International Centre for Mathematical Sciences

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


The International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) in Edinburgh is one of the UK's principal resources in the mathematical sciences. It is an independent hub with multifarious roles, serving in distinctive ways the international community, the UK as a whole, the north of England and Scotland, and the local communities and Universities of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt. ICMS is committed to helping close the gender gap, widen participation, and broaden access by early career researchers (ECRs) in mathematical sciences. Thanks to the significant leverage from other financial sources, the Centre's impact to mathematics and science, as one of the two main UK foci (the other being the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which serves a complementary role to ICMS), is significantly greater than merely the sum of its core activities arising from its EPSRC funding.

In almost a quarter century since it was founded, ICMS has established a world-leading reputation for hosting bespoke workshops at the highest scientific level on the most timely and innovative topics in the mathematical sciences and related areas. Proposed meetings are subjected to a rigorous reviewing process by referees of international standing. In any 2 or 3 year period, ICMS workshops cover an unusually broad and exciting range of topics. In addition ICMS runs a Research-in-Groups (RiGs) programme to enable small groups of researchers to work together for a short period of intensive collaboration; this provides a particularly cost effective way of promoting international collaborations by UK scientists.

The Centre has a dedicated Knowledge Exchange Officer (KEO) whose job is to identify potential users of mathematics from outside the academic community and to stage events (either in conjunction 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 industries and engine manufacture and computing. The KEO also helps stimulate interdisciplinary activity within the workshop programme.

ICMS runs an active programme of public outreach activities that are coordinated by a Public Engagement Officer and an Expert Panel consisting of leading academics and specialists in public engagement. Events include a public lecture series (which includes presentations by selected participants at the ICMS workshops), events for schools, exhibitions, walking tours, doors-open activities and participation in the Edinburgh International Science Festival (EISF). There have been approximately 30 events in recent years with over 2200 participants.

Research workshops play a crucial role in the development of mathematics. Important research collaborations often begin at such meetings and ECRs gain a significant part of their training at workshops and conferences. ICMS attracts many of the world's leading mathematicians to Britain and likewise its workshops involve many of the leading protagonists who work here. The ECRs, many of whom will later move into industry, also have a chance to make industrial contacts at ICMS gatherings.

Planned Impact

ICMS aims to become a major independent hub for supporting industrial and applicable mathematics, assisting universities in achieving their own goals, supporting and training early and mid-career researchers, and facilitating networking opportunities between academics and end users.

ICMS has a dedicated knowledge Exchange Officer (KEO) whose role is to maximise relevant cross-disciplinary, industrial, and public engagement activity during the standard ICMS workshops.

This proposal will enable ICMS to:
1. Organise/host 15 EPSRC workshops of high scientific quality, including appropriate KE activities
2. Organise/host 3 stand-alone KE meetings
3. Organise/host 2 public engagement (PE) training events
4. Administer and oversee a Follow-on Fund
5. Provide general KE and PE support to the UK Maths community

Academic Impact

Feedback shows that the primary benefits to academics of ICMS workshops and RiGs visits are exposure to new research ideas/results/techniques and establishing/strengthening research collaborations. This impact is outlined in the 'Academic Beneficiaries' Section and hence not repeated here.

To enhance post-workshop impact a Follow-On Fund is proposed, which will enable delegates to undertake research visits etc. to strengthen collaborations made during the workshop. This will have the added benefit of enabling ICMS to better track some of the specific impacts arising from its meetings (especially in regard to cross-disciplinary and industrial impact).

In addition to the standard workshops and proposed stand-alone KE activities, ICMS provides the infrastructure and resource to host/organise a wide range of events on behalf of the wider UK Maths Community, e.g. a series of recent ATI scoping studies.

Economic Impact

ICMS promotes the involvement of industry, commerce, government departments, other research organisations etc. in its workshops. This is via week-long participation or the provision of tailored open sessions.

Industrial participation in a workshop is regularly cited as a highlight by academic participants. Feedback from non-academics is similarly very positive, stating the establishment of new contacts/collaboration as the primary benefit. Recently, a number of industrial delegates have suggested that articulating the findings/latest research internally within their organisations is a key priority after the workshops. The range of industrial participants reflects the diverse array of workshop topics. In 2015, there were delegates from a wide variety of different sectors, from which companies included Vodafone, Thales, Astra Zeneca, Mastercard, Schlumberger, Microsoft, Dstl and the Met Office. Supplementing the standard workshops with stand-alone KE activity will significantly increase the extent of non-academic participation. (In 2015, two stand-alone KE activities realised the same number of industrial participants as the 14 EPSRC workshops.)

Accordingly, it is anticipated that during the proposal lifetime there will be at least 75 industrial/government department participants. Furthermore, approximately 20-30 of those delegates will be from the Finance or Energy Sectors (the anticipated topics for the stand-alone events). The other delegates will be from a diverse array of sectors reflecting the wide range of mathematical topics covered.

Societal Impact

With over 30 events and 2200 participants in recent years, ICMS public lectures and other events have showcased UK and international mathematics research to a broad cross section of the general public. Based on previous workshop programmes, ICMS would predict a minimum of 10 public lectures, with a cumulative audience of over 600 for this proposal.

The proposal includes a further plan to provide subject specific public engagement training for 70-90 UK ECR mathematicians. The training will cover a wide range of communication avenues, from books, through social media to stand-up mathematics.


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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 is an interim award from October 2016 to March 2018 while an application for longer term funding is being prepared. 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 continued to be furthered during the grant period. Led by a very active Scientific Directors (Professor Paul Glendinning), the centre is builing on its existing strengths and expanding its activities. These currently include a wide-ranging workshop programme, 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. From October 2016 to March 2017, ICMS has hosted 3 EPSRC-funded events with a total of 389 participant days, and 21 events funded from other sources, with 459 participant days. For the EPSRC-funded events, 67% of the participation was by UK delegates and 33% from overseas. Early-career researchers accounted for 37% of the participation; female participation was 25%. 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.
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport,Other
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