Great ideas come from everywhere

The OR Society's Grand Challenge facilitates collaboration in the OR community to understand and solve complex challenges

Wednesday 15 September 2021

The Grand Challenge takes place every year at our annual conference. In the past, we’ve looked to help a local council with truck congestion in Kent and to solve logistical challenges faced by the Navy. However, some of the most challenging problems that OR has faced still loom ahead. We are, of course, talking about the issue of sustainable development goals. 

We are passionate about this event because it brings the OR community together to find practical solutions to solve real-world problems. 

Buy your ticket today for the annual conference to take part in this year's grand challenge where your ideas will be considered as a potential student or Pro Bono project, a research funding or independent consultancy bids. 



Until we begin the Grand Challenge: 15 September 2021

Watch last year's grand challenge and start thinking about how you could make an impact this year.  

Can you find solutions for the challenges being posed at OR63?

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Dr Ana Paula Fonseca

Challenge: How can OR help beyond COP26 in the transition to a net zero carbon future? 

Dr Ana Paula Fonseca, Edinburgh Napier University

Dr Ana Paula Fonseca, Lecturer in Strategy and Sustainability at Edinburgh Napier University will ask the audience for help to plan a roadmap to net zero and decarbonisation. With the UK needing to slash emissions by 78% for 2035, this session will explore ways that OR could help to support carbon analytics, improve resource efficiency, work with smart cities and many more problems 

Challenge: How can OR help leaders grow purpose driven, wellbeing businesses?

Simon Farrell, Co-Founder of Today the Arena

Simon Farrell, Co-Founder of Today the Arena, will ask the attendees how OR can help businesses work as a purposeful system and benefit the environments that they exist within. Using behavioural OR, PSM, systems dynamics and other methods, ideas shared will centre around purpose beyond profit methods including impact reporting and evaluation.


Challenge: How can OR help with the global task to vaccinate the world?

Vishal Sharma, United Nations

Vishal Sharma, Chief of Project Management Unit, United Nations, will ask the audience to help form ideas of how to improve the vaccine supply chain. With COVID-19 presenting one of the most difficult problems OR professionals have ever faced, attendees will be asked to think about the importance of systems thinking and how to introduce complex humanitarian systems.  

How it will work


Whether you are early in your career, an experienced practitioner or even a student, there is a place for you at our Grand Challenge.

All methods of operational research are welcome, systems thinking, behavioural OR, public policy, problem structuring methods to name a few. The challenges require everyone working together combining skills and experience to offer solutions that can be turned into actionable projects.

Taking part not only gives you a chance to share your expertise but will offer the experience of working to help solve a client’s problem, the chance to engage and network with others in the community and ultimately, to help make our world a better place.

  1. To begin with, attendees will hear from our guest speakers who will pose their challenges. 

  2. Small breakout groups will then seek to draw a ‘rich picture’ and discuss solutions to the problems raised. Each group can meet up at lunch to continue their rich pictures.

  3. In the afternoon, we will all come back together to feed the proposed solutions back to our guests. 

  4. We will consider each idea as a potential student or Pro Bono project, research funding or independent consultancy bids.


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