Rachel Riley backs STEM initiative

TV presenter Rachel Riley inspires kids’ appetites for STEM subjects through app development competition

With only 37% of school students aged 11 to 16 thinking of taking up a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subject in higher education, Rachel Riley has launched Astellas Innovation Challenge to inspire students within this field. 

Rachel Riley, TV presenter and Oxford Maths graduate, has launched the challenge across England, Scotland and Wales. The competition is designed to increase interest amongst school students in taking up a STEM subject at university and beyond. The Astellas Innovation Challenge is asking the next generation of would-be entrepreneurs and innovators to design a mobile app that encourages healthy living. 

Latest research conducted amongst British 11–16-year-olds by YouGov, reveals that eight out of 10 (83%) school students say they are interested in STEM subjects. However, only 37% of school students thought it likely that they would continue on with these subjects at higher education. The Astellas Innovation Challenge is a competition which aims to help redress the imbalance by demonstrating the practical applications of STEM subjects and their relevance for future careers. 

The research also revealed that technology is an intrinsic part of school students’ everyday lives. 87% of 11 to 16 year olds have a mobile/smartphone and more than three quarters (77%) confirmed they use apps at least once a day. Furthermore, school students’ appetite for apps is reaching a record high, with over two thirds (70%) having 11 or more apps on their mobile devices with 29% having more than 30 apps.Nearly half of school students also believe that technology innovators such as Steve Jobs (46%) and Mark Zuckerberg (44%) have had a greater impact on the way they live their lives, compared with music celebrities like Justin Bieber (4%) or Rihanna (4%). 

“Studying STEM subjects can open up so many doors for young people and lead to promising careers in a diverse range of fields, such as computing, health and even broadcasting. The skills you learn from STEM subjects are fundamental to innovation and key to our economy, so it’s important for students to see how they can be used in future careers,” said Rachel Riley. 

She continued: “This is why I’m excited to support the Astellas Innovation Challenge, which will show real-life use of STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue their interest in STEM at university and beyond.” 

The Astellas Innovation Challenge tasks school students in Years 10 or 11 (studying Key Stage 4 in England and Wales) or S3 – S4 in Scotland to design a mobile app to encourage healthy living. The winning team will see their concept brought to life by professional app developers, launched and made available for free download. 

Ken Jones, President and CEO of Astellas, said: “Astellas is proud to be organising and funding this initiative as STEM subjects equip people with skills and qualifications that are vital for the future of the UK’s knowledge-based economy. Astellas is a young and progressive company committed to finding innovative solutions to encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles today and support a healthy future.”

The purpose of the Astellas Innovation Challenge is to encourage school students to consider the importance of healthy living. Astellas is committed to improving lives by providing innovative medicines in areas of health where there is great unmet medical need and also in supporting people for a healthy future. 

The deadline for entry to the Astellas Innovation Challenge (www.astellas.eu/innovation-challenge) is Friday 24 October 2014 and the final will be hosted in London on Tuesday 25 November 2014. 



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