Friday, March 11, 2022. Innovation is the spearhead of business competitiveness and a key element in improving the well-being of society as a whole. And yet, in our country, less than 20% of small industries and 39% of large ones have a specific R&D department, warns the first Barometer on Innovation (2021) prepared by the international consulting firms Leyton and Kantar. Among the causes, he points out the lack of an innovative ecosystem, the scarcity or the high cost of talent; and difficulties in accessing finance. To respond to this urgent need, a pioneering innovation desk in Europe is set up, which places the most cutting-edge mathematical research teams in Spain, both from the academic world and the private sector, at the disposal of industry and its needs. . It is a collaborative strategy that takes advantage of the experience of research centers and large companies, which already have success stories implemented in their businesses. Its launch will take place in a face-to-face event -which can be followed in streaming- in Madrid on Wednesday, March 16 (registration is essential before March 14, at 11:00).
Process improvement, optimization, logistics, identification of incidents in physical processes, energy saving… Any entity will be able to expose their daily problems in this hub that will act as a single window, without having to go from institution to institution looking for who can solve it. In a single point you will be offered the most appropriate solutions based on cutting-edge mathematical technologies, such as machine and deep learning, statistics, simulation, modeling and big data, among many others.
The initiative is especially useful for SMEs, since it will allow them to innovate without the need to have their own research staff. “We have the ambition that in this way we can contribute to developing an efficient, safe, sustainable, resilient and competitive industrial fabric,” explains Peregrina Quintela, president of the Spanish Platform for Modeling, Simulation and Optimization Technologies in a Digital Environment (PET MSO-ED), promoter of the hub.
The key element that makes the desk a pioneer in Europe is that the evaluation of the need raised by the entity and the resolution proposal will not only be carried out by leading academic entities, but also by R&D teams, from companies such as AIS Group, a specialist in the development of artificial intelligence applications, and AnySolution, among many others. “This represents a paradigm shift in innovation with mathematical technologies as it promotes a more complete and continuous two-way knowledge transfer between academia and industry”, points out Quintela. The researcher considers this aspect so important that, from her position as vice-president of the European Mathematics and Industry Network (EU-MATHS-IN), she is replicating this single window model at a community level, although, for the time being, they do not participate. private groups when offering alternatives.
Among the aid providers there are universities and research centers such as the Polytechnic of Cartagena, the University of Valencia, the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics and the Center for Research and Mathematical Technology of Galicia, among many others. Also, there are technological centers such as AIMEN, the Galician supercomputer; and companies such as AIS Group, a pioneer in the introduction of artificial intelligence in Spain, and AnySolution, to name a few. Coordinating everything from the Platform’s technical office will be the Spanish Mathematics-Industry Network (math-in).
Mathematics is the silent foundation of many everyday advances. It is fundamental in the forecasts of covid-19: incidence, deaths, expansion of the different strains… It is also the technology used by leading hospitals to predict hospital discharges and surgeries one day in advance based on history of patients and their biological variables -blood pressure, blood parameters…-, suitably digitized. In these centers, free beds and operating rooms are a precious resource.
In addition, this discipline of science focuses its efforts on making better use of other strategic elements such as energy and water. For example, in a country like Spain, with an endemic drought and so many kilometers of coastline, desalination plants can be an interesting production alternative. But one of their problems is that they require a lot of electricity. Improving the efficiency of the installation, determining consumption peaks that can be made to coincide with the moments of greatest energy availability, predicting and preventing maintenance… All this is the subject of mathematical technologies. As is the fight against fires, the prediction of tsunamis, identifying soils susceptible to erosion and the early detection of strokes.
Health, energy and environment. These are three of the “Challenges of Society” that the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020 marked as strategic. And although from the hub and the Platform they are going to be given a certain priority, “we are eager for various problems that they may pose to us,” Quintela points out. For example, machine learning technologies can be used to better understand customer behavior and increase customer satisfaction with a given company. They also help create high-resolution maps of carbon stocks that allow better decisions to be made regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
Fast and cheap
“Depending on the degree of maturity of the use of these technologies that the entity that contacts us is already making, we either accompany them in the pre-diagnosis phase trying to identify if we can help them and in what subjects, or, for already users, spend to the diagnostic phase”, says Quintela. Be that as it may, between one and two weeks after the request at the counter, the requesting entity may have a meeting with the specialists of the most appropriate mathematical fields. “We offer a much shorter response time than usual when seeking advice of this type,” says the researcher. In addition, it is cheap: the complete diagnosis and the proposal of solutions based on mathematical tools costs 500 euros, a service that is free for members of the platform.
