UK launches £6m competition to create a national maths academy

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK has launched a £6m competition to create a new national maths academy to advise government, accelerate technological development, and raise public awareness of the subject’s importance.

Organisations have until 4 June to apply for up to £6m of funding paid out over three years. The government has sought advice from more than 100 representatives, including key business and academia figures, to draw up its requirements for the new academy.

The academy will be expected to provide expert advice on maths to government and industry and increase public support and engagement in mathematical sciences by communicating the importance of the subject in fast-moving subjects such as computing and artificial intelligence. It will also need to publish a strategy for UK mathematical sciences. In the longer term it is expected to improve maths skills and become financially self-reliant.

Rishi Sunak said the academy will transform the UK’s approach to maths. “Part of the plan is to prize numeracy for what it is – a key skill every bit as essential as reading,” the prime minister added.

Nigel Hirst, president of IChemE, welcomed the news: “Maths is the fundamental building block of all science and engineering. Long a mystery to many, this new initiative will enable people to discover both the beauty and endless application of the subject.”

The recommendation that the UK should create a maths academy was put forward by Philip Bond in his independent review, The Era of Mathematics, published in 2018. And it follows a consultation launched last year to overhaul education for 16–19-year-olds by introducing a baccalaureate-style qualification called the Advanced British Standard that would require young people to study maths until the age of 18.

A new maths academy would become the fifth national academy, joining the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the British Academy.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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