What is Industrial Mathematics?

Read this article on Operations Research from the Boston Globe, 2007.

Industrial mathematics is a well-established field within the mathematical sciences community. Every four years there is an International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics. In 2003 it was held in Sydney Australia, in 2007 it was held in Zurich Switzerland, and in 2011 in will be held in Vancouver. Here Industry refers to all sectors of manufacturing and service, including business and engineering.

Industrial mathematics is a branch of applied mathematics, but where the latter can include theoretical topics from physics, biology, economics and computer science for example, industrial mathematics focusses on problems which come from industry and aims for solutions which are relevant to industry, including finding the most efficient (i.e., cost-effective) way to solve the problem. With the increasing complexity and sophistication of modern industry, personnel who are able to understand technical issues, who are able to formulate precise and accurate mathematical models, who can implement solutions using the latest computer techniques, and who can convey these ideas to their co-workers who may be managers, engineers, etc, are becoming a necessary part of many organizations and companies. Examples of areas in industry that industrial mathematicians can find employment are signal processing, computer graphics, risk management, system reliability, software testing and verification, database systems, production line optimization, and marketing research (see the Applied Mathematics Resources web page for career information).

Modern manufacturing and service industries have changed drastically in modern times due to the explosion in the knowledge economy. Fast and inexpensive computing, office products, the development and utilization of large databases, have necessitated sophisticated methods to meet new demands. Industrial mathematics is the enabling factor in realizing and implementing these methods. In recent years the mathematical community has responded to this growing need for mathematically trained personnel in industry. Organizations such as the Fields Institute, MITACS, and PIMS in Canada, and SIAM and the NSF in the United States (these organizations are found in the references at the bottom) have been promoting the interaction of mathematics with industry and continue to develop ways to meet industry's demand for mathematically trained personnel. The creation of mathematical and statistical modelling and the development of numerical methods and/or algorithms for computers to obtain solutions for problems in industry has come to be called industrial mathematical sciences or, simply, industrial mathematics. There is a current and growing demand for mathematically trained individuals who are able to move into business and industry. Numerous reports and studies carried out by professional organizations show that there is an increasing need in the work force for mathematics graduates with the practical skills to work with managers, engineers, etc.

Industrial mathematics is an inherently interdisciplinary field. In addition to mathematics, it includes subjects from fields outside mathematics such as business, computer science and engineering, and trains mathematics students how to apply mathematical analysis to problems arising in these areas. An industrial mathematician has strong analytical and problem-solving skills built upon a background of computing, mathematics, statistics, and basic science. In addition, industrial mathematics emphasizes written and oral skills along with teamwork, skills which are valued highly in industry, but are not part of most traditional mathematics programs. Since these skills are necessary for graduates to work effectively with less mathematically inclined co-workers, they are an essential part of industrial mathematics.

The Department of Mathematics, Surrey, is implementing an undergraduate program in Operation Research (Industrial Mathematics). Information about the Mathematics program at the Surrey campus can be accessed through the Department of Mathematics, Surrey, webpage.

Read this article on Operations Research from the Boston Globe, 2007.


  • The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
    http://www.fields.toronto.edu The Fields Institute, located in Toronto, is a world-renowned centre for mathematical research activity - a place where mathematicians from Canada and abroad, from business, industry and financial institutions, come together to carry out research and formulate problems of mutual interest. The Institute's mission is to provide a supportive and stimulating environment for mathematical activity in Canada and to help expand the application of mathematics in modern society. Some current activities at the Fields Institute include a weekly seminar on financial mathematics and the conference, Mathematical Challenges in Product Development and Manufacturing.

  • The Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS)
    http://www.mitacs.math.ca MITACS, with offices in Toronto and Vancouver, is a federally funded Network of Centres of Excellence dedicated to bringing together Canadian industry with leading academic scientists to develop new mathematical tools that will contribute to the welfare and economic development of Canada. The projects in MITACS encompass many of the leading-edge sectors of the Canadian economy. They are organized into five themes; the biomedical sector, the commercial/industrial sector, the manufacturing sector, and the trading/finance sector.

