Person looking at projection

Exact and metaheuristic solution methods research

Explore our work in exact and metaheuristic solution methods, 1 of our 8 areas of expertise in Operational Research and Logistics

In our exact and metaheuristic solution methods research, we're using our expertise to help solve real logistical challenges – from creating a train timetable that works for operators and customers, to developing an effective and efficient nursing roster at a busy hospital.

Heuristic and metaheuristic algorithms seek to produce good-quality solutions in reasonable computation times. Crucially, those solutions are also good enough for practical purposes – like those outlined above – in which there are a diverse range of non-trivial factors to consider, from time constraints and resource availability, to the commercial bottom line and the wellbeing of the individuals involved.

When exact or enumeration methods cannot be used due to time constraints, then heuristics and meta-heuristics provide a quicker route to effective and pragmatic solutions.

The difficult mathematical problems our researchers solve have broad-ranging benefits – from financial savings, through to positive environmental or social impact. Having academic staff with professional industry experience gives us a competitive edge in terms of the difference we can make.

Our research covers the following topics

  • Linear/Integer programming problems
  • Stochastic programming problems
  • Robust optimisation
  • Non-linear optimisation
  • Constraint management
  • Time-dependent problems
  • Dynamic problems


Our research frequently employs the following general methods:

  • Branch and bound
  • Dynamic programming
  • Cutting plane algorithm
  • Column generation
  • Mathematical programming

It also relies upon the following heuristic and metaheuristic research methods:

  • Genetic algorithms
  • Simulated annealing
  • Ant colony
  • Tabu search
  • Local search
  • Variable neighbourhood search
  • 2-opt heuristic
  • K-opt heuristic
  • Hyper heuristics

Collaborations and funders

Our research team includes members of the Operational Research Society, VeRoLog (the Working Group on Vehicle Routing and Logistics Optimisation within EURO) and the ESICUP (Euro Special Interest Group on Cutting and Packing). These memberships help us to set up collaborations and share ideas between specialists in operational research, logistics, transportation, and cutting stock problems.

Our work is frequently funded by leading funding organisations, such as the Royal Society, the European Commission, the Economic and Social Research Council, Interreg, and Innovate UK. Recent funding includes:

  • Interreg, for Smart Light Concepts – €250,415.97
  • Economic and Social Research Council, for CRUNCH ((Climate Resilient Urban Nexus Choices) – £149,673
  • Royal Society, for the resilient blood supply chain system design for disaster relief – £9,600
  • Innovate UK, for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – £91,822

Projects and publications

Our research is published in a variety of journals including Operations Research, Management Science, European Journal of Operational Research, Journal of the Operational Research Society, Computers and Operations Research, Annals of Operations Research, and Mathematical Programming.

Recent projects highlights


    (Logistic Efficiencies And Naval architecture for Wind Installations with Novel Developments) – reducing costs across the offshore windfarm lifecycle and supply chain

  • Smart Light Concepts

    Developing and testing various methods, tools and concepts to increase the uptake of sustainable public lighting concepts and carbon reduction by managing authorities 


    (Climate Resilient Urban Nexus Choices) – how the food-water-energy nexus can strengthen urban resilience

Discover our areas of expertise

Exact and metaheuristic solution methods is 1 of our 8 areas of expertise in the Operational Research and Logistics research area. Explore the others below.

Decision and data analytics

Research in the design of decision support systems, and use of data analysis, to help people make better decisions through a better understanding of their data.

Information analyst looking at data on a monitor
Read more

Healthcare analytics

From nurse scheduling to infection and disease modelling, our research provides decision-makers in the healthcare sector with optimal strategies for treatment.

Nurse pointing at scan on computer screen
Read more

Multiple criteria decision aid

Approaching complex problems with conflicting criteria, or uncertain data, our research helps people make more informed decisions.

Meeting between large group in room with pink wall
Read more

Transportation and Maritime Systems

Our research focuses on developing innovative optimisation models and decision support systems, to help improve the mobility of people, goods and services.

Portsmouth Harbour with historic dockyard ships and ferries
Read more

Optimisation Modelling

As well as improving business efficiency, we're enabling people to make optimal decisions that can lead to practices with enhanced economic, environmental or social benefits.

Female warehouse working checking tablet
Read more

Renewable Energy and Sustainability Analytics

Modelling to answer a host of questions, from how to produce renewable energy more cheaply, to how the associated logistics can be sustainable.

Windfarm at sea on a sunny day
Read more

Risk and security analytics

We help organisations learn from failures, so they can improve the quality and resilience of their operations, and we develop new analytic approaches to detect security threats.

Man cleaning up oil spill on a beach in Thailand
Read more

Research groups

Centre for Operational Research and Logistics

We're using our expertise in analytics, system design, simulation, programming, and forecasting to help organisations around the world make better decisions.

shipping cargo
Read more

Logistics, Operational Research and Analytics Group

Our Logistics, Operational Research and Analytics Research Group members conduct and supervise research in a wide range of fields.

Shipping container in logistics process
Read more

Interested in a PhD in Operational Research & Logistics?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Operational Research & Logistics postgraduate research degrees page.