Industrial Mathematics – Current Practices

Ellen Murphy

Dr Ellen Murphy, Commercial Research Associate, Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation
Using mathematics to solve industrial problems has benefits for everyone; mathematicians get to wrap their heads around interesting and challenging problems, and industrialists gain access to knowledge that would otherwise be unattainable. That was why I was so glad to be involved in the MI-NET Workshop, held here in the University of Bath in October 2015.  Mathematicians from all over Europe and beyond gathered together to share their experiences of working with industry and to help researchers from countries that traditionally don’t have a history of industrial collaboration.

One mathematician with a wealth of experience solving industrial problems is Professor Chris Budd OBE. His talk on Student Projects with Industry demonstrated the variety of problems that mathematicians can expect to encounter when they work with industry. Chris talked about the well-known examples of power generation and finance but also lesser known ones like creating art or even using crowd dynamics to escape a lecture hall. I’m sure there are times when we’d all like to know how to do that!
The following day I snuck into the Working Group for Education and Training. Having been both a participant and an organiser of student mathematical modelling workshops in Ireland, it was exciting to hear the discussions on how to organise them and similar activities in other MI-NET countries. It can be challenging for these first-timers to secure funding, which is why these working groups are so important – to listen to people’s concerns, disseminate the appropriate information and to then refine the process accordingly.
The most valuable part of the workshop for me was making new contacts that would be nearly impossible otherwise. Over the two days I met researchers from Sweden, Bosnia and Herezgovina and Cyprus and met old friends from Ireland, the UK and Spain. And who knows, maybe I’ll see some of them again on a Short-Term Scientific Mission!


Industrial Mathematics – Current Practices

Dr Katerina Kaouri, MI-NET Management Committee Member, Expert Scientist/Research Fellow, Department of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering 2006-01-01 17.51.33and Informatics, Cyprus University of Technology

The workshop “Current Practice in Industrial Mathematics” was organized by MI-NET, with the lead of Dr. Hilary Ockendon, on the 27th of October 2015, at the University of Bath. The aim was the creation of an open forum in which various methodologies for mathematicians working with industry in different countries would be presented and discussed, and enabling a fruitful discussion that would lead to the exchange of best practices, and ultimately to a better connection of academia and industry across the EU.

After opening remarks by Dr Hilary Ockendon (University of Oxford), in Part I “Student Centered Activities” Prof. Dietmar Hoemberg from the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics, in Germany, outlined three EU funding mechanisms for PhD students and gave more details about the European Industrial Doctorates (EID) scheme, one of the Marie Curie Actions.

EIDs are joint doctoral training projects between an academic institution and a company, which are established in two different EU Member States or associated countries of the EU. Prof. Hoemberg presented the successful example of MIMESIS, an EID network in which he was involved and which funded 8 PhD students in Maths and in Materials (budget: 2.1 Million Euros). He strongly recommended the EIDs as a very good method for academics to build bridges and long-term collaborations with industry and for gaining easy access to the industry’s technical expertise.

Subsequently, Kate Powers, a PhD student, and Prof. Chris Budd OBE from the University of Bath outlined various successful methodologies that the university has developed in order to collaborate with industry.  Kate Powers spoke very positively about her two placements with industry (11 weeks) when she was a MMath student under the guidance of Prof. Budd. She emphasized that the experience enabled her to see what doing a PhD entails, network and get acquainted with a variety of applications of mathematics in industry. Prof. Budd and Kate Powers described in detail another successful academia-industry tool devised by the UoBath, the Integrative Think Tanks (ITTs). ITTs are weeklong workshops where about 60 academics, students and industrialists work together. They act as forums that help researchers better understand the challenges facing industry and formulate them into mathematical problems that can be addressed through PhD projects or industrial placements. They attract companies from a wide range of fields (telecoms, aerospace, power generation, mining, oil), including household names such as Unilever, London Transport, EDF Energy, etc. The ITTs also involve the newly-founded Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI), who provide consultancy services to industry. (MI-NET’s Chair, Dr Joanna Jordan is the Manager of IMI).

Prof. Budd also mentioned three other mechanisms that enable students to work with industry: i) CASE Studentships for PhD students, a UK-wide tool (ii) Internships, one-year undergraduate student placements  as part of the UoBath Mathematics degree (iii) MSc projects, as part of the MSc in Modern Applied Mathematics at the UoBath – either 3 or 6 months duration.

