£12 million investment in Lancaster University’s leadership of the mathematics of AI research


A major investment will see Lancaster University become a leading force in mathematics research for AI, helping to spearhead the drive for regional economic growth, supporting jobs and delivering wider benefits to society.

The strategic investment of more than £12 million from Research England will revolutionise mathematics at Lancaster. It will see researchers working closely with industrial and government partners across key sectors delivering new solutions to real-world problems across health, manufacturing, cyber security and environmental science.

The investment will deliver ‘MARS: Mathematics for AI in Real-world Systems’ – an exciting new programme that builds, and significantly expands, upon Lancaster University’s excellence across critical areas of mathematics and statistics and AI research, including across epidemic modelling, environmental science, aerospace, data science and cyber security.

MARS will leverage Lancaster’s excellence in cross-disciplinary research and brings enhanced mathematical support for Lancaster University’s strategic research areas across environmental science, materials engineering, health and cyber security.

The programme will fund a range of new research positions including ten new academics, eight post-doctoral researchers, as well as ten new PhD research places at Lancaster.

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Lancaster University, said: “MARS is a hugely exciting development for Lancaster, injecting maths research into AI developments and strengthening Lancaster University’s position as a regional, national and international leader in next-generational research.

“Through its close collaboration and partnerships with industry and government, MARS further builds on Lancaster’s outstanding track-record as a regional economic anchor institution facilitating and supporting economic growth and societal benefits.”

Professor Peter Atkinson, Executive Dean of Lancaster University’s Faulty of Science and Technology, said: “This major investment is a significant recognition of the existing research excellence we have in mathematics and statistics here at Lancaster, but also across the faculty in other closely aligned disciplines in the fields of environmental science, cyber security and engineering.

“The investment in applied mathematics will initiate the growth of mathematics and statistics at Lancaster into a comprehensive mathematics department, capable of even greater external engagement and impact, which is exciting for the region. Our strong track-record in inter-disciplinary working, and external collaborative work with industry, government and the third sector, means Lancaster is very well positioned to take full advantage of this investment and ensure benefits will be realised in both scientific research and more widely in the region.”

The investment will also help enhance Lancaster University’s key role in addressing a major skills gap by developing the talent pipeline of mathematics graduates and post-graduates with highly employable skills.

MARS, which will be led by Christopher Jewell, Professor in Statistics at Lancaster University, will see the creation of new modules added to the University’s curriculum and a distinctive programme for students to specialise in government and industry-focused applications in dynamical modelling for AI.

“This investment will also enable us to expand on our commitment to expanding the future talent pipeline – from our brilliant sixth-form maths school in Preston all the way up to our role in developing highly-employable graduates and post-graduates equipped with cutting-edge skills essential to key sectors from cyber security to environment and health,” said Professor Jewell.

“With its structure tightly coupled with external partners whose real-world challenges require fundamental mathematics and AI research, MARS will train a distinctive cadre of undergraduates who are highly competitive within the workforce. Its graduates will have the capability to go much further than the current generation of data scientists and have the ability to solve mathematical challenges and innovate bespoke solutions.”

The MARS investment forms part of £156 million funding by Research England to support 18 universities across England to expand their small, but outstanding research units. This funding comes from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England Fund, or E3. The 18 projects are funded from the second round.

Dr Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England, said: “We have invested in research units in universities right across England. This will diversify the regional spread of research disciplines to support the sustained enhancement of research capacity across England, and enhance the skills base, build and diversify talent and bring disciplines together to develop new skillsets and “future leaders” in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential.

“Our investment will also help to reinforce the contribution of HEPs to their region through strategic local partnerships, focusing on sharing resources and infrastructure and generating local impact, backed by robust institutional leadership.

“We’re excited to see how these units develop over the next five years.”

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