  • The Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS)
    PIMS, centred at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., is a major force in Canada for the promotion of applied mathematics. Their stated mission is to promote all aspects of the mathematical sciences by stimulating, coordinating and facilitating the activities of the mathematical scientists in Canada and by linking them more closely together and with the rest of the world. They host meetings, workshops and summer schools on all topics in mathematics but have been particularly successful in focussing on topics of current relevance in industry. In addition, PIMS hosts annual Industrial Mathematics Modelling Camps for Graduates and Industrial Problem Solving Workshops for students and faculty (see http://www.pims.math.ca/industrial/).

  • The Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society (CAIMS)
    http://www.caims.ca/ The Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society contributes to the development and maintenance of Applied and Industrial Mathematics in Canada and worldwide. Founded in 1979, CAIMS has a growing presence in industrial, mathematical, scientific and technological circles within and outside Canada. Together with the Applied Mathematics Institute at the University of Alberta, CAIMS publishes the journal, Canadian Applied Mathematics Quarterly.

  • The Institute of Industrial Mathematical Sciences at the University of Manitoba (IIMS)
    http://www.umanitoba.ca/institutes/iims/ The IIMS was established by the Faculty of Science to enhance contacts between mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists at the University and research scientists in industry. Its stated mission is to; facilitate interaction and collaboration between mathematical scientists and industrial partners, facilitate interaction among mathematical scientists at the university, to conduct research in collaboration with industry on topics motivated by industrial applications, to provide assistance to industry, to involve students in all of the above, to raise the profile of the mathematical sciences in industry in the student population.

  • The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)
    SIAM is North America's leading organization for the promotion of applied mathematics. It is their stated policy to advance the application of mathematics and computational science to science, industry, and society; to promote research that could lead to effective new mathematical and computational methods and techniques for science, engineering, industry, and society; and to provide media for the exchange of information and ideas among mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. SIAM organizes and sponsors dozens of mathematical meetings each year, provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the mathematical sciences, and publishes journals, newsletters and books on the subject. Some selections of their publications:
    SIAM Report on Mathematics in Industry. Includes information on the roles of mathematicians in industry, skills required for industry, and suggestions and strategies on education.
    How to Start an Industrial Mathematics Program in the University. Written by the Director of the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications and the Director of the Board on Mathematical Sciences, National Research Council (USA). This document describes what is industrial mathematics, what are the skills needed in industrial mathematics, undergraduate and graduate programs in industrial mathematics, and setting up relationships with industry.

  • The Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS)
    The CMS was originally founded in 1945 as the Canadian Mathematical Congress, and incorporated as the Canadian Mathematical Society in 1979. The focus of the CMS is to reach out and form new partners with the users of mathematics in business, governments and universities, educators in the school and college systems as well as other mathematical organizations; and in doing so share experiences, work on collaborative projects and generally enhance the perception and strengthen the profile of mathematics within Canada.

  • The Applied Mathematics Institute at the University of Alberta
    http://www.math.ualberta.ca/ami/ The object of the Institute is to promote research in applied mathematics; to provide a focus for individuals who require applied mathematics in their investigations; and to publish an international journal of applied mathematics.

  • The Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)
    The Institute for Mathematics and its Applications was established in 1982 by the National Science Foundation (USA) and is located at the University of Minnesota. Its mission is to close the gap between theory and its applications. This is accomplished by: identifying the problems and areas of mathematical research needed in other sciences, encouraging the participation of mathematicians in these areas of application by providing settings conducive to the solution of such problems, and by demonstrating that first-rate mathematics can make a real impact in the sciences. The Institute hosts annual and summer programs in applied mathematics and industrial programs, the proceedings of which are published in the IMA Volumes in Mathematics and its Applications (Springer-Verlag).

  • The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
    The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (at New York University) is one of the world's most renowned centers for research and advanced training in mathematics and computer science. The Institute has long been a leader in mathematical analysis, applied mathematics, and scientific computation, with special emphasis on partial differential equations and their applications.

    Some Industrial Mathematics Programs and Workshops

    Additional Resources