Continuing, in Part II “National Networks”, Prof. Peregrina Quintela Estevez President of the Spanish Network for Mathematics and Industry presented the math-in network. The math-in network consists of more than 40 research groups with more than 440 researchers and technical staff based across Spain. Prof. Estevez relayed that the diversity of locations and thematic areas offered by the network has been very appreciated by the industrial clients. Their way of working include developing and maintaining  close relationships with the companies.

They have designed and constantly update a supply map, a depository of case studies in 23 industrial sectors, as those are defined by the EU. A sophisticated search engine allows easy identification of the required expertise. Also, math-in identified industrial needs in Spain by running a survey with 8000 companies in the country, active across all industrial sectors. They are also operating a technology transfer office of the math-in network at the University of Santiago de Compostela. The technology transfer office acts as a one-stop-shop for companies, that is the company brings a problem, the office identifies which research group can solve it and puts the researchers and the company in touch. The contracts are between the academic institution and the client company and math-in oversees the quality control of the process.

Dr Robert Leese, Director of the Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and Systems Engineering, in the UK presented the activities of the Smith Institute. Smith Institute is an independent company, working in close contact with universities across the UK. They currently employ 20 people, most of them mathematical scientists with a PhD that do highly technical work for companies, bring in new business, and facilitate collaborations. Dr Leese gave a few examples of industrial mathematics actions that the Smith Institute has been actively involved:

a) Facilitating the organization of the UK Study Groups with Industry. Initiated at the University of Oxford in 1968, Study Groups with Industry provide a forum for industrial scientists to work alongside academic mathematicians on problems of direct industrial relevance. They are an internationally recognized method of technology and knowledge transfer between academic mathematicians and industry, usually lasting one week. Note: Study Groups are also one of the key activities funded by MI-NET.

Workshop structure:

  • The Study Group attracts mathematicians from a wide range of backgrounds to work on the selected industrial problems.
  • A training course runs concurrently with the workshop providing wider background material on new mathematical research topics related to the industrial problems.
  • On the first day the industrial representatives outline their project and their objectives.
  • The next two or three of days are devoted to brainstorming, modelling and solving the problems closely guided by the industrial representative.
  • Participants are free to apply their expertise to any of the projects.
  • On the last day (Friday) the progress and recommended routes forward are presented. Reports on the problem deliberations are produced after the meeting. (Some reports from previous study groups are available here)

b) Knowledge Transfer Papers in collaboration with the London Mathematical Society. The reports are being produced as an occasional series, each one addressing an area where mathematicsand computing have come together to provide significant new capability that is on the cusp of mainstream industrial uptake. They are written by senior researchers in each chosen area, for a mixed audience in business and government.

c) Case Studies/success stories in industrial mathematics, across 9 industrial sectors.

Prof. Edwige Godlewski, from AMIES, the French Agency for Maths-Industry collaboration outlined how agency operates in France. The Agency has been founded in 2011, and they connect with industry through exploratory projects, one-week workshops with industry, student internships and showcasing success stories. They also give out a Math-Enterprise PhD award and they are running a popular website with job advertisements.

Prof. Poul Hjorth, who has been organizing with colleagues the Danish Study Group for many years, has said that at the Technical University of Denmark they have compiled “rapid response teams” of academics that tackle industrial problems quickly. Incentives given to academic mathematicians for convincing them to get involved in industrial activities include conference funding and a clear path for a peer-reviewed publication.

Dr Hanifeh Khayyeri mentioned that at the Lund University, in Sweden a student can undertake an MSc thesis in collaboration with a company for six months. The student approaches the company himself/herself and an academic supervises the project.

Dr William Lee mentioned that at the University of Limerick, in Ireland, they found out that companies are more willing to invest a large amount of money in universities when the collaboration starts with a consultation period in which the company reaps the benefits of some initial, quick results without paying much money.

Other MI-NET participants offered also information on methods of interaction of academia and industry in other countries.

Discussion ensued among the participants with the aim to create a roadmap on how to disseminate best practices via MI-NET across the EU and the world.


