International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Edinburgh 2008-2012 Programme

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


Organise workshops of high scientific quality and timeliness, emphasising emerging ideas and new applications with a rigorous review process.Support a programme of Research-in-Groups that enables mathematicians to work together during short periods of intensive study.Encourage interest in ICMS activities from interested parties outside the academic sector by the engagement of an Industrial Liaison Officer with that responsibility.


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Description The International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in Edinburgh is one of the UK's major resources in mathematics. Since 1990 the centre has established a superb reputation for hosting efficiently managed workshops at the highest scientific level covering a very broad range of mathematical topics. In recent years ICMS has seen a steady increase in the number of interdisciplinary proposals aimed at applications of mathematics in other fields; workshops have been hosted which combine mathematics with biology, physics, computer science, environmental science, geology and medicine.

Many - but not all - these workshops have been supported to some extent by grants from EPSRC. Initially these were individual grants to workshop organisers, but since 2004 ICMS has held grants in its own right, and carried out peer-review of workshop proposals through an international Programme Committee made up of leading mathematicians. This is the final report on the second of these grants, which ran from 2008 to 2012. The grant was supplemented by infrastructure support from the Scottish Funding Council and from the two host universities, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt.

The principal objectives of ICMS include: the promotion of research in the mathematical sciences in the UK and worldwide; the organisation of workshops of high scientific quality, especially in exciting new areas of mathematics and its applications; and the engagement of the public with scientific activity through public lectures, films and visits to schools. These objectives have been decisively furthered during the grant period. Led by two very active Scientific Directors (Professor John Toland was succeeded in 2010 by Professor Keith Ball), the centre has built on its existing strengths and expanded its activities. This was helped by a move to larger premises, with more useable lecture space, early in 2010, and enhanced facilities enabled by an additional equipment grant from EPSRC. The established infrastructure of the centre now also enables it to provide national expertise for arranging possible bilateral and other research meetings.

The centre hosted a total of 43 (against its commitment to 42) EPSRC workshops during the grant period, with a total of 2481 delegates. The centre was able to surpass its commitment largely thanks to visitors' use of their own funds for travel. Owing to the broad range of topics, there is little overlap between attendees at different workshops, so the 4 year grant will have benefited some 2000 scientists. Of these, 34% were based in the UK; and another 30% in the rest of Europe. Research workshops play a crucial role in the academic development of young mathematical scientists: 35% of delegates were under 35 years of age. 14% of delegates were female: higher than the proportion of women among UK mathematicians.

Delegate feed-back is very positive: follow-up questionnaire responses from the 2011 workshops indicate that over half the UK delegates started new collaborations as a result of the workshops.

In addition to the workshop programme, the EPSRC grant is used in support of the ICMS Research in Groups (RiGs) programme, initiated in 2008 at the start of the grant period. This enables small groups of researchers to get together in Edinburgh for extended periods of collaboration. RiGs funding is supplemented by additional support from the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and by the Glasgow Mathematical Journal Trust. It has proved extremely popular and successful.

The centre's dedicated part-time knowledge transfer officer has been very successful in securing the involvement of commercial and industrial participants at interdisciplinary workshops, and in enhancing the centre's public engagement activity via public lectures and school activities by workshop speakers.
Exploitation Route ICMS workshops cover a diverse range of mathematical topics, including applications to multiple branches of science and technology. Delegate feedback indicates that many new research connections are made, and new collaborations started, at ICMS workshops.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Knowledge transfer activities at ICMS have engaged many scientists, engineers and industrialists from a variety of sectors.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

Description ICMS Public Lecture Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact These public engagement events cover a wide range of topics in the mathematical sciences and their applications. Audiences are varied but typically include a broad mix. Reactions form the public are generally very positive: talks spark lively debate and questions.

Increased interest in mathematics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017