Industry workshop demonstrates IROR research progress

On 22 February 2018 we hosted a workshop for industry collaborators and researchers to demonstrate progress made in the engineering and manufacturing streams of the IROR programme.

​The Innovation Return on Research (IROR) programme is a 5-year collaboration between the Hartree Centre and IBM Research. It aims to solve industrial problems and boost UK competitive advantage by creating digital assets that can be applied within several different industry sectors.

The engineering workshop brought together industrial partners engaged in the engineering & manufacturing stream of IROR programme to hear from researchers across STFC and IBM Research who demonstrated some of the capabilities developed for industry. They highlighted how IBM & STFC’s research is being applied to solve particular industrial problems while gathering feedback from industry to identify new priority areas and to understand further industrial applications.

Alison Kennedy

The day started with an introduction from Alison Kennedy, (Director, Hartree Centre), who emphasised the importance of collaboration and feedback across the IROR programme not only between STFC and IBM Research staff but with industry to make sure that our research is going in the right direction and can be deployed to meet industrial needs. 

Michael Gleaves, Deputy Director, Hartree Centre, added to this by detailing how IROR will create digital assets for industry. These assets are designed first by engaging with industry focus groups to understand the problems that need to be solved. Projects are then built up that combine people with the appropriate expertise who can apply the research and technology to build new software applications that bring value to businesses.

Dave Emerson, Head of Computational Engineering, Scientific Computing Department presented the vision for the engineering and manufacturing stream of IROR by guiding delegates through the processes taken to develop virtual physical systems. These are essentially ‘digital twins’ of a physical product from creation through to disposal. He highlighted that large international enterprises are moving towards this vision to this to help with the design of new products, performance monitoring and improving product lifespans. 

​Dave went on to say that to meet these ambitions, it requires advanced coupling of software to enable high fidelity modelling and introduced the researchers that are working to ensure that IROR digital assets meet these requirements.

Maggie Zimon, IBM Research presenting work on quantifying parametric uncertainty.

We then enjoyed hearing short presentations from researchers representing both STFC and IBM Research about how they working to bring digital assets to life. Alex Skillen presented progress made in code coupling for multiscale and multiphysics applications while Robert Sawko led us through multiphase mixing and its applications in chemical engineering. Maggie Zimon spoke about quantifying parametric uncertainty followed by Stefano Rolfo who used industry examples to illustrate data driven modelling in acoustics. Lan Hoang shared her work on reinforcement learning for process simulation and technical talks were finished by Chris Thompson who discussed the potential for implementing cognitive computing as a service.

Iain Bethune highlighting the breadth of projects across the IROR programme.

The morning session was rounded up by Iain Bethune, Technical Programme Manager, Hartree Centre, who shared highlights from projects in the chemistry, life sciences and enabling technology streams of the IROR programme. This was followed by lunch where delegates were able to interact with demos from various industry sectors from computer aided formulation to work collating multiple datasets to provide insights to help the agricultural industry protect crops.

Katharina Reusch, IBM Research demonstrating work with partners in agritech.

The day finished with discussions centred around what industry delegates found useful from the projects that had been discussed throughout the day and where they felt technology could be applied across their industry sectors. This session will be followed up by STFC and IBM Research colleagues visiting industry collaborators to continue discussions and collect detailed feedback about the IROR Engineering and Manufacturing programme.​

Massimo Noro, Director of Business Development at Daresbury Laboratory was a delegate at the workshop and commented on the breadth of projects addressing industrial challenges: ​

 “High performance computing, big data and cognitive computing always hit the news, but how do we use the digital revolution to tackle real industry challenges? Today we saw a series of concrete projects that address real engineering applications. The main goal was to do things “in-silico first” – to understand trends, mechanisms of action and materials structure-property relationships. The joint STFC and IBM Research team presented a few examples to deliver engineering applications for efficient mixing, carbon deposition, thermal processes and compressor efficiency. It’s great to see that the IROR program is already landing in the business.”

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