OPTIMA: industry-university partnership to build optimisation tools and skills

OPTIMA, an industry-university partnership, will provide the optimisation skills and tools needed for global competitiveness.

The ARC Training Centre in Optimisation Technologies, Integrated Methodologies, and Applications (OPTIMA) aims to help businesses improve their efficiency, quality and agility. It will also reduce their lead times and costs. With current and new industry partners, OPTIMA will develop an optimisation toolkit that can be used in any sector. It will also train more than 120 early-career researchers. They will be able to take their knowledge of optimisation technology into the workforce.

When approaching complex problems – such as designing aircraft or generating renewable energy – businesses need to evaluate different options. Often, there are too many to test using trial and error. That would be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, optimisation technology uses algorithms to analyse the data. They figure out how to avoid options that hold no promise and identify the ones that are likely to lead to the best outcomes. Businesses can then focus their resources on evaluating only the good options.

OPTIMA is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, Monash University, three international universities, and 11 industry partners. The partners are in the advanced manufacturing, energy resources, and critical infrastructure sectors. They include Boeing Aerostructures Australia, AGL Energy, IBM Australia and Melbourne Water.

The partnership is one of five new Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centres announced on 14 July 2020 by Minister for Education Dan Tehan. The ARC has invested $A4.86 million in OPTIMA over the next five years.

The University of Melbourne, Monash and industry partners have invested $A3 million, as well as making significant in-kind contributions. OPTIMA is expected to begin operating in 2021.

Professor Kate Smith-Miles from the University of Melbourne will lead the new centre. It involves 17 chief investigators and 13 partner investigators. Their expertise ranges from mathematics, statistics and computer science to economics and engineering.

Banner image: OPTIMA: industry-university partnership to build optimisation tools and skills. Image by Unsplash/Oskar Kadaksoo.

First published on 23 July 2020.

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