Having now successfully delivered ten integrative think tanks (ITTs) in Bath, SAMBa worked with two of our long-term Mexican collaborators to organise the first overseas event, which took place in Guanajuato in August.

Building on the BUCs

The Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath has had a strong partnership with Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas (CIMAT) for many years. This led to the formation of the BUC (Bath-UNAM-CIMAT) research platform in 2014, which has already delivered 16 collaborative workshops, and £300K of leveraged funding through 5 research grants.

ITT de Mexico

Integrative Think Tanks (ITTs) are week-long problem formulation workshops, where industrial and governmental institutions pose high level challenges, which require creative, interdisciplinary approaches. ITT participants spend time working in small teams to develop routes to solutions of these problems within a mathematical context. These approaches often incorporate ideas from across a spectrum of the research remit, and bring in expertise from other disciplines. ITTs lead to long-term collaborative research activity such as externally-funded grants, and PhD projects.

Staff and students from UNAM and CIMAT have participated in previous SAMBa ITTs and following this they took the concept, and with the support of SAMBa, designed their own ITT. Partners were Samsung, CENAPRED, the Mexican National Centre for Prevention of Disasters, and Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda (CNB), the government agency responsible for finding people who have been “forcibly disappeared”.

The model translated brilliantly across the Atlantic, and into Spanish, with teams delivering some fantastic ideas that will be pursued through funding applications to national governments, and by direct investment from the partners themselves.

Margaret Duff, who is just finishing her first year of SAMBa said: “The ITT in Mexico was a great experience. I was able to put the team working and problem solving skills learned in the first two SAMBa ITTs, and from the first year of SAMBa into practice. It was an excellent opportunity to work with academics, students and industrial partners from international institutions on interesting and relevant problems. It was also an invaluable opportunity for future career development through building new collaborations and gaining problem formulation experience.”

Andreas Kyprianou, a co-Director of SAMBa, who participated in the ITT commented: “The ITT in Mexico was the first time the concept had been mapped directly to a different academic environment, and there was a lot of excitement, as well as some trepidation! It was a massive success and this was without doubt due to the commitment to the ITT methodology from CIMAT and UNAM, as well as to the creativity and brilliance of the students who participated."

More ITT internationalisation

Part of our goal for the next iteration of SAMBa is to deliver more overseas ITTs, in collaboration with our partners, leading to new and high-impact research opportunities, as well as a wonderful chance for our students to deliver and engage with further training. Representatives from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling (CMM) in Chile and Universidade de São Paulo (USP) in Brazil participated at the ITT in Mexico and similar events are planned hosted by them in the near future, as well as a scheduled ITT in Mongolia in March 2021.