Australian Branch of Institute of Mathematics for Industry - Kyushu University

Adem Samyurek, Professor Wakayama and Prof Keith Nugent.

Adem Samyurek, Professor Wakayama and Prof Keith Nugent.

In 2013, the Institute of Mathematics for Industry, based at Kyushu University, was selected for federal funding under the national Joint Use Institutes Program. This is the second Joint Use Institute in mathematics, after the RIMS Kyoto, which has been funded by the national government for 48 years. Kyushu University is one of the original four Imperial Universities, and it now has the largest mathematics department in Japan.

IMI has established an Australian Branch, based at La Trobe University.

IMI was conceived by Prof Masato Wakayama, the founding Director, who is now the university's Executive Vice-President (Research). Japan produces many more PhDs in mathematics than there will be academic positions in the future, as the nation's student population is decreasing. Therefore, these highly trained graduates in mathematics should better understand the possibilities of applying their skills to add a competitive edge to industry.

For the IMI to produce industry-attuned graduates, it has required a change in mindset of the university's mathematicians, something that has been achieved in just two years. Note the use of preposition "for" rather than "in", in the title. Most members of IMI are accomplished in fundamental mathematics. They still conduct curiosity-driven basic research but they also manage to apply their knowledge to a range of interesting industry problems, including:

  • automated combinations of facial images for the movie industry
  • location of the free phase boundaries during fabrication of steel
  • cryptographic systems for computer security
  • optimising surface shapes in engineering design
  • predicting energy levels of atomic-scale devices that may be used as qubits in quantum computers.

Forum for Mathematics in Industry (FMI)

Among the divisions of IMI, there is the Division of Fujitsu Social Mathematics. IMI collaborates with a range of major Japanese companies, some of whom host student interns. It runs an annual Forum for Mathematics in Industry (FMI) as well as a regular industry Study Group Workshop (SGW), and it produces a sequence of books that is published by Springer. Invited speakers at FMI have included:

  • Bob Anderssen
  • Frank de Hoog
  • John Hearne
  • Murray Cameron
  • Graeme Wake
  • Robert McKibbin
  • Winston Sweatman
  • Kerry Landman
  • Troy Farrell
  • Reinout Quispel
  • Robert Norman
  • Philip Broadbridge.

It is a pleasure to visit Fukuoka, a medium-sized city with a reputation for good food, hospitality, sports and good climate. Click here to find programs for the annual Forum for Mathematics for Industry.

International outlook

IMI has a strong international outlook, generating regular collaborations around the Asia-Pacific region, as well as with Europe and the Americas. It has quickly established the reputation of being a regional leader in mathematics for industry, helping to form the Asia-Pacific Consortium for Mathematics-for-Industry, under the guidance of Bob Anderssen, the late Professor Geoff Mercer of ANU as founding consortium president,  as well as Graeme Wake, Robert McKibbin and Winston Sweatman of Massey University. The inaugural APCfMI committee wrote about this earlier in the Gazette [PDF 188KB].

Part of the Japanese interest in our region stems from our good track record in hosting successful events such as the Mathematics in Industry Study Group. One of the problem presenters at SGW2014 was the Melbourne Brain Institute's Dr Paul Abbott, who had previously presented a problem at MISG. This year in late July, one of the presenters at SGW 2015 will be Dr Jeff Hawkins of Pivot Maritime, a Hobart company that specializes  in ship motion simulators.

Participants at Mathematics Bridge over the Pacific for Competitive Edge in Industry

Participants at Mathematics Bridge over the Pacific for Competitive Edge in Industry.

Aus Students at Japan Industry Study Group

Mathematics Bridge over the Pacific for Competitive Edge in Industry

On March 12-13 in 2015, the Australian Branch held a very successful kick-off event, a workshop, Mathematics Bridge over the Pacific for Competitive Edge in Industry. Over 30 Kyushu staff and students made the trip south. Invited speakers included:

  • Yasuhide Fukumoto (Director of IMI)
  • Peter Van der Kamp
  • Monique Chyba
  • Stan Miklavcic
  • Yoshihiro Mizoguchi
  • Robert McLachlan
  • Hirokazu Anai
  • Marcel Jackson
  • Kate Smith-Miles
  • Zainal Abdul Aziz
  • Osamu Maruyama
  • Mary Myerscough
  • Graham Weir.

As well as the talks and student poster session, the social program included an Aussie barbecue in the La Trobe Wildlife Reserve.

Joint Seminar La Trobe and Kyushu Universities

La Trobe and Kyushu run a regular joint seminar series by video-conferencing. Click here for the list of seminars.

JSPS Fellowship

In October-December 2015, Phil Broadbridge visited Kyushu University, funded as a short-term visiting fellow by the Japan Society for Promotion of Science. With Prof Kenji Kajiwara (Kyushu) and Prof Ken-Ichi Maruno (Waseda), he collaborated on the theory and practical applications of integrable discrete dynamical systems.

We are grateful to JSPS and also to La Trobe Asia that is supporting Prof Kajiwara to visit La Trobe again in 2016 as a La Trobe Asia Visiting Fellow.

Joint conference "Mathematics for Materials Science and Processing"

In February 2016, a very successful joint conference was again held at La Trobe University, including some eminent experts on this topic, as well as industry delegates.

Over 20 Japanese delegates made the trip south. Find out more about the event here.

Formal opening of The Australian Branch of IMI

On the afternoon of 12 March 2015 there was a ceremony in the Victorian Government's showcase room, the Sir Redmond Barry Room, in Collins Street. The Australian Branch of IMI was formally opened by the then Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, the Hon. Adem Somyurek. Other speakers included:

  • Prof Masato Wakayama (Executive Vice President Research at Kyushu U.)
  • Prof Keith Nugent (Deputy Vice Chancellor Research at La Trobe U.)
  • Ms Keiko Haneda (Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne).

Others in attendance included:

  • Prof Reiko Aoki (Executive Vice-President International Relations, IP and Gender Equality, Kyushu U.)
  • Prof Geoff Prince (Director Australian Math Sciences Institute)
  • Prof Tim Marchant (President Australian Math Society)
  • Ms Alexandra Hogan (Hon Secretary APCMfI)
  • Professor Larry Forbes (President Australia New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics).

Guests enjoyed spectacular views of Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay from the panoramic windows.

Philip Broadbridge.

Philip Broadbridge.

Joint appointments

There have recently been two joint appointments made. These are Dr Dimetre Triadis (Level B Research Fellow) and Dr Pierluigi Cesana (Level C Senior Research Fellow). IMI set out to appoint English-speaking academics who can later work in Kyushu after fixed-term appointments at La Trobe. This will be not only a home for the new appointees, but will become a base for visiting Kyushu professors and students. This has required good will and support from all levels of our governments and universities' administrations.

Readers will see from the list of Australians and New Zealanders who have already been involved with IMI, that this is much more than a relationship between two universities. We hope to facilitate the mutually beneficial involvement of many more from our region. For example, there is a special Joint Institute funding scheme for short working groups and workshops on a mathematical topic of general interest to an industry collaborator or partner. AustMS members are encouraged to contact Philip Broadbridge if you have ideas of that type.

Download the IMI Branch report [DOC 1.24MB]


Philip Broadbridge