Laboratory of Computational Mathematics: an interface between academia and industry. Professor Adérito Araújo (LCM) interview

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Foto Profesor AderitoOn 27 and 28 November Adérito Araújo from the "Centre for Mathematics of the University of Coimbra" visited ITMATI, to provide conference related to the field of industrial mathematics entitled "Laboratory of Computational Mathematics: an Interface Between academia and industry".

In this conference was presented the work done in the LCM in two perspectives: the relationship between universities and industry, and the relevance of the LCM in math education programs. The University of Coimbra has adapted its math curriculum, to create better interfaces with industry. Computational Mathematics Laboratory (LCM) belongs to the Center for Mathematics, University of Coimbra (CMUC) and was created to identify relevant social and industrial problems that could benefit from their experience and highlight mathematical research in CMUC and could be applied in the industry.

More information: LCM

After the session Professor Adérito Araújo had a brief interview with ITMATI in which came out a number of questions in the field of industrial mathematics:

What kind of problems applied to the industry has solved your institution and your team?

The Laboratory for Computational Mathematics (LCM) of the Centre of Mathematics of the University of Coimbra ( promotes research in computational mathematics and scientific computing, as techniques for the solution of challenging quantitative problems arising in science, engineering, finance and management. The project portfolio of the LMC includes 16 application-oriented projects, involving experts in Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research, in areas such as segmentation and denoising of medical images, modeling and simulation of a moving bed reactor used in pulp and paper industry, design polymer lens used in drug delivery in the treatment of ophthalmic pathologies, developing specific staffing schedules in a call center, simulation of the hydrodynamic behaviour of a biological packed bed, etc.

What kind of companies collaborates on their projects? And what are the industrial sectors of these companies?

We must point out that in most of the projects at LCM, the degree of commitment of the companies involved is still less than it would be desirable since, in general, they don’t contribute with funding. Within our industrial partners, we find hospitals, banks and bank holding companies, data and software companies, and industrial firms (paper industry).

Do you think this approach from mathematical technology to industry is well received by companies?

In spite of the good feedback we have from our industrial partners, we feel that there is a lack of recognition of mathematics by industry.
You work with the industrial sector, and also with social, how do you detect those needs? What kind of institutions is targeted these solutions from?

There has been a strategical effort to develop a variety of mechanisms to facilitate a constructive relationship between mathematics and industry. To achieve this objective, contacts and collaboration with industrial partners are vital. Since 2007, LCM is strongly committed with the organization of the ECMI European Study Group with Industry in Portugal. In April 2009, Coimbra hosted the 69th edition and next year edition will also take place in Coimbra. The purpose of these one-week meetings is to strengthen the links between mathematics and industry by using mathematics to tackle industrial problems that are proposed by industrial partners.

What kind of strategy the academic world should follow to bring our companies the mathematic knowledge and the mathematical technology for solving industry problems?


To strengthen the links with the outside community and to create institutional connections with local industry, we think that it is important to offer a number of short-courses, with topics of interest to both industry and academia, open to members of the university as well other professionals and industry. It seems also very important to keep contact with former students who have not chosen an academic carrier and have started a carrier in industry. These former students should be privileged interlocutors for establishing contacts between industry and academia.


Could you mention us some examples of big projects with a company and tell us how their developments were?

We highlight the project “Simulation of a Moving Bed Reactor used in the Pulp and Paper Industry”. An important mill of the major Portuguese firm Portucel, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of bleached eucalyptus Kraft pulp for the packaging industry and one of Europe’s top five producers of uncoated wood-free paper, is located near Coimbra. In order to optimize the quality of the pulp, this industry has a real need for tools that enable the simulation of experiments that cannot be afforded or that might be risky in a real industrial context. The most critical piece of equipment in a Kraft pulp and paper plant is the digester, a complex heterogeneous reactor where a moving bed of wood chips contacts and reacts with a combination of chemical products, in order to dissolve lignin and therefore to release the fibers of cellulose. The incidence of the work developed at LCM has twofold: from an engineering point of view, to give a description of the transient behaviour of the digester; from a mathematical point of view, the project gave the possibility to study a new kind of numerical methods, specially tailored to the phenomena that take place in the digester.

An open-­source software package to simulate the dynamical behavior of the digester was developed and is available by request. This package was tested by the company to simulate the steady­state case with very promising results.
In the future, what kind of mathematical technology shall the industrial demand?

Recent echnological innovations allow us to collect massive amount of data with relatively low cost.  We think that, in the near future, the big challenge to industrial mathematics is to know how handle and analyse large amounts of structured and unstructured data.
Fri, 2012-12-14