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CBA: The Centre for Business Analytics

History of the Centre for Business Analytics

Analytics, in the form of Operations Research has been in Ireland for more than 50 years.The Operations Research Society of Ireland was founded in 1964 and in 1972 the ORSI hosted one of the first IFORS conferences. At this conference the decision to set up EURO was taken, the Association of European Operational Research Societies In the 1970s, Operations Research became part of the curriculum in the UCD Business School, initially from staff based in the Department of Accountancy. Research in that period worked with Irish business to solve problems, with Harry Harrison winning the prestigious Franz Edelman Award in 1978 for an application in pharmaceutical distribution.

The Department of Management Information Systems was established in 1979 with a staff of five under Professor Harry Harrison. This provided several courses in the Bachelor of Commerce degree. In the same period, the Master of Management Science commenced and this programme provided numerate business graduates to Irish business for 30 years. This degree included dissertations from the beginning, which combined the technical skills of the students into new applications. Earlier dissertations used programs written in FORTRAN and mainframe OR tools such as IBM-VSPX for applications such as routing milk trucks. While making good use of mainframes, the MIS Department was an early adopter of microcomputer technology for teaching and research. The department used CP/M machines for staff from the beginning and was the first unit in UCD to make extensive use of PCs for teaching with the opening of the Microcomputer Centre in 1985, this lab initially had 30 dual 5.25" floppy Ericsson PCs with 256KB of ram. This period saw an increase in the number on the Masters and in the number of undergraduate students taking OR related courses. Sadly, Patrick Perry, a founder member of the MIS Dept passed away in 1987 and has since been commemorated by the Perry Prize for the best student on the MSc degree. This prize was sponsored by Merc Partners and subsequently by SAS Inc.

The 1990s say the move of postgraduate teaching to the Blackrock campus, but the MIS staff remained in Belfield. Undergraduate numbers increased and there was also an increase in staff, with Cathal Brugha and Peter Keenan joining. The Department and the Master of Management Science continued with agribusiness related work in Milk Routing, worked with other Irish businesses such as Aer Lingus, and introduced new areas of interest such as multi-criteria decision-making. In addition to Irish business projects began with new multinational businesses arriving in Ireland, for instance in the form of dissertation projects in Intel Ireland,. Graduates of the Masters programme had by this time joined organisations all over the world and proceeded to Ph.D. study in Britain and the USA.

The new century saw the move of undergraduate teaching to the Lochlann Quinn building. Sean McGarraghy joined the group and Cathal Brugha became editor of the International Transactions in OR, the IFORS journal, and a founder director of the Centre for Management Science and Systems, which later was to become the Centre for Business Analytics. As early adopters of PCs the Business School had by now moved to student use of laptops in both undergraduate and postgraduate classes. As the decade went on, the term Management Science did not capture the current business use of quantitative modelling techniques and the Masters programme was re-launched in 2008 as the MSc in Business Analytics. In addition to the change of focus, a part-time mode was introduced and the programme has gone from strength to strength. A newly formed Irish analytics company, Distinct Consulting, provided a scholarship for a student on the MSc. With an increased number of students, the scope and numbers of dissertations also grew, including the full spectrum of Irish economic activity. Members of CBA have played a full part in the founding of the Analytics Institute and Cathal Brugha became a founder director.

In 2014 significant funding was provided by ICON, a global provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries and partners of the UCD Smurfit Business School, for a chair in Business Analytics and support for PhDs and research. This marked the start of a new era for the Centre of Business Analytics.