‘Geography, Open Innovation, Diversity and Entrepreneurship’: 19th Uddevalla Symposium at Birkbeck

This post was contributed by James Fisk, graduate administrator at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. Here, James reports from the 19th Uddevalla Symposium, held at Birkbeck from 30 June to 2 July 2016.

Delegates network at the 19th Uddevalla Symposium held at Birkbeck this summer

Delegates network at the 19th Uddevalla Symposium held at Birkbeck this summer

“Silicon Valley is a mind-set, not a location” Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, once said. Indeed, his emphasis on ethos over geography is an interesting one, but successful entrepreneurial ecosystems, in an age of innovation increasingly dominated by monoliths such as Google and Microsoft, can be far more challenging and problematic than his assertion suggests. Can, and should, an innovation system such as Silicon Valley be replicated elsewhere?

This was just one of many questions up for discussion as Birkbeck hosted the 19th Uddevalla Symposium between the 30th June and 2nd July, the first time the symposium has been held in the UK. The three-day symposium which looks to bring together cutting edge research from leading academics, researchers and practitioners invited attendees to consider this year’s themes of ‘Geography, Open Innovation, Diversity and Entrepreneurship’.

Invited by Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Research Management (CIMR), researchers from across the globe came together for the annual symposium, with over 50 papers up for discussion, over 150 attendees arriving from 27 countries and expertise from fields as diverse as Canadian aerospace and Swedish E-Government.

Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman CBE, conducted the formal opening of the event and welcomed an array of scholars, entrepreneurs and researchers to the college. Over the following three days, attendees heard keynote speeches from leading scholars in the morning, before parallel paper sessions saw fervent debate spread across Birbeck’s Bloomsbury campus in the afternoon. With at least four parallel sessions available on each day, it was a productive and busy few days for those interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.

As the latest research from across the world was to be found at Birkbeck, the symposium offered the chance for not only sharing papers, but for formulating new ideas and cultivating collaboration across industries, disciplines and national borders.

Speaking at the event, Birkbeck Professor of Entrepreneurship Helen Lawton Smith said: “It’s a huge privilege to host this event and bring together diverse and important strands of research in one place.”

CIMR logoSo, can, and should, we look to replicate Silicon Valley? The answer is, unfortunately, not as straight forward as the question. With Keynote speeches such as Professor Wim Vanhaverbeke’s (Hasselt University) ‘Open Innovation in SMEs’ and Professor Gary Cook’s  (University of Liverpool) ‘Cities and International Entrepreneurship: Towards an Integration of International Business, Economics, Geography and Urban Economics Perspectives’ attesting to the many complex regional and international factors that make-up often delicate entrepreneurial ecosystems across the planet.

The annual symposium ended on Saturday 2nd July, with PhD candidate Tina Wallin (Jönköping International Business School) winning the best PhD candidate paper award for her paper ‘Labour Knowledge Complementarity and Firm Innovativeness’. Professor Ashish Arora (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University), Professor Suma Athreye (Brunel Business School, Brunel University) and Dr Can Huang (Institute for Intellectual Property Management, School of Management, Zhejiang University) won the best paper award for their work ‘The Paradox of Openness Revisited: Collaborative Innovation and Patenting by UK Innovators’.

Those wishing to read more can find a wealth of information on the Uddevalla symposium website, where you can find working papers, previous winning papers and keep track of upcoming events. For similar events looking at innovation and entrepreneurship, check out Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) webpage.

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Graphs and Paths: Professor Peter Wood’s inaugural lecture

This post was contributed by Riccardo Frosini, PhD student in Birkbeck’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. On 6 June, Riccardo attended the inaugural lecture of Professor Peter Wood. Here he reports on the lecture.

Cloud computing

The Department of Computer Science and Information Systems has announced the promotion to professor of Dr Peter T. Wood. The inaugural lecture to celebrate the event was attended by many colleagues, friends and students.

Professor Wood received his BSc and MSc in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town. In 1989 he obtained his PhD at the University of Toronto. He started working at Birkbeck in 2001, where he was Head of School from September 2006 until July 2009.

