Key asks from NCUB have been embedded into the development and core objectives of the new National Academy.

Focus on mathematics has been rising in recent years. From the teaching and learning of the subject, through to its foundational role in innovation, the Government has acknowledged and marked the important, and growing, role the mathematical sciences play in our economy and our nation.

In early 2023, the Prime Minister made a commitment to boost the provision of mathematics in education, announcing the Maths to 18 pledge, designed to ensure young people continue to study maths in one form or another until the age of 18. The move aims to increase the numeracy and analytical skills of future generations in an increasingly digital and numerical world.

In the following year, both Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, and Ex-Science Minister George Freeman, spoke at the Maths Summit, showing the weight of continued interest in and value of the discipline. With these milestones, is clear that maths is a core priority of government.

Building on this momentum, and to better co-ordinate and advocate for the subject and science, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the creation of a new National Academy for the Mathematical Sciences in the 2023 Autumn Statement.

The new National Academy will sit alongside the existing four others; the British Academy, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Engineering. This model brings together subject’s leading minds in a Fellowship, giving them intellectual freedom and resources to drive policy, from education to innovation, boost the profile of their discipline, and network.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) are in the early stages of developing the scope, objectives and organisational structures of the new body. In developing this, DSIT opened a call for evidence and feedback on proposed objectives in early 2024.

NCUB responded to this inquiry, welcoming its development and the draft objectives, and recommending specific areas of focus to enable the Academy to best support the sector.

Principally, NCUB advocated for the important role of collaboration and close working relationships between those from different sectors within the Academy and its workplan. The Government has an objective to broaden research and development (R&D) careers to create dynamic, varied and sustainable career paths that strengthen workforce skills, bridge sectors and relationships, and in turn unlock innovation. This objective was the key focus of NCUB’s Researcher Career Mobility Taskforce, which established the importance and impact of intersectoral mobility and developed a vision and call to action for the sector.

As a central body, NCUB recommended that the Academy play a key role in delivering this ambition by bringing sectors together, enabling knowledge exchange, and supporting intersectoral mobility of researchers and specialists across its activities.

Further on the skills agenda, NCUB called for education and skills to be at the heart of the Academy’s work. Whilst digital and numerical skills are growing in importance and prominence in all sectors, three in four businesses face enduring vacancies. Readying our workforce for future skills is one of the biggest challenges facing our economy.

The numeracy and analytical skills underpinning the mathematical sciences play a fundamental role in solving the workforce skills crisis, and NCUB called for the Academy to support efforts to recruit, train and retain maths teachers at all education levels to support delivery of Maths to 18. To ready for the future, NCUB further call for the Academy to map sectors with large or growing numeracy and digital literacy skills, to enable workforce skills planning.

In the outcome of the consultation, published just before Easter, DSIT shared updated objectives and a list of priority areas for the Academy. The calls from NCUB were well addressed and represented within these outcomes.

Intersectoral mobility and collaboration will be a key feature of the Academy. The outcome notes the value of mobility and knowledge exchange in driving innovation and economic growth, highlighting the need for expertly trained mathematicians to use their skills in applied setting. It acknowledges the need for support enabling mathematicians to engage and work across academia, industry and government, and facilitating this is a key objective.

In the skills forecasting space, the outcome commits to identifying areas where advanced level maths knowledge is required by employers and the wider economy, but where demand is not yet met, with particular focus on sectors with high grown and international competitive advantage. These commitments have real potential to help ready for future worlds of work.

NCUB’s submission further called for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to be a central objective of the Academy, and recommended it plays an active role in improving participation and diversity of early years involvement in the subject, to build representation, and work to improve retention in later years. Through campaigns and engagement, NCUB recommended this activity should give underrepresented groups a voice and platform.

EDI was well acknowledged in the consultation outcome, and there is a commitment for the National Academy to promote a diverse mathematical sciences workforce, finding ways to strengthen and broaden the UK talent pipeline by boosting participation and supporting progression.

The outcome of the consultation is in itself a positive start, enabling a wide range of voices from across the sector to co-develop the objectives and activities of the new Academy. The ambitions, scale and objectives look to drive progress against the major challenges the mathematical sciences, and our wider economy, face. NCUB will continue to engage with the Academy as it develops.