Industrial Mathematics – an ECI perspective

My name is Maria KouraAAEAAQAAAAAAAAYkAAAAJDAzZDUwOTZlLWM3NDItNDljZS05MWVlLTk4OWYzNzlmNDFiMw and I am really glad to be one of the members of the MI-NET action. I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate student of the Business Administration Department in the University of Macedonia (Greece) and my research focuses on the field of Operational Research; in particular it concentrates on the facilitation of strategic planning and finance decision making in a business environment. At the same time, I am working also as a Business and Financial Analyst in a Greek consulting company. Many times since now, my current research and theoretical background together with my working experience have signalized to me the need of Mathematics for Industry NETwork.  Thus, I am very happy of being part of the MI-NET action, representing Greece and supporting the widespread application of mathematics to all industrial sectors.

Attending the MI-NET meeting, held for two days (27th and 28th of October) in Bath, was a very valuable experience in that it provided me the chance to meet in person and interact with the action’s participants from many other country-members of the action.  I really enjoyed the fruitful discussions during networking sessions and dinner hours as well as the insightful presentations and talks given by the speakers during the first day’s workshop. The event was very well organized and it managed successfully to foster collaborations between all its participants.

As a member of Education and Training WG, I was also able to attend the second day meeting. During this meeting, I realized that there are many regions in Europe, including also Greece, where the gap between the mathematical sciences and industry is big and the relationship between them is really weak. Therefore, it seems that there is a window of opportunity and there is still a lot of room for improvement and further promotion of mathematics in science, technology and business. Thus, the MI-NET action can be of major significance to stimulate these interactions and identify the mechanisms for strengthening such links in order for mathematics to be effectively applied in a business environment.

Generally speaking, mathematics has been called the language of science. Being a member of the MI-NET action, I strongly believe that when this “language” is spoken and mathematical models are consequently applied, mathematics can serve to build the bridges between knowledge and business and lead to cutting-edge solutions. Nowadays, there is an increasing sphere of industrial issues to which mathematics is able to aid and contribute. That being said, this COST action will be able to efficiently face these challenges and contribute for mutually beneficial knowledge transfer between academia and industry.

I am inclined to believe that the foreseen industry workshops, training weeks, and short-term scientific missions (STSMs), that are going to be organized in the frame of MI-NET, will contribute to cross the boundary between mathematics and business and strengthen coordination and cooperation both at national and international levels. So, I would like to encourage other co-fellow Phd students and Early-Stage Researchers to grab the MI-NET opportunities coming from Modelling Weeks and STSMs and participate in them in order to gain experience with the applications of mathematics in real world industrial problems.


Maths network will help solve real-world industry problems

We were delighted to see that the University of Bath has written a nice piece about MI-NET and has got it up on their web page!   We are looking forward to tomorrow when we will kick off the day with a Core Group and a Management Committee meeting. In the afternoon we will be welcoming 50 delegates to our workshop on ‘Current Practice in Industrial Mathematics‘.

Maths network will help solve real-world industry problems | University of BathMaths network will help solve real-world industry problems _1| University of Bath

Request for Case Studies Template

Working Group 3 is looking for candidate templates for the one page case studies that will be generated from COST supported Study Groups and STSMs. If you have ideas for a template or have seen a template you like please could you email it to william(dot)lee(at)ul(dot)ie with “Case studies template” in the subject line.

We will be choosing a template at the next COST meeting on 27th October 2015

Correction: We are not 29.

MI-NET a network of 30 countries!

Despite the dull and grey looking morning, MI-NET headquarters are celebrating that our network has grown again. Our latest partner, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, brings our network to a total of 30 countries.

Bosnia and Herzegovinia is represented by Dr Haris Gavranoviv from the International University of Sarajevo. Dr Gavranoviv’s research interests include industrial engineering, combinatorial and mathematical optimization, search based optimization, constraint satisfaction method, experimental algorithmic, grid and parallel computation as well as data engineering.


And now there are 29!

As we get ready for our next Management Committee meeting we are greeted with the news that Norway has just joined our Mathematics for Industry Network! We welcome Professor Elena Celledoni, Professor of Mathematics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Dr Svenn Anton Halvorsen, Chief Scientist at Teknova. Professor Celledoni’s research field is in numerical analysis and in particular structure preserving algorithms for differential equations and geometric numerical integration. Dr Halvorsen has an interest in process understanding and industrial use of mathematical models. Because of his long and relevant experience he now has great knowledge on how to use mathematical models in industry.

Since our first Management Committee meeting in Brussels in May 2015 we have been joined by an extra 7 countries: Norway, as mentioned above, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey. We extend this warm welcome to our ‘new’ colleagues!

Watch this space for more news in due course.

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