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Mathematics for the modern economy

Scientific meeting


09:30 - 20:00


The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


© maximmmmum

Industrial mathematics is of significant importance to the UK economy, cutting across many high-value industry sectors, including engineering, finance, defence, life sciences and even sports and entertainment.

To maintain their position and economic benefit, such industries must strive to be advanced, inventive and creative. The same argument also applies to more conventional sectors, such as agriculture, utilities and manufacturing. In all cases, there is a clear need for problems to be defined in a sensible mathematical way and solved to yield the best economic and social outcomes using appropriate, often innovative, mathematical techniques.  

Industrial mathematics is currently responding to the uncertain data-rich world which industry now confronts. It is doing this by developing and applying tools that can take account of the uncertainty that can arise in many different situations and can lead to many statistical patterns.  All the while, industry-driven problem-solving is expanding remorselessly, leading to ever increasing challenges for the whole mathematics community.

Attending this event

This conference will bridge the gap between the UK’s expertise in industrial mathematics and those who apply it, whether in industry, government or other academic disciplines. It is aimed at mathematicians, scientists, engineers and professionals working in industry, academia or government. The conference concludes with an exhibition and drinks reception sponsored by The Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and System Engineering.

Smith institute for industrial mathematics and system engineering

For more information, please contact the Industry Team.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

28 June




Session 1

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Professor John Ockendon FRS, Emeritus Fellow of St Catherine's College, University of Oxford

09:30-09:35 Welcome remarks

Professor Alexander Halliday FRS, Vice President (Physical Secretary), the Royal Society

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09:35-10:15 Network modelling, social applications and consumers

Professor Mason Porter, UCLA
Chris Brooks, Head of Science, dunnhumby


Many problems in industry - and in the social, natural, information and medical sciences - involve discrete data and benefit from approaches from subjects such as network science, information theory, optimization, probability, and statistics. Because the study of networks is concerned explicitly with connectivity between different entities, it has become very prominent in industrial settings, and this importance has been accentuated further amidst the modern data deluge. In this talk, Mason Porter will discuss the role of network analysis in industrial and applied mathematics focusing on a physical-applied-mathematics approach to the study of networks.  He will give some examples of network science in industry including his collaboration with dunnhumby, a customer data science company.  Chris Brooks from dunnhumby will also give a short description of applied mathematics and network science at dunnhumby, and how academic partnerships are an important part of keeping dunnhumby’s research at the cutting edge.

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10:15-10:50 Industry-driven mathematical problem-solving in Korea

Professor Hyungju Park, President, National Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Korea


While the mathematical culture in Korea heavily leans towards pure side, new initiatives jointly launched by the math community and the government is rapidly introducing industrial mathematics for addressing problems arising in industry. This talk aims to introduce the initiatives and outline several prominent industrial problems that were successfully solved during the process.

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Coffee and networking


Session 2

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11:20-12:00 Mathematics delivering the advantage: from manufacturing to finance

Dr Helen Haworth
Dr Vicki Saward


Dr Vicki Saward:

Much has been written about the benefits that mathematics can bring to the UK economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, but less on the value of mathematicians and a mathematical training. This talk considers the value of mathematicians to the UK’s industrial base and the importance to the UK economy of encouraging young people in the UK to choose to study mathematics at school as a gateway to a wide range of careers. The points are illustrated using examples from the author’s 20 years’ experience in the security and intelligence and manufacturing sectors.

Dr Helen Haworth:

The global financial crises of the last ten years have resulted in widespread focus on the global financial markets and their relationship with the global economic outlook. In turn, many financial market participants have received considerable scrutiny, with a particular focus on the role that quantitative models may have played in adding to market volatility. 

This talk will look at the evolving role of mathematics in the financial industry against this backdrop. We discuss some of the quantitative approaches used by different types of financial market participants, illustrating both the positive and negative influence mathematics can have via a number of case studies. In doing so, we further draw out the similarities and differences with the application of mathematics in manufacturing. 

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Session 3 - Opportunities for harnessing mathematics

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Dr Robert Leese, Chief Technology Officer, The Smith Institute

Mayesta Ewer, Head of Analytics, NATS

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High Performance Computing for Nuclear Security Applications

Professor Andrew Randewich, AWE plc, UK


Mathematics has always been at the heart of scientific endeavour but the arrival of the computation era has radically changed the application of mathematics to modern problems. This talk will discuss the advent and development of high performance computing for simulation, and the consequent ability to make empirical methods, which remain essential, more targeted and cost effective. Future changes in computer architectures will provide new opportunities but also challenges to effective exploitation of the potential of the hardware. Reference and examples will be drawn from the nuclear security enterprise.

