A COST Action has helped deliver innovative solutions to 80 organisations through the power of maths. Study Groups in MI-NET gave companies ways to increase production and showed non-profit bodies and governments how to better use resources.
Mathematics drives science and technology. With good access to maths experts, organisations can improve their processes and better use their resources. Enter COST Action ‘Mathematics for Industry Network’ (MI-NET), founded in 2015, to remedy this lack. In addition to the workshops, short-term scientific missions and training events typical of COST Actions, mathematical scientists in the 32-country MI-NET network held 21 European Study Groups with Industry (ESGIs) across Europe. The approach used in these groups was developed in the United Kingdom in 1968. During week-long meetings, maths researchers work on problems together with companies, NGOs and government authorities, such as ways to save materials or to better distribute health care.
There is a lot of untapped potential in these Study Groups for companies. COST significantly increased the number of ESGIs and the range of real-life challenges they addressed.Dr Katerina Kaouri, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, Cardiff University, UK
Overall, MI-NET worked with 80 non-academic organisations. “Maths can be applied to any reallife challenge,” explains Dr Katerina Kaouri of Cardiff University in the UK and lead organiser of two MI-NET ESGIs held in her home country Cyprus. Experienced mathematicians screened problems submitted by businesses and organisations. “This allowed us to choose challenges with value for organisations and for researchers,” says Kaouri. “There is a lot of untapped potential in these Study Groups for companies. COST significantly increased the number of ESGIs and the range of real-life challenges they addressed,” she adds.
ACCESS TO EXPERTISE
The Cyprus Study Groups are testament to this potential. For example, an SME, Engino, asked the island’s first ESGI how to automatically generate toy assembly instructions to reduce costs and increase its product range. According to Kaouri, the research team quickly published their innovative approach in an academic journal and are discussing follow-on development of the concept with Engino.
In the second ESGI in Cyprus, one team worked on improving innovative medical testing and air filters and another on reducing tugboat fuel consumption in ports. A third identified barriers to women in science, potentially harming Cyprus’ competitiveness. “This generated an important discussion in Cyprus,” Kaouri says.
Links with EU projects such as SciShops extended the maths-society collaboration. And to expand the use of ESGIs, MI-NET held 12 modelling weeks to train young researchers in industrial mathematics. It also created handbooks on how to set up ESGIs and modelling weeks, along with a challenge case-study booklet. Non-academic organisations pay to take part in ESGIs, with SMEs and NGOs paying low or no fees. “We wanted to provide R&D to organisations that would not otherwise have access to academic expertise.” Kaouri explains. “We activated this kind of academia-industry collaboration in parts of the world where this had not been done before.”