One of the major successes 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.
Outcomes of previous ITTs include:
- jointly funded studentships
- consultancy work
- joint research proposals
Networking with BT
BT is the UK’s national telecommunications company, with a track record of investment in University research over decades, and involving leading institutions in the UK, the US and China. Their links with Bath have in the past primarily been via short-term placements for students on our Master's course in Modern Applications of Mathematics.
From the wide range of BT’s activities in the UK and beyond, it was clear that BT had a range of problems that could potentially lead to collaborative research projects. In order to identify those that SAMBa could most effectively pursue, a team of academics from the Department visited BT’s Research & Innovation Centre at Adastral Park, Ipswich in February 2014 to discuss research ideas in a facilitated environment and discuss routes to pursue them further. From this discussion day a number of challenge areas were identified, and BT was invited to take part in ITT1 in January 2015.
BT personnel came to talk to the SAMBa students over the course of the symposia series during the Autumn of 2014, prior to ITT1. During the week six BT staff attended the ITT, presenting a range of problems and working alongside the SAMBa students to formulate and refine the research questions
A number of projects were identified through the ITT, including a co-funded PhD project, to run alongside SAMBa, involving Keith Briggs, Senior Mathematician at BT, as a project supervisor. Following the ITT, Chris Budd and Mike Fitch from BT successfully applied for an EPSRC CASE award from the Smith Institute, to continue a project discussed at the ITT.
"BT's wireless research team is currently enjoying a fruitful collaboration with SAMBa mathematicians in the area of interference control for wireless systems, specifically targeting the development of algorithms"
Dr Keith Briggs, Senior Mathematician, BT
Flying high with GKN and Airbus
GKN is a British multinational automotive and aerospace components company. Their aerospace division has been working closely with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, particularly through their jointly sponsored (with the Royal Academy of Engineering) Chair, Richard Butler for a number of years. Through Richard’s research collaboration with Rob Scheichl from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, GKN became partners at ITT3, along with their collaborators from Airbus.
The GKN/Airbus partnership presented problems on materials design, particularly in developing robust methods for testing structures and parts of aircraft wings. These were addressed using a combination of statistical and modelling methods and have cemented collaboration between Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.
Following the ITT, small projects and discussions continued between the academic departments, including some consultancy work for Airbus and their collaborator, N12 Technologies. This continued collaboration led to the funding of three PhD studentships, based in Mechanical Engineering, but with links to SAMBa, which began in 2017. Of these studentships, two are jointly funded by GKN and the EPSRC NPIF, and the other is jointly funded by Airbus and N12.
"Working with SAMBa students to relay how our industry understands the daily challenges in aerospace design and manufacture and for them to translate them into statistical/mathematical models and methods was a refreshing and rewarding concept. The prospective students demonstrated their creative and collaborative skills to propose alternative solutions that, if applied further, could bring worthwhile results for our business."
Dr Kaido Kaal, Aerospace Quality Manager, GKN Aerospace
Developing research with Wood plc
Wood plc is a multinational engineering company. Through Ivan Graham and Rob Scheichl, the Department of Mathematical Sciences has had a long term interaction with Wood plc, including a number of jointly funded PhD projects. In particular, collaboration has been with the ANSWERS® Software Service within the company that provides technical consulting and develops state of the art software for the nuclear industry including reactor physics, criticality and shielding applications.
Given the historic success in PhD projects, Wood plc were very keen to be involved in a SAMBa ITT. Consequently, they were partners at ITT2 and, with Rob and Ivan, developed a programme of training through the preceding symposia series to ensure the SAMBa students had a good background in the physics concepts and Monte Carlo methods that were required to make good progress at the ITT itself. The symposia were attended by a range of academic experts from the department and this led to the realisation that taking a probabilistic approach to a long-standing modelling problem, could have significant benefits.
At ITT2 itself, different teams pursued Wood plc problems. Some used similar methods that have traditionally been employed on these research challenges, others took a completely different probabilistic approach. Both were highly successful and have each led to a jointly funded PhD project and a large scale research proposal.
Without the collaborative nature of SAMBa, and hard work on all sides to share expertise and define a common language, these potentially very significant strides forward would not have been possible.
"We are working with SAMBa to design more efficient methods for uncertainty quantification and new ways of looking at Monte Carlo simulation of neutron and photon transport in matter. The SAMBa atmosphere is very exciting, the staff are innovative and committed and the students are enthusiastic and talented. The mixture of mathematicians and probabilists is opening up exciting new approaches."
Professor Paul Smith, Technical Lead for Modelling and Software, Wood plc
Analysing risk with DNV GL
DNV GL is a multi-national risk analysis company, working across a wide range of sectors. They first began working with the Department of Mathematical Sciences in 2013 through jointly funding a project, led by Tony Shardlow, through the University’s Impact Acceleration Account to investigate new approaches to risk assessment. This IAA project funded a postdoctoral researcher who went on to be a lecturer at the University of Warwick.
Following this short-term, applied maths project, DNV GL was keen to get involved with some longer-term fundamental mathematics research in order to improve their processes further. This was enabled through attending the first SAMBa Integrative Think Tank (ITT) in January 2015. DNV GL worked with the SAMBa students in the weeks leading up to the ITT, training them on their software and giving them an introduction to the company, its priorities and the challenges it faces.
Two representatives from DNV GL attended the ITT, and presented quite different problems. One was solved during the ITT week and an extension of this work is now being pursued by the Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation. The second project developed into a PhD project.
"We are working with SAMBa to develop new tools for managing risk by combining deterministic and probabilistic methods."
Dr David Worthington, Head of Risk & Reliability Mathematical Modelling, DNV GL