The first European hub connecting mathematics and industry is created in Spain | Press release

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  • Mathematical tools such as 'machine learning' and 'deep learning', statistics, simulation, modelling and 'big data' are able to contribute to an efficient, competitive and more resilient industrial sector in the event of a crisis.
  • The node, with more than thirty entities - including companies such as Repsol and BBVA AI Factory, and high-level research centres - will be the growth ground for collaborations to solve major challenges related to health, demographic change, the climate crisis and energy production.
  • In addition, it will act as a 'one-stop shop' so that any company, especially SMEs, will have at its disposal all the knowledge to solve problems such as process optimisation, digitisation and connectivity between them.



Friday 21 May 2021. During the deep crisis that began in 2008, an average of almost 10 per cent of jobs were lost annually in Spain over the next four years, a figure that only reached two per cent in mathematically intensive firms. Now, almost a decade later, the impact of covid-19 has once again destroyed eight out of every 100 jobs, except that, this time, the industries that digitised and optimised their processes by incorporating mathematical tools have not only not been hit hard, but have actually increased their workforces, according to data from a study carried out by AFI in 2019 and promoted by the Andalusian Institute of Mathematics. Now, the Spanish Mathematics-Industry Network (math-in) has created the Spanish Platform for Modelling, Simulation and Optimisation Technologies in a Digital Environment, the first hub in the field of mathematics in Spain and Europe, which promises to be a melting pot where this discipline and industry come together.

"All mathematical technologies are translated into algorithms that, when introduced into the computer, can take advantage of the information gathered by control tools, such as sensors, to obtain optimal digitised results that are easily integrated into the systems that the company already has installed," explains Peregrina Quintela, who is, as of today, the president of the Platform. This discipline of science is the silent basis of many daily advances. They are in the early detection of stroke; in indoor GPS systems where, even if no satellite signal reaches them, they guide patients through the corridors of a hospital to the door of their surgery; in sprinklers that do not water if it rains; in rubbish trucks that trace the most convenient route depending on which containers are full; in the detection of leaks and disproportionate water consumption, in the detection of covid-19 in wastewater... Behind all of them there is modelling, artificial intelligence algorithms, machine and deep learning, among others, which feed on the data generated in an increasingly digital world to achieve a qualitative leap in a process.

The great potential of mathematics to solve real challenges explains why large companies such as Repsol, Petronor, BBVA AI Factory and TSK, among many others, have already joined the initiative. "They are active members of the Platform and its working groups, and they define the strategies to address the challenges they face, which will thus be very much geared to the real needs of industry. Because it's one thing for us in academia to imagine what they are and quite another for the companies themselves to be involved in defining them," says the researcher, who is also president of math-in.

The research field is represented by leading national centres such as the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (BCAM), the Technological Institute for Industrial Mathematics (ITMATI); more than a dozen public universities; and national groups such as the Spanish Society of Applied Mathematics (SeMA) and the Spanish Society of Statistics and Operations Research (SEIO); among many others. To further boost the interaction between the two poles - industry and academia - the Platform will organise events where both can meet. It will also serve as a catalyst for the creation of consortia and projects that are eligible for public and private funding.

One-stop shop

The more than thirty entities that currently make up the Platform "are behind this kind of one-stop shop where any company can present its needs, without having to go from one institution to another", explains Alba Márquez, technology translator at the Platform's Technical Secretariat. This is especially relevant for SMEs, which do not necessarily have their own research and innovation department, and thus have at their disposal all the leading mathematical disciplines to solve their daily problems. The ultimate goal is to "contribute to an efficient, safe, sustainable, resilient and competitive industrial sector", adds Quintela.

"From the Platform we seek a greater impact and return to society of the resources funded through basic research in the field of mathematics, the first link of the chain", continues Quintela. For this reason, part of its efforts are aimed at providing solutions to three "Societal Challenges" that the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020 has identified as strategic. Specifically, those referring to Health, Demographic Change and Welfare; Safe, Efficient and Clean Energy; and Climate Change and Use of Natural Resources and Raw Materials.

Another "key" aspect is the subsequent transfer of scientific results, she says. To this end, dissemination actions will be carried out for the academic world, industry, those responsible for formulating scientific policies, and the general public. This will also raise awareness of the great potential of mathematics in the challenges that humanity needs to solve, incorporate new public and private entities into the platform, and make the return to society of the results of research activity financed mainly by public funds more visible.

The Platform, which also incorporates Bartomeu Coll (Universitat de les Illes Balears) as vice-president, is funded by the State Research Agency, Ministry of Science and Innovation, within the call for grants to Technology and Innovation Platforms, of the State Programme for Research, Development and Innovation Oriented to the Challenges of Society, in the framework of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020. The initiative, with reference PTR2020-001163, is also supported by the Mathematics-Industry Thematic Network (RTmath-in, RED2018-102514-T), funded by MCIU-AEI.



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