During the lecture, the audience could recognise his commitment and passion to his field of study as well as his humble personality. His lecture was focused on graph theory, in particular the recurring topic that has kept him busy over the years: Queries on Graphs.

Querying graphs

Professor Wood introduced the lecture by showing the importance of graph theory in history: from the Bridges of Koenigsberg problem to the more recent Linked Open Data project.

A graph is a collection of nodes or entities which are connected by edges. Entities can be an abstract representation of real world data and the edges represent the connections between them. Graphs are also used in social networks, geographical information, computer program analysis, and general knowledge representation.

One example shown during the lecture was an airline graph, where the entities represent airports and the edges represent flight connections. In this example, the edges can be labelled with different values, such as the number of miles between the airports or the airline companies operating the route.

During his PhD, Professor Wood investigated the computational complexity of querying such graphs.

One of his contributions at that time was to propose the use of regular expressions for finding paths in graphs. He proved that this problem is hard to solve for computers when nodes are not allowed to repeat on paths, but also that the problem becomes tractable when the regular expressions are restricted in certain ways

Querying trees

Professor Peter Wood

Professor Peter Wood

The second topic of research covered by Professor Wood during the lecture was optimising queries on trees.

Trees are particular kinds of graphs. A simple example is the family tree where each node represents a person and each connection is a parent-child relationship. One common language for representing trees is XML (eXtensible Modelling Language) which is often used for data exchange on the internet.

To define constraints on the allowed structure of XML, a schema or DTD (Document Type Definition) often is used, both of which also use regular expressions.

One common query language for XML is called XPath. If an XPath query does not conform to the DTD constraints, then it will not return any result when posed against an XML file. These kinds of queries are called “unsatisfiable”.

Professor Wood has proved that, in general, is computationally hard to check if an XPath query is satisfiable. During his research, he discovered a particular property for DTD’s called “covering”. This property was not only very common in real-world DTDs, but also made checking XPath satisfiability tractable for certain fragments of the XPath language.

Flexible Querying

Professor Wood’s most recent work, undertaken jointly with a number of colleagues and PhD students, is in flexible querying. They added flexible querying to the standard query language for Linked Open Data (a collection of graph databases), called SPARQL 1.1 (which also supports regular expressions).

The flexible querying technique in SPARQL helps users to find answers to queries on Linked Open Data datasets, when they are not familiar with the structure and/or vocabulary of the data.

To generate answers that may be useful to the user, the flexible querying approach poses many different queries over the data. In order to reduce the number of queries posed, Professor Wood investigated the possible impact of discarding queries that were not satisfiable. This was done by the querying system keeping track of the possible paths available in the graph being queried.

Experiments on real data showed that discarding the unsatisfiable queries detected using this approach can result in dramatic improvements in query execution time.

Professor Wood concluded his lecture by mentioning his ongoing and future work, including work on social network applications, generating mappings between distributed Linked Open Data graphs, and further optimisation techniques to speed up the evaluation of queries on graphs.

Click this image to watch Professor Peter Wood’s inaugural lecture on Panopto – Birkbeck’s video platform

Click this image to watch Professor Peter Wood’s inaugural lecture on Panopto – Birkbeck’s video platform

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The History of Number Theory

This post was contributed by James Fisk, graduate administrator at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. James attended a British Society for the History of Mathematics event hosted by Birkbeck’s Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics

bshmBirkbeck welcomed the British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM) to its campus on Saturday 21st May, for a conference looking to trace the fascinating, and often surprising, history of number theory.

The event, ‘The History of Number Theory’ had been organised by BSHM with support from the Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics and saw speakers trace a history stretching from antiquity to the 21st Century, from thinkers such as Euclid to Fermat and Gang Tian.

Speaking after the event, Professor Sarah Hart said “It brought together a wide array of people; there were many students and academics, but also those with just an interest in the subject. Having such a diverse audience truly enriched the conversation.”

