In September, SAMBa ran their 12th Integrative Think Tank with partners Novartis and Rolls-Royce. This was delivered almost completely online, necessitating some changes to the structure and mechanisms for developing problem formulation. Despite the change in format, the event was as successful as always, generating lots of excellent ideas which will be taken forward as collaborative research projects.

Problem Formulation

The ITT began with partners presenting high level challenges including around modelling and data integration in pharmacokinetics models, finding effective routes to drug development for liver disease, mapping complete aviation routes, and using data collected from long flights to understand engine performance changes. After initial discussion on these topics, small teams of PhD students, academics, and partner representatives formed and worked on developing mathematical routes to solutions of the challenges. The aim of the ITT is that the work during the week provides the foundation for longer-term research collaboration, ideally through a joint PhD project.

Keeping the collaboration going

Following the ITT, SAMBa are now working with Rolls-Royce and Novartis to implement the generated ideas by designing PhD projects and exploring opportunities for delivering other research activity, potentially through working with the Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation. Previous ITTs have delivered multiple PhD projects and research grants leading to long-term and fruitful interaction with partners.

Dr Rory Clarkson MBE from the Engine Environmental Protection team at Rolls-Royce said:

The ITT was an informal and engaging environment for exchanging ideas and it was also good fun. Above all it produced some truly innovative thinking. The SAMBa staff and students came up with concepts and ideas that look like they offer a route to solving some of our more challenging problems.

Still keeping a great atmosphere

Although the online format still delivered for the ITT, it was harder to replicate the relaxed, fun and supportive atmosphere of the usual events. There was the opportunity for teams to work in person at the BRLSI in the city of Bath during Wednesday and Thursday, which was a good experience. In addition, a subset of academic staff dedicated extra time behind the scenes to facilitate plenary activities, talk individually to students, and support team work during and after the week. The extra work was worth it to ensure that participants felt supported and that there was enough structure during the ITT to enable effective delivery of excellent research ideas.

Dr Hui Tang, a lecturer from the Department of Mechanical Engineering said:

I had a fantastically enjoyable week working with the brightest students and academics to solve pressing problems from the aerospace industry. I was impressed with the students’ engagement and their ability to solve practical problems using mathematical skills. The event was very well organised and the impact was prominent leading to future collaboration between the Departments of Mathematic Science and Mechanical Engineering and Rolls-Royce.