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Are we making the most of our mathematical masterminds?

Posted on 29/11/2016

How can we translate research talent into economic growth?

The UK is home to 33 of the World’s 400 top universities for mathematics, but are we making the most of that talent to better our lives?

In last week’s Autumn Statement, there was a familiar story about the UK’s poor productivity. It’s an issue of particular interest for the industrial mathematics community: a 2012 report by Deloitte estimated that mathematical scientists boast a productivity figure of £74,000 (as measured by direct GVA per worker).

This productivity figure is almost twice the UK average – which is no great surprise, given where mathematical science research is most prominent in industry – for example, pharmaceutical, aerospace, manufacturing, and finance. The question (one that KTN will be exploring in detail in 2017) is whether we as a country are making the most of our mathematical science base – and if not, why not?

With many of the leading institutions here in the UK, it’s clear that we have talent, but what support is needed to effectively and routinely translate this into economic growth? Compared with other STEM disciplines, the impact of mathematical science is often less tangible than in other areas where products or technologies are ‘spun out’.

A combination of challenges internal to the research base, lack of appreciation by those who might make best use of collaboration, and various external barriers culminate in an atmosphere that makes knowledge exchange patchy, and expertise difficult to access for industry.

To this end, KTN and EPSRC have instigated an independent review of Knowledge Exchange in UK Mathematical Sciences. Chaired by Prof. Philip Bond of the Council for Science and Technology, this review will explore these issues in detail, and suggest practical, implementable solutions to make the most of our excellent mathematical scientists.

 

Photo credit: Thorkild Christensen

With a willing committee and board assembled, comprised of government, academics, and industry representatives (both large and small), over the course of 2017, we will:

· Collect evidence from UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), funders, knowledge exchange experts, learned societies, research institutes and research users both in the public and private sector on the current state of knowledge exchange activities in the mathematical sciences.

· Seek examples of best practice for mathematical sciences knowledge exchange from within and outside the UK.

· Consider and review models for support, incentivising, promoting and providing governance of knowledge transfer activities for the mathematical sciences.

· Explore similarities and differences in the operation of knowledge exchange in the mathematical sciences in comparison with other STEM subjects.

· Establish a roadmap for knowledge exchange in the mathematical sciences and to make recommendations to stakeholders.

· Disseminate findings widely and to summarise these findings in a public report.

As instigators of the review, we are keen to hear where innovation barriers exist, and work with our network to remove them.

If you wish to discuss any of the aspects above, then please get in contact.