The Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI) at the University of Bath has been praised for its work improving links between academics and industry in a national review of Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences.
From artificial intelligence to weather forecasting, mathematics underpins a huge number of technologies and scientific advances that impact and improve our daily lives. As a result there is an increasing need for industry to work with mathematicians to help solve a wide variety of problems.
The independent review, facilitated by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Knowledge Transfer Network, was chaired by Professor Philip Bond and investigated examples of best practice in Knowledge Exchange between industry and the mathematical sciences. The review also analysed models for supporting, incentivising and promoting mathematical Knowledge Exchange.
The recommendations of the review, launched at the House of Lords on Thursday 26 April, include to further develop our national infrastructure by establishing an Academy for the Mathematical Sciences to act as a focal point, and to train more mathematical scientists at PhD level, building in training in business and coding skills.
The review highlighted the University’s Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI) as an example of best practice in Knowledge Exchange from UK mathematical sciences.
The Institute follows a different model to that of traditional academic research projects, employing dedicated Commercial Research Associates who work on shorter-term projects, meaning they can work in a more agile and flexible way which is responsive to business needs.
IMI also hosts regular study groups - intensive workshops for businesses to get together with mathematicians to solve problems. Past projects include working with chocolate bar manufacturer Mondelez International to improve cocoa crop yields.
IMI also leads the Mathematics for Industry Network (MI-NET) which helps set up similar industry-driven study groups in 31 countries across Europe.
The University made a significant contribution to the review with Dr Joanna Jordan, Institute Manager of the IMI and Chair of MI-NET, and Professor Manuchehr Soleimani from the University’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering offering expert technical input as members of the Review Committee.
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, provided strategic advice as a member of the Review Board.
Dame Glynis said: “The review heralds an exciting step change in the way that research in the mathematical sciences is used to create social, economic and technological impact. We are extremely proud that the University’s IMI is seen as a trailblazer in this arena.”
Director of IMI, Professor Jonathan Dawes, said: “We are living in a golden era for mathematics. One sixth of the UK economy is underpinned by the mathematical sciences and it’s more important than ever that mathematicians and industry work together to share knowledge and ideas. We need to make it part of our national culture.
“We’re delighted that IMI has been recognised as one of the leaders in this field. Our distinctive set-up with Commercial Research Associates gives us flexibility to respond to a wide range of business problems, from improved predictions of risk for the insurance industry to optimising crop yields in farming.
“IMI has worked with a range of global firms including BT, Syngenta and Mondelez International, as well as NGOs such as UNICEF and local SMEs.
"MI-NET has sponsored over 40 industrial maths networking activities across Europe, including new study groups in Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, and Slovenia.
“We welcome the review’s proposals and look forward to developing the Institute’s partnerships further.”
Professor Manuchehr Soleimani, Professor of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University and member of the Review Committee, added: “The rapid changes and the new way that our economy and industry are operating in past few years, makes mathematical sciences a very important driver for our future growth.
“There is a great opportunity for re-engaging and re-defining the mathematical sciences in the context of its vital applications in many different domains.
“In the UK we are not very good at two-way communication and exchange between mathematical research and real life applications. The review recommends ways to close this gap.”
IMI’s next workshop is taking place in July, with a few places for businesses still available.