Our REF 2021 submission included over 70% more staff than at REF 2014, with 19 staff submitted (up from 11 at REF 2014) from our School of Mathematics and Physics.

Our REF 2021 income has increased by over 400% compared to REF 2014 and we achieved our goal to increase the diversity of funding streams targeted. Research funding in our Applied Mathematics group spans a larger number of funding bodies including both academic and industry-focused ones. Funding in our Logistics, Operational Research and Analytics research group has grown from an expansion of our key roles in major consortia spanning four areas: Renewable Energy, Transport, Healthcare, and Security and Risk.

The number of PhD students completing their degree with us more than doubled compared to REF 2014.

We focus on producing excellent research, from theoretical advances through to applications and impact, motivated by societal and global challenges. We work with academic institutions, public sector bodies, and industry, to solve problems in sectors including the environment and sustainability, renewable energy generation and storage, transportation, and health.

Results in REF 2021

  • 92% of our outputs were judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading (up from 61% at REF2014).
  • 100% of our impact was rated as having very considerable or outstanding reach and significance (up from 80% at REF2014).
  • 100% of our research environment was judged as having the vitality and sustainability to produce internationally excellent research and very considerable impact (up from 45% at REF2014).
  • Overall, 95% of our submission was judged to be internationally excellent or world-leading (up from 62% at REF2014).
  • We are ranked top among modern UK universities for overall performance and research environment.

Research areas 

Our research is focused in two main groups:

Applied Mathematics

Since REF 2014, our Applied Mathematics group has expanded its applicable and interdisciplinary research to include industrial mathematics, applied probability and statistical physics, mathematical biology, theoretical ecology, epidemiology, medical applications and topological data analysis. We aim to break new ground connecting mathematics with other disciplines via international collaborations, including:

  • Our work in Industrial Mathematics with chemists, engineers, and the automotive industry led to one of our impact case studies.
  • We solve problems in sustainable farming as part of the Diverfarming consortium.
  • We apply probability and statistical physics to social systems.
  • We collaborate on experimental and theoretical models of prostate cancer.

New fundamental areas of research include the theory of differential equations, category theory and general topology. The group secured competitive fellowships and awards, increased funding for postdoctoral researchers, and formed new academic partnerships in Italy, the Czech Republic, Canada and the USA.

Logistics, Operational Research and Analytics 

Our Logistics, Operational Research and Analytics group has increased its key roles in consortia with international and UK business and the public sector in transportation, renewable energy, and risk, including: 

  • The Solent Future Transport Zone (£28.75 million consortium) provides sustainable solutions for the transport of people and goods, and Intelligent Gatelines (£1.3 million consortium) improved passenger flow and crowd management, leading to one of our impact case studies.
  • LEANWIND (€15 million consortium, with 31 partners) addresses challenges posed by the life-cycle of offshore wind farms, and WASP (£900,000 consortium) uses autonomous vessels to maintain them.
  • NEREUS (€7 million consortium) transforms wastewater into a reusable source of water, nutrients and energy, and SLIC (€4 million consortium) improves public lighting to increase uptake of renewables and reduce carbon emissions.
  • ARCSAR (with 21 partners) helps Arctic and North Atlantic coastguards prepare for security and safety threats.

Expansion in fundamental areas of research includes the theory of optimisation. The group substantially increased funding for postdoctoral researchers and formed academic partnerships in the USA, Brazil, Iraq and China.

Impact case studies

We submitted two impact case studies demonstrating the reach and significance of our research in the following areas:

An electric vehicle on charge

Improving lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles through mathematical modelling

Our researchers created mathematical models that provide new methods to improve the lifetime, performance, safety and reliability of batteries — making electric vehicles safer, cheaper, more efficient and able to last longer between charges. This is crucial to the future uptake of electric vehicles and contributes to global goals to reduce emissions, waste and environmental impact. Results include the globally-used software tool Dandeliion for modelling prototypes of new batteries. The work significantly reduces the time and cost for companies developing electric vehicles. We work directly with the automotive industry (including General Motors), industrial partners (including Dassault Systèmes) and the universities of Southampton and Oxford in the UK and McMaster University in Canada. We also contribute to the Faraday Institution that works to power Britain’s battery revolution.

People walking through ticket barriers

Intelligent Gatelines (ticket barriers): improving throughput, safety, customer experience, and staff effectiveness, at mainline and metro stations

Our researchers worked to create automated railway station ticket barriers (gatelines) that can optimise the passenger flow through underground and mainline stations. The result is an increased throughput of people, a reduction in delays, and automatic crowd management that reduces congestion and improves safety. We used operational research techniques to design an “Adaptive Intelligent Controller” that sits at the heart of the system, analysing the crowd flow to predict in advance the best way to open and close gates in both directions. The project was funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, with industrial partners including Cubic Transportation Systems Ltd, Transport for London, Arriva UK Ltd and the Connected Places Catapult.

Interdisciplinary collaboration hubs

Our Logistics, Operational Research, and Analytics Group jointly founded three cross-disciplinary hubs to increase external collaborations: 

  • We achieved our REF 2014 strategic aim to create a Centre for Operational Research and Logistics, co-founded with our Faculty of Business and Law, which brings together interdisciplinary teams of researchers with public and private sector partners, to address challenges in areas including technology, efficiency, and sustainability. 
  • The South Coast Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications unites academic institutions, businesses, and local authorities, to address challenges spanning healthcare, media, education, construction, environmental resource management, tourism, and agriculture.
  • The Intelligent Transport Cluster brings the expertise of academics from across the university to end-users, to help build smart, safe, sustainable, and efficient transport systems fit for the cities of the future.