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Integrative Think Tanks

We organise workshops involving PhD students, academics and external collaborators, to formulate challenges into mathematical problems.

What is an Integrative Think Tank?

Integrative Think Tanks (ITTs) are our flagship activity and are about mathematical problem formulation. We bring people together to develop approaches to applied challenges.

ITTs were pioneered and developed in 2015 by staff in the Centre for Doctoral Training for Statistical Applied Mathematics (SAMBa). They provide training to SAMBa students, but they also generate ideas that can be jointly pursued between academics and industrial partners, and lead to direct impact in terms of applications and research.


ITTs are facilitated, week-long, off-campus workshops involving around 80 participants.

They include postgraduate students, academics from mathematical sciences, application-focused researchers, and collaborators from around the world.

Participants are presented with high level challenges from non-mathematical partners. They work in small groups to formulate them into mathematical problems.

It is not the aim of an ITT to solve problems, but to identify and to test preliminary routes to a solution and the mechanisms to take them forward. Follow up from ITTs can take many forms and each will be tailored to the individual partner and ideas that are generated. Many ideas become long-term projects (as PhD studentships or research grants), some are picked up as short-term projects (through reading courses, or student secondments, for example). Taking forward ITT outputs is a collaborative process and each one is different.

In practice

ITTs take place twice a year, in January and June. Each ITT welcomes two partners that are identified at least four months before the event to enable preparatory work to take place.

The ITT build-up takes place through a student-led symposia series, where partners give SAMBa students and other ITT participants a preliminary overview of the challenges that they would like to bring to the ITT.

In collaboration with academic staff, students identify the background information that is required to prepare for the ITT. This could include expert lectures, training in software, or mini-courses. The programme is organised by the students themselves.

Impact and outcomes

One of the major success factors of ITTs is that the ideas generated are truly collaborative and ownership is shared between all the researchers involved. This means that each ITT continues to deliver long after the event has taken place. You can read more about these here.

Outcomes of previous ITTs include:

  • jointly funded studentships
  • joint research proposals
  • student projects
  • reading courses
  • consultancy work

Previous ITTs

Find out more about our previous Integrative Think Tanks with partners from industry.

'We are working with SAMBa to improve the efficiency of our drug development, by optimising the size of our clinical trials and making better use of the data we collect. Working with SAMBa students and academics is very rewarding and they add new ideas to help our business. I was very impressed with the Think Tank, and pleasantly surprised at how much was achieved in such a short space of time. I would recommend this approach to any potential industry partners looking to breathe new ideas into their business.' — Dr Alun Bedding, Statistical Science Director, AstraZeneca

Other collaborative workshops

Find out more about other collaborative workshops delivered using the ITT problem formulation model.

Case studies

See what some of our previous ITTs partners have had to say about working with us.

Interested in being part of an ITT?

Get in touch with us