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Mathematics for the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

Dr Malcolm Skingle CBE, GSK


Mathematics underpins all research, development and manufacturing in the modern pharmaceutical industry. The volume and complexity of the data generated within R&D is increasing and we need to get smarter at analysing these data sets in order to decrease attrition and develop more innovative medicines.

The range of mathematical techniques being used routinely by the industry is also on the rise. Traditional statistical techniques are still used in both pre-clinical and clinical studies but they are now being supplemented by sophisticated techniques such as topological data analysis (TDA).

For example, TDA has been used to identify gene signatures that are associated with improved survival outcomes in patients with breast cancer. Similarly, algorithms have been developed to differentiate healthy and diseased tissue, a task previously assigned to a highly trained histologist. This talk will cite several examples where mathematics is used to advance the discovery and development of new medicines.

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Dr Mark Taylor, Global Strategy & Research Director, Dyson

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Session 4

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14:00-14:35 The use of modelling in golf

Dr Steve Otto, Director – Equipment Standards, The R&A


At its core, like many other sports, golf is a game of integers. The minimisation of the strokes played is generally what determines the winner, whether each of these are associated with the shortest of putts or the longest of drives. Understanding the mechanics of golf necessitates the development of models and this is coupled more often than not to the use of statistics. In essence the individual aspects of the sport can be modelled adequately via fairly simplistic models, but the presence of a human at one end of the kinetic chain has a significant impact on the variability of the entire process.

In this presentation we will review the way that mathematics has been used to develop the understanding of the physical processes involved in the sport, including the Rules. We will also discuss some of the challenges going forward.

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14:35-15:10 Mathematics making a difference

Professor Mark Girolami, Imperial College

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15:10-15:50 Innovative industrial maths in large companies and in Europe

Dr Poul Hjorth, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics, Technical University of Denmark
Dr Chris Farmer, Research Fellow, Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics


Dr Poul Hjorth:

A brief review of how Industrial Mathematics, inspired by the Oxford Study Group activity, organised itself in Europe, gave rise to the European Consortium For Mathematics in Industry (ECMI), the series of European Study Groups with Industry (ESGI), and to new modes of productive contacts between industry and applied mathematicians in academia.

Dr Chris Farmer:

A mathematical model can be analysed to construct policies for action that are close to optimal for the model. If the model is accurate, such policies will be close to optimal when implemented in the real world. The different aspects of an ideal workflow are reviewed: modelling, forecasting, evaluating forecasts, data assimilation, and constructing control policies for decision-making. The example of the oil industry is used to motivate the discussion, and other examples, such as weather forecasting and precision agriculture, are used to argue that the same mathematical ideas apply in different contexts.

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Coffee and networking


Session 5

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16:20-17:00 Computing reality in entertainment and product design

Dr Lincoln Wallen, CEO, DWA NOVA LLC


Received wisdom puts the “mean-time to commercial impact” of mathematical insight on the order of decades.  Today, engineering and financial services companies, amongst others, exploit mathematics on timescales measured in years or months.  With the new “computing continuum” - architectures that scale smoothly from highly parallel micro-computing (many-core) to massively parallel macro-computing (many-machine or cloud) - the prospect of solving higher order differential equations in milliseconds, reduces the mean-time to commercial impact of mathematics to real time; taking the people and tools that modify and solve such equations to the heart of everyday design processes.  We illustrate these developments with examples from the entertainment and consumer product industries, show the type of innovations in data structures and architecture required to support such high-performance equation solving, and point to a future in which the continuous real-time solution of families of differential equation sits at the heart of every successful business enterprise.  Needless to say, in such a world mathematical mastery, not just literacy, becomes the key to commercial success.

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Panel discussion

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Professor Julian Hunt FRS, University College London

17:00-18:00 Panelists (confirmed)

Dr Marianna Braza, Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse
Dr Ruth McKernan CBE FMedSci, Chief Executive, Innovate UK
Professor Philip Bond, Council for Science and Technology

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Exhibition and drinks reception

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18:00-20:00 Exhibition


The drinks reception will include an exhibition featuring important representatives from the mathematical community, on hand to answer questions in a relaxed and informal setting and provide literature for delegates to take away. 

The exhibition and drinks reception is sponsored by The Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and System Engineering. The Smith Institute specialises in solving complex problems for businesses and governments by applying mathematical thinking and techniques. We build trusted relationships with our clients, offering expert insight to support informed decision-making and reduce risk.

Mathematics for the modern economy

A conference to showcase the potential for mathematics to be applied across multiple industry sectors.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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