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International research challenge seeks solutions for logistics of the future

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Shorter transport times with less outlay

The human race is becoming increasingly mobile and long commutes to the workplace are the norm. At the same time, the amount of goods sent via the road network continues to rise. This is causing established transport systems to quickly reach their limits. To relieve the pressure on these systems, the vehicles used for transport must be used in a more intelligent way. The Research Training Group “Mixed-Integer Non Linear Optimisation: Algorithms and Applications” (MINOA) has now launched an international Research Challenge coordinated by Prof. Dr. Frauke Liers, Professor for Applied Mathematics at FAU, to find solutions to the problem. Pupils, students as well as researchers and other interested professionals from all disciplines can apply for the competition until May 2021. The winning teams will be invited to FAU or awarded prize money.

Mail order shopping has gained in significance during the last few months. The use of public transport, however, also continues to play a large role. Complex planning is required behind the scenes to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible – a complicated process, which has traditionally been split up into several consecutive phases.

More vehicles are usually kept available than required

The first step usually involves deciding the journey frequency that is required to provide the optimum level of service for a bus route for example. The decision about which vehicles in particular will be used for this route is taken later. This separation typically means that a larger number of vehicles must be kept available than if both these decisions were integrated and taken at the same time. Integrating electric vehicles into the system brings some special challenges. The suggestion for the topic for the challenge came from industrial partner M.A.I.O.R in Pisa.

Optimisation as an international challenge

Participants have to develop and implement a computer programme aimed at solving real problems in integrated timetable and transport planning in local public transport networks. ‘We offer three levels of difficulty, depending on participants’ background,’ says Frauke Liers. ‘Anyone can take part, but they should, of course, have some knowledge of the relevant methods.’ The winning teams will be invited to FAU and will be able to present their solution at the next ‘Long Night of the Sciences’. If the event is cancelled because of the pandemic, the winning teams will receive prize money instead.

The MINOA research training group

In the MINOA research training group, 13 young researchers are currently working in an international network with researchers from 14 academic institutions and six partners in industry from six different countries on challenges related to mathematical optimisation in the fields of logistics, energy, analytics, science and engineering. The researchers’ training involves at least one internship with one of the participating partners from industry as well as a research stay at one of the partner universities in the network.

Further information

Website of MINOA research training group with the open research challenge.

Prof. Dr. Frauke Liers
frauke.liers@math.uni-erlangen.de