Forschungsgruppe ORCOS
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HISTORY

 

Some Remarks on the Forerunner Institutions of ORCOS:

(by Gustav Feichtinger)

 

In what follows it is described how Operations Research was institutionalized at the Vienna University of Technology. Moreover, the development of the Institute of OR is sketched briefly.

Some OR-problems were dealt with at the Mathematical Institute of the Technische Hochschule Wien (TH Wien) in the middle of the fifties. As everywhere, this innovation was connected  with the introduction and the rise and development of computers. An early application was a concrete transportation problem arising in the Austrian sugar industry (carried out by W. Knödel).

The growing importance of mathematical methods in decision and planning problems led to the foundation of the Institut für Unternehmensforschung in 1972  ("Unternehmensforschung" acted as translation of OR at that time. Since this denotation was not very suitable, it was later changed to "Operations Research"). Generally, the late sixties and seventies showed a remarkable increase in the number of institutes and researchers at the universities in Austria (and not only there). Let us just mention in this context the introduction of informatics, economics and business administration as well as the extension of applied mathematics at the TH (later TU) Wien.

The Institut für Unternehmensforschung was established at the Faculty of Mathematics. The newly founded institute was small: one full professor, Gustav Feichtinger, one assistant, Alexander Mehlmann, and one secretary, Sylvia Puhl until 1973, then Maria Toda. The institute offered a two-semester course on OR-methods, 4 hours per week each as well as special courses on various topics of optimization, decision theory, queueing models, reliability and maintenance as well as other fields in OR.

In the period from 1973 to 1974 two additional assistants were hired, i.e. Mikulas Luptacik and Judith Rosenfeld. Due to her micro-demographic carrier, Judith was afterwards replaced by Richard F. Hartl.

Among the research issues at this early stage were manpower planning, population dynamics, mathematical (particularly geometric) programming and various applications of dynamic optimization.

Members of the institute were involved in the foundation of the Austrian Society for OR (ÖGOR) in 1978 and its development.

The Sixth European Conference of OR Societies (EURO VI) took place at the Vienna University of Technology and was co-organized by our institute. Starting with 1980, the institute organized a series of international OR-conferences, in particular several joint Austrian-German-Swiss OR meetings.

A certain culmination was the 1990 meeting of the DGOR, GMOEOR, SVOR, and ÖGOR in Vienna, which had more than 1200 participants, where a substantial number of them came, just after the fall of the iron curtain, from Eastern (European) countries.

Since the late seventies, optimal control theory and its applications to various intertemporal decision problems was one of the key research agenda of the institute. Among the various application areas were environmental planning, marketing, production, maintenance, and, generally, the dynamics of the firm. Among the (research) assistants working in this field were Engelbert Dockner, Gerhard Sorger, Josef Haunschmied and Gernot Tragler.

Soon the interest was extended to differential games and their applications in economics and OR. A further topic was the study of complex solutions of optimal control models. In that context, bifurcation theory and other tools of nonlinear dynamical system theory became another main focus of the institute. Let us just mention Herbert Dawid and Alois Steindl contributing to these developments.

All these activities were reflected in the organization of ten international workshops on Optimal Control, Dynamic Games and Nonlinear Dynamical Systems.

Since the early eighties the institute had several research projects in OR, applied mathematics, economics and other fields funded mostly by the Austrian Science Fond (FWF). In that context a bunch of research assistants worked at the institute.