In the second iteration of what both Birkbeck and the Society anticipate to be a continuing annual fixture, the conference welcomed speakers eager to bring to life theories that have engaged mathematicians for centuries (and some, for millennia).

The History of Number Theory - Robin Wilson - Eulers Number TheoryAlmost 100 attendees arrived at Birkbeck for the conference, a place where Louis Joel Mordell, responsible for the Mordell Equation, took a lecturer post in 1913. Ben Fairbairn, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Birkbeck, discussed Mordell‘s impact, saying “Mordell’s time at Birkbeck saw him solve two conjectures posed by Srinivasa Ramanujan, the hugely influential Indian mathematician. Of the three conjectures posited in ‘On Arithmetical Functions’, Mordell solved two at Birkbeck, with the third only being closed as recently as 1974!”

The conference also saw Simon Singh discuss the making of his hugely successful ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ documentary, produced for the BBC’s Horizon series and chronicling the esteemed mathematician’s problematic last theorem. Those wishing to get a flavour of the event can still find the documentary on BBC iPlayer.

With the conference covering millennia of fierce debate around Number Theory, an anecdote shared on the day by Ben Fairbairn and about Louis Joel Mordell best summarises the human side of the field: “He travelled by a certain train which should have got him to Birkbeck in time. But frequently the train arrived late. He pointed out the discrepancy between promise and performance to the Railway Company, who said that they would do something about it. And so they did: they adjusted the advertised time of arrival and, in consequence, the train now always arrived as advertised, but always too late for him.”

Birkbeck’s Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics offer a range of courses covering the material discussed at the conference. You can see how to join the British Society for the History of Mathematics by visiting their site.

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Recognizing Entrepreneurial Universities in Academic Rankings

This post was contributed by Matthew Jayes of Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics. The article concerns an international education project founded by Birkbeck visiting professor, Henry Etzkowitz – who is also a member of Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR)

CIMR logo

Initial results and new projects aimed at crediting academic contribution to economic and social development as well as publication and educational activities in international university ranking systems will be announced at Global Entrepreneurial University Metrics (GEUM) Meet.

On 3-5 June 2016, the International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI) in cooperation with the Triple Helix Association (THA) will host the second GEUM workshop in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, USA.

The Global Entrepreneurial University Metrics initiative (GEUM) is an international Working Group initiated by the International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI), CWTS Leiden University, and the Psychology in the Public Interest Program, North Carolina State University, under the umbrella of the Triple Helix Association. The scope of the GEUM is to catalyze the development of new metrics including entrepreneurship, gender and diversity and furtherance of the public interest in University ranking systems.

Professor Henry Etzkowitz, of Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR), and GEUM project founder, said: “Most global University rankling systems privilege publication activity, with the effect of driving out other academic contributions to the economy and society. The purpose of the GEUM initiative is to broaden input into what is ranked and how ranking is accomplished.”

The initiative, led by Professor Etzkowitz – who is also President of the ITHI/THA – coordinated by Alexander Bikkulov (Co-ordination Manager), and with Dr Chunyan Zhou as Proposal Coordinator, begun with seven country teams from:

  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Finland
  • The Netherland
  • Russia
  • The US

It was kicked off during a first workshop held on 22-23 June 2015 in Leiden (the Netherlands) supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

GEUM has already produced some new results since the first research projects from the initiative break through: Brazil, Finland, Austria and Russia have conducted the GEUM studies in their countries and will present the results in the workshop that will move between Dinah’s Garden Hotel, Stanford University and a prototypical Silicon Valley “garage Setting” this week-end.

“First GEUM Workshop was a good kick-off for many research teams involved – including Russian team,” says Alexander Bikkulov, Head of Center for Project Development and Fundraising at ITMO University (Russia).

“We can see this in a number of successful projects started in 4 countries during the year. And we definitely see the positive impact of having strong international contacts – both in strengthening the applications for grants and in real exchange of ideas and expertise.”

The founding country teams (Austria, Brazil, China, Finland, Holland, Russia, U.S.A) will be joined by project teams-in-organization from Japan, Spain and the U.K.

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