Statistics and science, education, renewable energy and sport gave early shape to Dr Mark Dixon’s career. A born autodidact, Mark was the first of his low-income but loving family to achieve an academic qualification. By 13, he was teaching himself the technology of the electric car and experimenting in his bedroom with chemical electric cells, an elementary home heating system and simple electronic circuits.
Combined with his passion for science and education – at 14 his ambition was to be a teacher –Mark moved towards a career built on numbers. A BSc in Mathematics and a PhD in Statistics led to lecturing and researching, grants and prizes. In 1998 Mark founded ATASS, a statistical research consultancy providing modelling and analysis for the sports industry.
In 2002 Mark and his wife started a smallholding in Devon devoted to producing natural, organic food from animals reared with care and respect. He is an enthusiastic philanthropist and is a fervent believer in the value to the broader community of low- or zero-profit impact investment.
In cooperation with trusted friends and colleagues David Williamson, Glenn Woodcock and Roy Bedlow, Mark formed Oxygen House. Incorporated in 2008, this group of companies was founded upon a shared belief that successful businesses should be inseparably linked with improving lives, learning and the broader environment.
Mark’s empathy as a parent and understanding of the anxieties of maths students, allied to his hunger to grasp the fundamentals of learning, spurred him in 2010 to create Sparx, an educational technology company pledged to improving numeracy through radical research and data techniques.
Today the rigorous, borderline-obsessive thirst that stirred a 13-year-old to wrest reason from complexity continues to inform Mark’s worldview. By monitoring and challenging accepted ideas, he is sworn to disentangling webs of variables in pursuit of clear, measurable, fact-based solutions. He is positive that only through learning will we understand the impact of human population growth and its bitter relationship with environmental sustainability.
“Education,” Mark says, “is the key to all of our problems.”