Innovative Math Modeling Opens Industry Doors for Israeli Institute

December 16, 1998


The mission of the Institute for Industrial Mathematics, says its director, Adir Pridor, "is to help companies in Israel and abroad solve problems in product and process development by using mathematical methods."
Avner Friedman

The Institute for Industrial Mathematics, established in Israel on January 1, 1993, employs 18 mathematical scientists, most of them from the former Soviet Union. Located in the fast developing city of Beer Sheva, the institute was funded initially by government agencies and private foundations. By 1997, 50% of its budget came from projects with industry; for 1998, earnings from industrial contracts are projected to exceed 60% of the institute's budget.

Adir Pridor, the director of IIM, has a PhD in mathematics from Hebrew University and a broad range of experience in industry. His research areas include optimization, operations re-search, numerical analysis, and fluid mechanics.

On a recent visit to IIM, in its new location in a growing industrial park on the outskirts of Beer Sheva, I asked Pridor how he views the role of the institute. "Our mission," he told me, "is to help companies in Israel and abroad solve problems in product and process development by using mathematical methods. These problems often appear in raw form, and they are complex enough so that they cannot be resolved without innovative mathematical modeling." The solutions to these problems, he added, "often require advanced mathematical methods and sophisticated numerical implementation."

During the first five years of its existence, IIM has developed working relations with dozens of companies and completed more than 30 projects for industry. Some understanding of the institute can be gained from brief descriptions of two projects completed this year:

Other projects completed recently by IIM include:

Ongoing IIM projects include the ultrasonic welding of metals and polymers, a technology used in wiring chips. Another promising project centers around the stability and design of vortex chamber separators used to separate particles of different sizes; dusty fluid enters through inlets, and the rotating blades of the separator cause a large centrifugal acceleration, which tends to separate particles of different sizes. Here the design of the blades poses an interesting mathematical problem.

Pridor pointed out that one of the key strengths of IIM is the synergy produced by the presence within the same institute of mathematical scientists with different areas of expertise. He cited as an example a project in video image enhancement. In their first attempt, institute researchers tried to enhance each frame separately. Since the transformations used for adjacent frames did not conform to each other, the enhancement as a whole was rather poor. In stepped another researcher, with a background in fluid mechanics, who introduced an additional principle based on the stabilization of mechanical systems (designed to prevent vibration). Although the introduction of the new principle did not result in an optimal enhancement of each separate frame, it did lead to a superior video image.

IIM is a unique institute in Israel. Its aim is to promote industry by going directly to companies and working with them to identify problems in which mathematical models and simulation will increase their capabilities. The fact that the portion of IIM's support that comes from industry has been increasing may serve as a source of encouragement to groups in other countries that wish to embark on a similar course.

Additional information about IIM can be found at http://www.cs.bgu.ac.il/~iim.

Avner Friedman is Regents' Professor in the School of Mathematics and director of the Minnesota Center for Industrial Mathematics at the University of Minnesota.


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