International Centre for Mathematical Sciences Programme 2012-2016

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


The International Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Edinburgh is one of the UK's most important resources in the mathematical sciences. The centre's primary role is to organise research workshops in mathematics and related areas of science and to involve users from other sciences and industry in these activities.

In the 20 years since it was founded the centre has established a superb reputation for hosting well-organised meetings at the highest scientific level on the most important and innovative topics in the mathematical sciences. Proposed meetings are subjected to a rigorous reviewing process by referees of international standing and selected only if they are of very high quality. In any 2 or 3 year period, ICMS workshops cover an unusually broad and exciting range of topics.

The centre monitors quality through participant questionnaires, workshop reports that are assessed by the programme committee and is introducing follow up questionnaires asking participants to list collaborations and other research outcomes generated by meetings.

The centre has a dedicated knowledge transfer officer whose job is to identify potential users of new mathematical ideas from outside the academic community and to stage events (either in connection with research workshops or independently) to involve those users. Some 50 of the world's largest companies have sent representatives to ICMS meetings in the last 3 years, covering healthcare, the oil industry, the financial industry, defence, engine manufacture and computing.

ICMS also runs a research-in-groups programme to enable small groups of researchers to work together for a short period of intensive collaboration. It provides a particularly cost effective way of promoting international collaborations by UK scientists.

Research workshops play a particularly crucial role in the development of mathematics. Important research collaborations often begin at such meetings and early career researchers gain a significant part of their training at workshops and conferences. ICMS events have attracted many of the world's leading mathematicians to Britain and have involved many of the world leaders who work here. Younger prticipants, many of whom will later move into industry, also have a chance to make industrial contacts at these meetings.

Planned Impact

The modern world is based on mathematics. The codes that protect credit card details online are based on pure mathematics. CT scanners would be impossible without subtle mathematical algorithms to reconstruct 3-dimensional pictures of our bodies from 2-dimensional X-ray photographs. The theory of fluid flow is crucial for industrial processes such as wing and turbine design. Statistical methods for data compression based on recent mathematical advances are essential for the operation of digital devices like cameras. Error-correcting codes developed by mathematicians make possible the operation of CDs and DVDs. The list of human activities that depend upon research mathematics is almost endless.

The International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in Edinburgh is renowned for hosting research workshops of the highest quality across the whole range of the mathematical sciences. In a typical year ICMS brings some 500 of the world's most talented mathematicians and other scientists to its workshops: the potential impact outside the academic community is enormous and varied.

ICMS has a dedicated Knowledge Transfer (KT) officer who seeks out users from industry, commerce and the public services who depend upon mathematics to solve a huge range of problems. By bringing representatives of commercial and public organisations to meetings, ICMS not only enables the users to benefit from the lectures at each workshop but also facilitates contacts between academics and users which can then be pursued after the workshop. One of the biggest problems in transferring ideas into society is simply that of finding the right people and bringing them together. The KT officer at ICMS can do this very effectively because she has access to such a wide range of different mathematical expertise and because she has a well-developed network of commercial contacts.

For each ICMS event, the KT officer and the mathematical organisers of the event decide who could benefit from contacts with the mathematicians at that particular workshop and then approach the relevant beneficiaries. A recent conference on Data Compression attracted representatives from communications and defence companies. A recent workshop on Mathematical Epidemiology was sponsored in part by the European Centre for Disease Control, and representatives of the UK's Health Protection Agency attended the meeting.

ICMS has meetings scheduled for 2012 in the following areas with significant applications to users in industry or government.
Scale Transitions in Chemistry
Markov-Chain Monte-Carlo methods
Topological Data Analysis
Soap Bubbles and Foams
The research workshops for the period 2013-2018 have not been selected at the time of writing. The scientific director has solicited proposals or is in the process of soliciting proposals in the following fields which would have significant impact for a wide range of users.
*Mathematical Immunology
*Modelling of the Cardiac System
*Structured Materials
*Splashing of Liquids
*Systems Biology
*Cancer Modelling
*Gene sequencing

The value of these events to commercial and public users is very direct. Companies and government agencies build mathematical models and algorithms into their products. Research workshops alert the scientists in those companies to the latest developments in the relevant area and direct them to the most useful literature. There is also considerable indirect value to participants, especially younger ones, many of whom will move from the academic world into industry.

In addition to hosting KT events within research workshops, ICMS also hosts workshops dedicated solely to Knowledge Transfer. The centre recently organised a very successful series of KT workshops on mathematical problems in the Energy sector. The initial workshop dealt with 3 problems raised by industrial users and spun off a further two workshops on marine and tidal energy with a section on energy storage for wind farms.


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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. The current grant runs until 2016. The grant is supplemented by infrastructure support 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 Keith Ball was succeeded in 2014 by Professor David Abrahams), the centre has built on its existing strengths and expanded its activities. These currently include a series of collaborative workshops with the Indian Department of Science and Technology,
regular involvement in the Edinburgh International Science Festival, mathematics modelling camps and enhanced Knowledge Exchange activities. The established infrastructure of the centre now also enables it to provide national expertise for arranging possible bilateral and other research meetings.
Over the four year period from 2012 to 2015 inclusive, ICMS hosted a total of 39 EPSRC-funded events with a total of 8914 participant-days, and 132 events funded from other sources, with a total of 7131 participant-days. For the EPSRC-funded events, 47% of the participation was by UK delegates and 53% from overseas. Early-career researchers accounted for 34% of the participation; female participation was 20%.

Delegate feed-back is very positive: follow-up questionnaire responses from workshops indicate that a large proportion of the UK delegates start 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. 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 Exchange 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 Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

Description Knowledge transfer activities at ICMS have engaged many scientists, engineers and industrialists from a variety of sectors.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
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