“Not only do we provide solutions, which in the end is the most important thing, but also see different formats in which that solution can be carried out; we try to adapt to the peculiarities of each institution that calls the counter”, he continues. It may only require a specific action with a certain work group, or it may be more efficient to organize a technological meeting to try to glimpse what is being done in a specific field and make more contrasted decisions, a service that is also available in the hub.
Another possible solution may be to open a collaborative project and present it to the European Union to obtain co-financing. In this case, math-in, being the Spanish node of the 19 countries that make up the EU-MATHS-IN, also facilitates the attainment of international partners. “Our participation through math-in in EU-MATHS-IN makes it especially easy for us to find partners to form a consortium at a European level, because we have a direct dialogue with those responsible for the nodes in 18 other countries”, says the researcher.
If there is an agreement between some of the proposals presented by the diagnostic team and the company that demands the service, they have to sign a contract between the entities, the company that demands the service and the institutions that provide the service. The hub as such is not a legal entity, its mission is to connect interest and supply, demand and service, but once a service is carried out, and a contract is signed, it is signed by the company that demands the service and the entities to which the people who are going to provide this service belong, those of the diagnostic team. What is the hub doing there? Quality control and monitoring that the work is being carried out according to standards.
The Spanish Platform for Modeling, Simulation and Optimization Technologies in a Digital Environment (PET MSO-ED) started in April last year with the intention of taking advantage of “the great potential of mathematics to solve the real challenges of society”, he explains. Quintela. So far, 38 Spanish entities have signed up, 18 academic and the rest non-academic, such as Repsol, Petronor, BBVA AI Factory and TSK, among many others. “They are active members of the Platform and its working groups, and they define the strategies to address the challenges they face, which in this way will be very oriented to the real needs of the industry. Because one thing is that from the academic field we imagine what they are and another thing is that it is the companies themselves that are participating to define them”, points out the researcher, who was also president of math-in, the Spanish Mathematics-Industry Network, which is in charge of the technical office of the Platform.
The field of research is represented by leading national centers such as the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (BCAM), the Center for Mathematical Research and Technology of Galicia (CITMAga), the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (ICMAT); more than a dozen public universities; and national groups such as the Spanish Society of Applied Mathematics (SEMA) and the Society of Statistics and Operational Research (SEIO); among many. To further stimulate the interaction between the two poles – industry and academia – the Platform organizes events where both can meet. Also, there are more informative events to raise awareness of the great potential of mathematics in the challenges that humanity needs to solve, incorporate new public and private entities in the platform, and make the return to society of the results of the funded research activity more visible. Mainly from public funds. In addition, it will serve as a catalyst for the creation of consortiums and projects that are eligible for public and private financing.
The Platform is financed by the State Research Agency, Ministry of Science and Innovation, within the call for aid to Technological and Innovation Platforms, of the State Program for Research, Development and Innovation Oriented to the Challenges of Society, within the framework of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020. The initiative, with reference PTR2020-001163, is supported by the Mathematics-Industry Thematic Network (RTmath-in, RED2018-102514-T), financed by MCIU-AEI.
About the Spanish Mathematics-Industry Network (math-in)
The Spanish Mathematics-Industry Network (math-in) was born, as a private non-profit association, on September 30, 2011 with the signing of its Constitution Act in Santiago de Compostela. Currently, the network is made up of around forty research groups belonging to around twenty different Spanish universities and research centres; all of them present their offer and their technological capacities through the single window in Spain that the network offers them.
Math-in focuses its activity on promoting and carrying out the transfer of mathematical technology to the business and industrial sphere, thus fostering an increase in the competitiveness of both the research groups involved and the industry itself.
It is also the Spanish node of the European Service Network of Mathematics for Industry and Innovation (EU-MATHS-IN) since its founding in 2013, which has 19 national networks belonging to as many European countries.
CONTACT for more information and interviews:
Elvira del Pozo (DIVULGA)
Tel. 91 742 42 18 / +34 667 39 78 68