Motorsport UK and the Royal Academy of Engineering will be the inaugural recipients, who will receive over half a million pounds, to support programmes focused respectively on increasing female participation in grass roots motorsport, and on Masters-level motorsport engineering scholarships for Black students.
The Ignite Partnership was created in July 2021 as a joint initiative between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to increase diversity and inclusion within motorsport. Mission 44, Sir Lewis’s charitable foundation, leads on coordination of the initiative.
With over £5 million ($6 million) of seed funding available from its founders, Ignite’s mission is to support projects that increase diversity and inclusion in motorsport, by enabling pathways into the sport for under-represented groups.
“I’m very proud to see Ignite announcing our first two grants today,” said Hamilton. “There has been a lot of work behind the scenes since launching and I’m delighted that Mercedes and I can continue to demonstrate our commitment towards creating a more diverse industry in this way. We chose these grants because they focus on supporting individuals from two crucial and underrepresented demographics, moving us towards our goal of increasing the number of women and Black talent in the sport. The events of this week have shown us why there continues to be an urgent need to push for better representation in our industry. More than ever we must focus on how we can use action to change motorsport for the better and this is an exciting next step.”
The first grant will see the Ignite Partnership collaborating with Motorsport UK and the organisation’s FIA Girls on Track UK programme, who will expand their reach to 8,000 girls and young women from ages 8 to 24 through the support of Ignite. The Girls on Track UK programme has been running since 2016 and aims to inspire, connect, and showcase underrepresented groups in motorsport, with a special focus on female representation.
With a priority on increasing participation from pupils from ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Girls on Track UK will be developing new partnerships to reach more communities with high representation from low-income and minority ethnic groups.
Motorsport UK aims to increase the Girls on Track UK community by introducing new schools to the programme, with at least 50% of the participants qualifying for free school meals to inspire, connect and showcase the career opportunities available in motorsport to young females.
“Motorsport UK is committed to using our reach and influence effectively,” said Hugh Chambers, Chief Executive Officer at Motorsport UK, “ensuring we are making a positive contribution to society. It’s important that we’re not only engaging in the conversation around equality, diversity and inclusion, but using our platform to make a difference through meaningful action with like minded organisations and partners.
We’ve made great strides through our Girls on Track UK programme, introducing thousands of girls and young women to the opportunities that are available to them in motorsport.
We are delighted that Sir Lewis and Mercedes, through their Ignite partnership, have recognised the work and impact of Girls on Track UK. We’re excited to be working with Ignite and look forward to extending our outreach, welcoming new members into our community and showcasing that motorsport is a safe, fun and fair environment for all.”
Ignite will also support the Royal Academy of Engineering, who will establish a motorsport scholarship programme for at least 10 Black students across the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years.
The Academy will select an annual cohort of at least five qualifying final-year undergraduate students, funding each student in a specialist MSc in engineering or an associated discipline sought after by the motorsport industry.
These students will also be provided with £25k to cover tuition and living costs, along with wrap around supports through networking events and motorsport experiences, with the objective that within two years after completing the MSc, 90% of scholarship awardees will have gained employment in the engineering sector – with majority in the motorsport sector and Formula 1.
“We are delighted to be partnering with the Ignite team on this important endeavour,” said Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering. “The Hamilton Commission report highlighted the lack of transition of Black students from engineering degrees into Formula 1. The Royal Academy of Engineering has a successful track record of improving the career prospects of students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, through our award-winning Graduate Employer Engagement Programme. The new motorsport scholarship programme will provide students with additional specialist motorsport knowledge and skills and give them the confidence and ability to apply for and thrive in this exciting field of engineering.”
With its inaugural grants, the Ignite partnership has funded two very different types of programming – from inspiring a broad cross-section of young women to consider the opportunities motorsport can offer, to the targeted funding of graduate education to enable scholars to enter the high-performance motorsport engineering sector. This reflects the breadth of ambition of the partnership, as it looks to support the creation of a more diverse and inclusive motorsport sector.
“These two grants demonstrate the wide range of opportunities that can make a meaningful contribution to the Partnership’s overall goal,” said Toto Wolff. “From inspirational motorsport events and experiences that will show the power of possibility to thousands of girls and young women in the UK – to academic support for some of the brightest and best Black engineering students in the country – we intend for each initiative to make a tangible contribution to building a more diverse and inclusive motorsport industry.”
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