Study groups with industry: what is the value?

Posted on: 20/09/2019

A report from academics and KTN’s Industrial Mathematics expert has looked at the impact of study groups on industry

Mathematical science study groups with industry have, for over 50 years, been a vital mechanism for mathematical scientists to meet industry representatives and work towards practical solutions in structured, multi-day sessions.


Beginning in Oxford in 1968, the format has propagated internationally and in the UK has evolved to become an important and flexible intervention tool by Innovate UK to engage mathematical sciences in topics of key importance; from energy systems, to agriculture.


A report from Dr¬†Martine Barons, director of the Applied Statistics & Risk Unit (AS&RU) at the University of Warwick, Chris Budd OBE, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath, Dr Joanna Jordan, freelance mathematics knowledge exchange specialist¬†and Matt Butchers, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager, Industrial Mathematics has looked at the subject in detail.


Benefits to industry

The report’s findings show that for the companies who take part, there is good evidence that the¬†study groups both save time and money for the companies and also generate new projects for both small and large companies. In many cases the estimated value in terms of real value of new projects and the value of time saved on existing projects exceeds ¬£100,000. For the companies contacted, there was also evidence that the study groups had led to many new partnerships and jobs. Study groups also enjoy repeat business from many companies.


Benefits to mathematics

Whilst it is difficult to assess the long term impact of study groups on the development of mathematics, it is certainly true that work on problems arising in them has led directly to the development of such areas as free boundary problems, non-smooth dynamical systems, exponential asymptotic and financial mathematics for example.


Benefits to academia

In the survey of 64 academics, 46 journal papers were easily identified as coming directly from study group problems with topics as varied as: rotor dynamics, crystals, machine learning, vortex dynamics, material science, PDEs, ODEs, network theory, signal processing, inverse problems, environmental science, chemical engineering, rheology, non-smooth dynamics, uncertainty quantification and financial maths.


To access the full report, click here.


KTN has run successful mathematical study groups with industry in a range of different sectors. ¬†It is currently planning one to be held in early 2020 in the Geospatial sector. ¬†Whether you’re in industry and have a potential challenge to be solved, or a UK university researcher, find out how to get involved here.

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