Centre de recherches mathématiques, Annual Report 1996-1997

Industrial Partnerships

In 1996-97, the Centre de recherches mathématiques continued its efforts to further develop the solid network of industrial partnerships that it has put in place over the last few years. It has, for example, provided a home base, with technical support, for several research groups involved with contractual work; it has named four private sector researchers as associate or visiting members; it has also expanded further its program of industrial post-doctoral fellowships. The year's key accomplishment, however, is of course the establishment of the Network for Computation and Mathematical Modelling (ncm2).


The new Network for Computation and Mathematical Modelling (ncm2):
a boon for strategic national development

During the year 1996-97, the CRM took the lead in the development of a consortium of five Montréal-based research centres (CRM, CERCA, CIRANO, CRT and GERAD [1]) in putting together an application to NSERC's new Research Networks Program. The proposal was based on a networking of complementary mathematical and computational tools. More than 35 university researchers associated with the five centres signed the proposal, along with 16 industires, banks, government agencies and ministries. These contributed more than $800K in cash and $800K in kind for the first year of operation. NSERC awarded the ncm2 a grant of $3M, spread over five years.

The programs funded are in three main areas: risk management, information processing, and transport and telecommunications. In risk management, the emphasis is on questions linked to financial risk, risk in insurance, as well as technological and environmental risk. This part of the project will integrate the expertise of the centres involved into a global vision of the aspects of risk management, both at the conceptual and the methodological levels.

The information processing portion of the Network includes projects in medical imaging, teledetection, real-time decision procedures and parallel computation. The aim is to exploit the various methods available for managing large masses of data so as to make rapid and informed decisions.

In the transport and telecommunications axis, there are projects dealing with intelligent transportation systems, with rail and air transport, with the optimisation of multimode transportation networks, with the planning and management of transporters, with the localisation, the scheduling and the routing of vehicles, and with the planning of telecommunication networks.

The forty-odd university researchers attached to the network work in different areas, but often use similar methods. For example, the models and methods for collecting, collating, and managing large masses of data are used in teledetection, in aerial surveillance, in intelligent transportation systems and in real-time allocation of resources. Another example is afforded by neural networks, used in areas as diverse as medical imaging and the evaluation of risk in financial markets. One technique that reappears in almost all the areas of the program is that of parallel computation, whether it is in the modelling of flood forecasting in the Saguenay, in the elaboration of work schedules in international air transport, or in the design and operation of transportation and telecommunications networks. The ncm2, by assembling all of these disciplines, offers a one-stop approach to industries interested in its knowledge and resources.

The ncm2 also possesses a diversified computer network, which must and will be continually renewed. This includes a large number of work-stations, as well as a network of medium- and high-performance networked systems for large-scale computation.

The business and public sector partners of the Network are: Ad-Opt, Atlantic Nuclear Services, the National Bank of Canada, Bell Mobility, the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, Canadian Pacific, the Chaire de gestion des risques of the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, the Chaire Jarislowsky en technologie et communication internationale of the École Polytechnique, the Ministry of National Defense, GIRO Enterprises, Environment Canada, the Groupe Cartier, INRO Consultants, Hydro-Québec, Silicon Graphics, the Société d'Assurance Automobile du Québec, Lockheed Martin Electronic Systems of Canada, and Urgences Santé.

One of the main objectives of the Network is the training of highly qualified personnel, and more than 95% of NSERC's grant is to go into hiring Master's and Ph.D. students, as well as post-doctoral fellows. The integration of the various groups within the network, and the dissemination of their output is to be facilitated through workshops, seminars, and intensive mini-courses.

By taking the lead in organising the Network, the CRM has greatly consolidated its industrial base. The Network's partnerships provide a very important access to industrial opportunities for the CRM, and so for the mathematical community. In the words of the site visit committee which approved the proposal:

"With its impressive participant base, it can arguably become the outstanding industrial-university mathematical research program in the hemisphere."

The Network is to be inaugurated in the fall of 1997.

Industrial Postdoctoral Fellowships Program

The CRM started up this program four years ago to contribute to research in industrially oriented mathematics, and to encourage collaboration between universities and industry. Four fellowships, funded jointly by the CRM and by industry, were awarded in 1996-97. The CRM's industrial partners, in this program, include: Ad Opt and Cognologic, which offered a postdoctoral fellowship (p.d.f.) for a recent Ph.D. to work on the problem of optimising monthly work schedules for airline employees, Environment Canada, which offered a p.d.f. in modelling the regional atmosphere; Bombardier Canada, Pratt & Whitney and Environment Canada, a p.d.f. to study wing icing problems, and Bombardier Canada, GE Canada, Hydro-Quebec and Environment Canada a p.d.f. in the area of large scale turbulence. Another important element of the CRM's p.d.f. program is provided by its PHYSNUM group, headed by Bernard Goulard. They have important links to Atlantic Nuclear Services and to Lockheed Martin, and specialise in the application of techniques such as neural networks and wavelets to questions such as reactor control and image processing. Several of their postdoctoral fellows now have full-time research jobs in industry.

This fellowship program will expand significantly, within the ncm2.

Footnote [1]:

Each is supported by more than one university.

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