UK, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) should look to at least triple the funding going to MS across multiple Research Councils, including but not limited to EPSRC and Innovate UK.
  2. A national centre in impactful mathematics for the UK should be created to work with industry and government to drive mathematical research through to commercialisation. This could be based on existing models, such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics in Kaiserslautern or the UK Catapult network, suitably modified to provide national-level integration of low-TRL research from universities and to act as a national KE hub.
  3. There should be at least one national centre, based on the Heilbronn Institute model, to better enable mathematicians focused on fundamental research to engage directly with government and/or industry.

Regional

  1. Funds should be made available for regional KE centres and/or thematic KE networks following several successful models.
  2. Universities should have dedicated teams in mathematics departments to act as facilitators and KE translators. These should be connected to central KE functions within universities and coordinated through the National Academy.

Government

  1. The Government Chief Scientific Advisor should, in collaboration with the Government Chief Statistician, review the access to, use of, and impact achieved by MS within government.
  2. The mathematical sciences should be encompassed in the HMRC definition of science and technology and included in the tax-credit scheme.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.

Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) helps businesses get the best out of creativity, ideas and the latest discoveries, to strengthen the UK economy and improve people's lives.

As a network partner of Innovate UK, KTN links new ideas and opportunities with expertise, markets and finance through our network of businesses, universities, funders and investors.

From agri-food to autonomous systems and from energy to design, KTN combines in-depth knowledge in all sectors with the ability to cross boundaries.

Connecting with KTN can lead you to potential partners, horizon-expanding events, bespoke support and innovation insights relevant to your needs.

Reference: PN 22-18

Resources