A report following a workshop organised by the INI, ICMS and KTN and a organising committee representing the breadth of the mathematical sciences

Awareness should be raised within the mathematical sciences community of wider research challenges and societal challenges (including the sustainable development goals addressed by the Global Challenges Research Fund, GCRF) and deeper integration of mathematics should be promoted within industrial challenges, including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Professor Philip Bond, Member of the Council for Science and Technology


This was one of 26 recommendations made by Professor Philip Bond in his 2018 review of knowledge exchange in the mathematical sciences launched at the House of Lords.  The recommendation noted the historically low levels of engagement between the mathematical sciences with current UK challenge-led mechanisms. In 2018, the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) and the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) were successful in creating a dedicated EPSRC calling for the mathematical sciences and global challenges.

This report outlines the efforts of the mathematical science community to engage, understand and articulate the mathematical science offering and the points of intellectual interest to be found inside the ISCF. This engagement was primarily through a three-day workshop in Edinburgh organised by the INI, ICMS and KTN and a scientific organising committee from across the country together representing the breadth of the mathematical sciences.

Over the course of the three days, the assembled mathematical science community heard from senior UKRI representatives who outlined the ISCF purpose and processes and the various challenges for consideration. The mathematical science community then discussed with these representatives the areas of mathematical innovation they felt underpinned the challenges.

Further to this, the delegates considered how the community might engage with senior business delegates in co-creating such challenges. By discussing the requirements for a ‘good’ ISCF challenge and with priming talks on global industry trends, templates were worked on which might be considered mathematically-inspired ISCF challenges.

By demystifying the process, discussing the challenges and their aims, this document sets out the beginning of a roadmap for how the mathematical sciences can better engage with the ISCF process. We present ideas for the areas of mathematical science innovation for each of the challenges and how (using tried and tested mechanisms) the mathematical sciences can be far more successful in engaging in this unique opportunity for UK science and innovation in the future.

As the UK Mathematical Sciences research community already works with many sectors outside academe, one may conclude that it is relatively easy to scale up this activity in impactful areas. However, this is not the case for a variety of reasons, not least the ‘impedance mismatch problem’– as coined by Professor Peter Grindrod CBE Рand our inability to engage easily with stakeholders to define and develop fertile areas of common interest.
Professor David Abrahams, Director, Isaac Newton Institute


I see the formation of UKRI as a huge opportunity for mathematical sciences research. Never before has there been access for mathematicians to engage with such large-scale multidisciplinary funds. However, for the potential of the mathematical sciences contribution to areas such as those funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to be truly realised, collaboration with problem owners is crucial.
Katie Blaney, Head of Mathematical Sciences, EPSRC


Engagement with the excellent UK research base isn’t just a nice to have but an underpinning principal of the ISCF. The ambition can only be achieved by delivering the science that business needs, whilst maintaining the UK’s world leading position in research and innovation.
Sue Dunkerton OBE, Interim CEO, Knowledge Transfer Network


To access the report issued following the workshop, click here.

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