University handed £12m to solve real-world problems with maths and AI

By Tim Aldred

17 Jan 2024

Lancaster University Statistics Building

Lancaster University has received £12m investment from Research England to explore the ways in which maths and AI can be used together to solve real-world problems.

University researchers will work closely with industrial and government partners across key sectors to deliver solutions across health, manufacturing, cyber security and environmental science.

The investment will deliver the new MARS: Mathematics for AI in Real-world Systems programme that builds, and significantly expands, upon Lancaster University’s 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.

Prof 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.”

Prof 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.

The MARS investment forms part of £156m 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.

 

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