Making connections and creating impact

The Smith Institute collaborates with the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) to help Innovate UK drive innovation by coordinating community engagement and facilitating knowledge exchange.

The problem

The world faces major challenges - whether climate change, resource use or the ageing population - which create global market opportunities for new solutions. The companies and countries which can innovate, successfully exploiting new ideas, most rapidly are likely to gain the most benefit.

Innovative businesses are more productive and typically grow twice as fast as businesses that fail to innovate, and innovative economies are more competitive, respond better to change, and see higher returns on investment and increased living standards. To accelerate economic growth, Innovate UK helps businesses bring innovative products and services more quickly to market. They spot opportunities, help businesses connect with knowledge and facilities, bring partners together and provide funding through competitions to de-risk promising innovation projects.

Knowledge transfer is critical in enabling UK businesses to compete successfully at the forefront of global technology and innovation. The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is one of Innovate UK's key tools for doing this – facilitating the UK's innovation communities to connect, collaborate and find out about new opportunities in key research and technology sectors. The aim of the KTN is not only to bring individuals, communities and businesses together in priority areas identified by Innovate UK, but also to support economic growth and wealth creation more generally, improving alignment with the Government’s Industrial Strategy and the Eight Great Technologies.

Industrial Mathematics (IM) is naturally a cross-cutting subject area; unlike many of the other communities which cover a specific sector or application area, IM can and should be applied across all sectors. For example, consider mathematical modelling as an area of expertise in IM. Modelling can be applied to all communities whether it is mapping trajectories of aircraft, predicting wind speed for energy firms, providing decision support for health professionals, or optimising the efficiency of a manufacturing process.

Hence, to facilitate knowledge transfer and stimulate innovative opportunities, it is important for the IM community to be connected in a visible, accessible and transferable way across all other KTN communities.

The solution

The Smith Institute has specialist expertise in IM and a breadth of experience across different types of KTN activity which can be used to help the KTN maximise the impact of the company by supporting the delivery of a programme of work regarding the mathematical sciences.

Thus, a collaboration agreement between the KTN and the Smith Institute has been formed, demonstrating that the Smith Institute will support activities relevant to the Industrial Mathematics community to help the KTN achieve its objectives for Innovate UK.

The programme of work which is delivered by the Smith Institute under this collaboration agreement promotes knowledge transfer, networking and collaboration, as well as the running of events to facilitate the gathering of essential information in order to accelerate and expand UK economic growth and wealth creation.

Since the launch of the KTN on 1st April 2014, approved tasks that the Smith Institute has provided support for and which are currently underway include:

  • Core Community Engagement Event (Briefing Notes);
  • Bi-annual Industrial Mathematics Plenary Meetings (Proceedings 01/15);
  • Data Science: Exploring the Mathematical Foundations (Report);
  • Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Capability Mapping (Summary);
  • European Study Group with Industry (ESGI 107);
  • Mathematics in Agriculture;
  • Inverse Problems and Optimisation in Uncertainty Quantification (UQ);
  • Uncertainty Quantification and Management in HVM (29-30 June 2015);
  • Digital Data Pit-stop: a 3-day study group (TBC);
  • Mathematics in Energy (TBC).

The benefit

The collaboration agreement and task approval process in place means that the Smith Institute can deliver a programme of work on an ongoing basis for the KTN and Innovate UK. This model supports the evolving structure, dynamic requirements and shifting demand of mathematical science in industry, and facilitates a flexible, responsive and effective environment within which the Smith Institute and the KTN can work together to efficiently achieve their aims.

By working together, the KTN and the Smith Institute can create a foundation of strong and versatile links between Industrial Mathematics and other communities, which are vital for the successful accomplishment of the KTN objectives.

Furthermore, the flexible programme of work being delivered by the Smith Institute and the KTN aims to support the following general benefits of knowledge transfer networks:

  • Improving business performance through innovation and new collaborations by driving the flow of people, knowledge and experience between business and the science-base, between businesses and across sectors;
  • Driving knowledge transfer between the supply and demand sides of technology-enabled markets through a high quality, easy to use service;
  • Facilitating innovation and knowledge transfer by providing UK businesses with the opportunity to meet and network with individuals and organisations, in the UK and internationally;
  • Providing a forum for a coherent business voice to inform government of its technology needs and about issues, such as regulation, which are enhancing or inhibiting innovation in the UK.

The creation 15 years ago of the Industrial Mathematics Faraday Partnership, and later the Industrial Mathematics Knowledge Transfer Network, has proven to be a particular success, in no small part due to the excellent leadership of the Smith Institute. It has provided a forum for interaction between academic mathematicians, large businesses and SMEs, and government departments and agencies.

Iain Gray CBE, FREngFormer Chief Executive of Innovate UK

The work of the Industrial Mathematics KTN has been recognised as outstanding, a testament to the hard work of the Smith Institute. The community assembled and the ethos of this community is something the Knowledge Transfer Network is delighted to continue to support. The case for mathematics in industry is especially strong given its pervasive presence in most, if not all, of the Eight Great Technologies.

Chris WarkupChief Executive of the Knowledge Transfer Network

One way to maximise the impact of UK spend on innovation is by ensuring that the vital research being performed at UK universities is visible to industry, and that reasons for inabilities to industrially implement are identified and fed back to the funding councils, so that public money is intelligently resourced to benefit the UK economy. Working with the Smith Institute allows the KTN to access a wide range of mathematical capability that underpins much of the Innovate UK strategy which enables great innovation to happen.

Matt ButchersIndustrial Mathematics Champion of the Knowledge Transfer Network
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