Jun 20

GSK and McLaren announce winners of schools’ challenge to inspire next generation of scientists as survey shows only 8% of students planning a career in science

Scientists in Sport

McLaren GroupNational competition brings real-world science to the classroom as students suggest ways to improve performance of Formula 1TM drivers

Teams of students from across the UK competed today to be crowned champions of a joint initiative between GSK and McLaren Group, designed to encourage the next generation of scientists.

The initiative, named Scientists in Sport, is based on a survey that found that young people are not seeing the connection between school science lessons and future career opportunities. The survey of over 400 11-16 year olds showed that fewer than 1 in 20 young people pay full attention to their teachers in science lessons and that only 1 in 25 are definitely thinking about a career in science.

Waldegrave School from Twickenham beat nearly 100 schools from across the country to win the national final of this year’s Fast Forward Challenge, an exciting competition which supports the Scientists in Sport initiative. In keeping with the aim of bringing science, technology, engineering and maths to life through sport, competition entrants were asked to design a test to help Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 drivers improve their performance.

Students who took part in the Scientists in Sport online survey about young people’s perceptions of science said they would like the opportunity to interact with people who have a career in science as part of a classroom activity. When presented with a list of science-based careers, over three quarters of students felt that developing a life-saving drug to help people live longer made science seem more interesting. Over half of students surveyed were interested in using cutting-edge technologies to develop equipment to help sports people.

At the final, held at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, students from six shortlisted schools presented the tests they had designed to help improve McLaren drivers’ reaction times and concentration, to a panel of judges including: Clayton Green, Human Performance Manager at McLaren; James Wilding, young engineer on GSK’s Future Leaders Programme, and Kerry O’Callaghan, Head of Global Brand Communications at GSK.

Patrick Vallance, President of R&D at GSK, said: “As a science-led organisation our ongoing success relies on continuous innovation and that is led by the next generation of scientists and engineers. It’s important that young people can make the connection between the science they learn in school and the job opportunities they may have in the future – that could be developing the next vaccine to help save children’s lives, or helping a Formula 1TM team like McLaren win races. Through the Scientists in Sport programme we hope to open young people’s eyes to the careers that science can offer.”

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of the McLaren Group said: “It’s a genuine concern that young people still do not view science as their career of choice. The young people of today are the innovators and creative thinkers of tomorrow and we will all rely on them to address major international challenges. As a technology company, we at McLaren feel a responsibility to help improve the perception of scientific careers and are proud to partner with GSK in the Fast Forward Challenge. All the finalists came up with highly innovative approaches and performed well under pressure. There is a wealth of talent in our schools; we now need to inspire bright young people to take up science and to excel.”

Kay Penly, teacher at Waldegrave School, said: “We’re delighted to have won the national final and the whole school is extremely proud of the team. The competition has been great for science at our school. It has inspired our students to think differently about science as they have been able to apply the things they learn in the classroom to something as big and exciting as Formula 1 racing.”

Waldegrave School will receive £1000 worth of science equipment and the chance to have their test carried out by a member of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driving team. All finalists were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the McLaren Technology Centre, which is not usually open to the public, and the chance to quiz some of the scientists and engineers responsible for the innovation behind a Formula 1 TM racing team.

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. For further information please visit www.gsk.com


The McLaren Group is an organisation with one goal: to win. It is perhaps best known for its successful and iconic Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 cars, but it is more than just a racing team. Guided by the vision of executive chairman Ron Dennis, one of the UK’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, the McLaren Group encompasses an exciting range of ultra-high-technology businesses including McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren Electronic Systems, Absolute Taste and McLaren Marketing.


* GSK Scientists in Sport ‘Perceptions of science’ survey

– 409 students aged between 11 and 16 took part in an online survey about their perceptions of science as members a youth panel provided by Dubit (www.dubitlimited.com).

– The sample was split 50:50 male / female, 50:50 KS3 / KS4, and contained a cross section of pupils from across England and Wales.

– 51% agreed that ‘only smart people can get a career in science’.

– 61% recognise ‘there is a definite link between science and sport’.

– 18% pay full attention to their teachers in science lessons when they are talking from the front of the classroom.

– 88% agreed carrying out experiments in the classroom made science lessons more interesting.

– 77% felt ‘developing the next vaccine to help save children’s lives in developing countries’ made science seem more interesting.

– Students felt the links between science and the following sports-based careers made science seem more interesting:

  • Understanding how the brain works to help athletes perform better, win more often and psyche out their opponents (58%)
  • Looking at the foods we eat to be fit and healthy (51%)
  • Using cutting edge technologies from motor sports to develop high-tech equipment to help sports people (51%)
  • Testing athletes for banned substances (49%)
  • Working with a Formula 1TM team to help win races (48%)

– Students’ perceptions of science before and after being presented with this list of careers changed as follows:

  • 70% agreed science was ‘important’ after reviewing the career examples (an improvement of 9%)
  • 68% agreed the study of science was ‘worthwhile’ after seeing the list (compared to 45% beforehand, an improvement of 23%)
  • 48% agreed the study of science was ‘exciting’ after seeing the list (compared to 35% beforehand, an improvement of 13%
  • 9% thought the study of science was ‘boring’ after seeing the list (compared to 19% beforehand, an improvement of 10%)

source: mclaren.com