International Centre For Mathematical Sciences 2018

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: S of Mathematical and Computer Sciences


Researchers in the mathematical sciences need conversations, information and encouragement or competition from others to be most effective. International research is undertaken in an international context, and it is vital to be aware of the latest ideas and techniques. For the past 25 years the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in Edinburgh has run focussed research workshops to meet this need. The topics for the workshops come from the research community itself, and proposals are assessed by peer review and an international Programme Committee. The main objective of this grant proposal is to fund each year for six years eighteen research workshops, associated knowledge exchange and public engagement activities and the administrative support necessary for successful meetings at ICMS. This provides researchers from all over the UK with the opportunity to meet together with a small group of international experts to make real progress in understanding a problem.
This funding will have two immediate impacts. First, it ensures a level of excellent activity at ICMS which makes it a prestigious venue for other research meetings. Thus the total activity at ICMS is significantly more than that funded by this grant. Indeed, over the last two years only 35% of participant days were funded by the current EPSRC grant. Thus the grant provides a critical contribution to the infrastructure of mathematical science research in the UK, providing an internationally recognised venue for high level research and ensuring that UK science is able to engage with its international counterparts. Second, the directly funded workshops themselves have impact. They showcase UK research and allow international researchers to develop new themes. Proposals are encouraged to have specific outcomes - ambitious goals for what might come out of the conversations and exchange of knowledge that arise during their programmes.
Six of the eighteen workshops each year will be 'strategic'. They will address new areas of the mathematical sciences, or new cross-disciplinary applications. Industrially focussed workshops also come under this heading, as do scoping meetings and workshops addressing UK science priorities signalled by the Research Councils. This provides a mechanism for the mathematical sciences research community to engage with these areas at an early stage. ICMS has a Knowledge Exchange Officer who ensures that all the workshops have opportunities to identify potential interest outside academia. Where such possibilities are identified ICMS arranges for special industrial sessions within the workshops and there is an extensive list of industrial contacts to help focus ideas.
The ICMS activity includes training for early career researchers, and we champion diversity at our meetings. Some of the dedicated Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement meetings funded by the grant are training sessions to give ECRs an insight into how to engage outside academia. There are some 'ECR workshops' designed to give an early opportunity for researchers to develop as leaders in their field. The UK has a very poor record of gender balance in mathematical science researchers and ICMS strongly advises potential organisers on gender balance within their workshops and gives support for parents who need extra childcare because of attendance at ICMS events.
ICMS works with other institutes and organisations, most notably the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge, the learned societies of the mathematical sciences and the Research Councils, to ensure that the needs of UK mathematical sciences research are met efficiently and effectively effectively as recommended in a recent EPSRC Review. This proposal enhances the activity at ICMS and ensures the continued vitality of research in the UK.

Planned Impact

ICMS works with companies from the public and private sector to maximise the impact of the research. Recent participants include Toshiba, Siemens, National Grid, Thales, Dstl, Dyson, Public Health England, Mastercard, Rolls Royce, Zurich Insurance, NPL, Schlumberger, Microsoft, and Vodafone. We liaise closely with the Isaac Newton Institute and the Turing Gateway to Mathematics in Cambridge to ensure that activities are not duplicated and to deliver an efficient service to the mathematical science community and to end users of mathematics. ICMS employs a Knowledge Exchange Officer (KEO, 0.6FTE charged to this proposal) to provide advice and contacts for organisers of workshops. From 2018 we will be co-located in a new building with the Scottish Financial Risk Academy and informatics innovation centres such as Data Lab which will facilitate a new set of partnerships.
There are six principal types of benefit these companies can derive from their interactions with ICMS.
Direct engagement with the emerging mathematical science that underpins developments in their industry. Some of our workshops focus on the methodology behind important uses (e.g. New mathematics for a safer world: wave propagation in heterogeneous materials 2017), and participation at these workshops helps users scope future mathematical science influence on their practice.
Direct engagement with problems suggested by the industrial partner occurs at events such as the Modelling Camps. These also train early career researchers through the experience of working on industrial problems.
Community building though workshops with direct industrial focus. These workshops focus on directly relevant problems and include talks on current practice from industrial participants and potential developments from the mathematical scientists. As well as knowledge transfer, such meetings can create lasting connections between academics and users. These are fostered by the KEO after the meeting (e.g. Mathematics of Measurement, 2017).
Research Partnerships with Industry, which provide time and space for small groups of academics and industrial partners to work on a proof of concept or final report. These are designed to facilitate interactions between academics and non-academic partners to strengthen the outputs and maximise the impact of their interaction.
Knowledge transfer, which is embedded in our workshop programme planning. Workshop organisers work with the KEO to identify areas of broader industrial application and speakers with the industrial experience so that participants attend special industrial sessions to learn about application problems in particular areas (e.g. Trapped waves and wave radiation in fluid mechanics 2016).
Scoping sessions to feed in to larger UK initiatives to engage mathematical sciences with industrially relevant problems (e.g. Improving the data analytics process 2015, which was sponsored by the ATI).
Due to the broad scope of the workshops, companies from any industry could become involved with ICMS. This is reflected in the different industries represented by the companies mentioned above. To manage this breadth the services of the KEO are vital, and our practice echoes the Research Councils UK policy document Impact through knowledge exchange ( to ensure that we have maximum impact and maximum flexibility in engagement outside academia. There are two forms of dedicated KE meetings in the proposal (beyond the KE activity through the research programmes). The KE Community meetings ensure that the UK Knowledge Exchange community works together to provide the most effective and efficient mechanisms to engage with end users of the mathematical sciences. The industry/academia meetings will build on ideas in workshops to create further meetings to assess the potential of collaborations and provide avenues to develop ideas directly relevant to end users.


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