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£12m investment to boost Operational Research

A £12m initiative brings together four British universities — Cardiff, Lancaster, Nottingham and Southampton — to develop world-leading work in the field of Operational Research (OR).

The LANCS initiative, supported with a Science and Innovation Award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will bring about a significant expansion of the national research base in OR to build new research capacity and help UK industry to compete in the global market.

The discipline of OR uses advanced analytical methods, including mathematical and computer modelling, to arrive at the best solutions to complex problems. It is widely used in healthcare, industry, finance and defence. OR techniques are used, for example, in airport scheduling, road traffic management, educational timetabling, production scheduling, freight logistics and supply chains, and numerous other areas of modern life.

Professor Kevin Glazebrook, Director of the new LANCS centre, said: “The United Kingdom is the home of Operational Research. The LANCS programme is crucial to support the health of the application-oriented research that has been such a strength in the UK, and it will underpin the health of the national research base in this critically important area.

“This far-sighted initiative aims to establish theoretical advances in the field relevant to real applications. In the LANCS initiative, four universities which have been at the forefront of UK research in OR have committed to a major expansion of research capacity in its theoretical foundations, supported by the additional resources available as a result of this current Science and Innovation award.”

EPSRC is keen to maintain the UK’s lead in this field and to build on the existing research base, and has given the grant in the latest round of its Science and Innovation Awards. The overall funding is worth more than £12m, to be shared among the four participating institutions. Of this, £5.4m comes from EPSRC and a further £7m from the universities themselves.

The four universities have already worked together in the creation of NATCOR, another EPSRC-supported initiative aimed at strengthening doctoral training programmes in the mathematics of OR. They have also shown their commitment to the subject by recent decisions to invest substantially in it. Each institution is committed to sustaining the additional capacity from the initiative beyond the five year period funded by EPSRC.

Science and Innovation Awards were introduced by EPSRC in 2005 to support strategically important areas of research. The latest grant will create a new centre of OR activity that will have the critical mass to make substantial progress, stimulating research in the UK and international community, and encouraging innovation in UK business and industry.

The LANCS project leader at The University of Nottingham is Professor Edmund Burke, of the School of Computer Science.

Emma Thorne | alfa
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