KiwiNet News 7 July 2016

NZ’s best and brightest mathematicians combine power to solve industry challenges

Wellington, NZ - 7 July 2016

New Zealand’s best and brightest mathematical scientists are combining their power to solve significant business and industry challenges at New Zealand’s second annual Mathematics-in-Industry NZ event this week at Victoria University, Wellington.

New Zealand’s second annual Mathematics-in-Industry NZ event

Successfully implemented in more than 20 countries worldwide, Mathematics-in-Industry intensive week-long workshops offer a collaborative environment for mathematicians across the country to solve problems arising in industry. Scientists participate from a range of mathematical disciplines such as dynamical systems, statistics, and operational research.

New Zealand businesses offering up industry challenges for the 2016 Mathematics-in-Industry New Zealand (MINZ) event include:

  • NZ Steel – Improving how the steel finishing rolling through modelling
  • Compac – Estimating the weight of a moving article across multiple weigh points
  • Transpower – Understanding how home solar electrical generation affects the national grid
  • Fonterra – Predicting the length of time milk powders can be stored in elevated temperatures and humidities
  • Zespri – Predicting fruit quality in the supply chain from harvest to market.

This year a new dimension has been added with representatives from Japan’s Institute of Mathematics for Industry attending the MINZ event.  New Zealand mathematicians will also join Japan’s study week later in July.  The exchange has been made possible due to funding from the NZ Royal Society and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.  A challenge from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology is also included in the New Zealand event.

The New Zealand event is championed by Professor Emeritus Graeme Wake of Mathematics-in-Industry New Zealand (MINZ). Professor Wake has been involved in the concept since his time as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Oxford where it was first launched in 1968. Professor Wake is passionate about the impact of applied mathematics noting, “These events are often the launch pad for long term partnerships between mathematicians and businesses, powering up innovation within industry.”

The event was opened by Hon. Steven Joyce and PVC Science VUW Mike Wilson, and speakers include Professor Andrew Fowler from Limerick/Oxford Universities, Dr Mary Quin CEO of Callaghan Innovation, and Japanese Ambassador Toshihisa Takata.

Zespri, new to MIINZ in 2016 has really seen the power of presenting a challenge to the mathematics community. Zepsri’s New Varieties Technical Manager, John White comments, “We saw a real opportunity to use the combined skills of the MINZ event to materially improve an important part of our inventory management process, reducing quality costs and so give real improvements in returns to growers. It has been fascinating to watch a previously unconnected group enthusiastically seek to understand our data and look for ways from it to improve our understandings and what we do.”

New Zealand mathematicians and businesses have previously taken part in joint events run by the Australia and New Zealand Industrial Applied Mathematics (ANZIAM). Professor Wake comments, “Kiwi businesses have previously had to travel across the Tasman to participate in these events, but now we are running this event right in our back yard.”

This year’s MINZ initiative is supported by the Centre for Mathematics-in-Industry in Massey University, ANZIAM (A/NZ Industrial and Applied Mathematics Group), KiwiNet (a consortium of 16 universities, Crown Research Institutes and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research), New Zealand Mathematical Society and Victoria University.

Seumas McCroskery, Innovation Manager of the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) believes the model is highly compelling. He says, “New Zealand has world leading mathematics capability in Universities and Crown Research Entities who are eager to work with industry and solve problems. It’s great to see mathematicians from across NZ working together to provide this inventive approach to drive business innovation.”

More than 100 mathematicians, a number of whom are postgraduate students are participating in the event. A summary and technical report will be prepared with aim of future publication in the ANZIAM Journal Series E.

“Mathematics-in-Industry is an initiative to solve industry challenges. It enables businesses to focus on operations and lets mathematicians focus on what they do best – solve industry problems,” says Professor Wake.

For more on Mathematics-in-Industry NZ see

Further information:
Sandra Lukey
Shine Group (PR for KiwiNet)
Cell: +64 21 2262 858

Graeme Wake 
DSc FRSNZ, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Mathematics
Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University 
Principal - Wakes' Scientific Consulting (Wakescience)
Mobile: +64 27 441 8247