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Celebrating talent: ORTEC’s enduring relationship with The Econometric Game

Blog: Ortec Blog

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Timmer

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Timmer

This April sees the 17th edition of The Econometric Game, again hosted by VSAE, the student Econometrics and OR society of the University of Amsterdam. Gerrit Timmer, co-founder of ORTEC and Econometrics student back in the pioneering days, explains why after 35 years the company was founded, ORTEC still remains such an enthusiastic sponsor of the “world championships econometrics” for students.

Why does ORTEC sponsor The Econometric Game?

“Econometrics, including modelling and optimization techniques, are at the heart of everything ORTEC does. ORTEC also has very good relations with the University of Amsterdam. Moreover, the other co-founders and I were Econometrics students at Erasmus University in Rotterdam back in its earliest days as an academic discipline, 35 years ago. So we’re delighted to be able to support the work of student associations like VSAE and their ‘missionary’ work for Econometrics and do our bit to help Econometrics flourish.

Another factor is that the Econometric Game attracts talents from around the world and, as a large company that continues to grow fast, we have an on-going need to recruit new econometrics talent. This event raises our profile within that ‘community’ and hopefully demonstrates our genuine passion for this work. All in all, we see ourselves as a logical sponsor of this event.

From a wider perspective, why is the study of econometrics important in today’s world?

The increasing availability of Big Data means there is now endless information available for fact-based decision-making. However, you need to master certain techniques to be able to make effective use of that data.

Data mining is of limited use if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. You need a model, a ‘theory’ as it were, into which you fit the data. The critical step in the analysis of data is therefore the modelling. And I’m convinced the people best equipped to develop such models are ones who have studied Econometrics.

A while back I was at a presentation by a trend watcher. Neither he nor most of his audience were from a scientific or technical background, yet he believed that a few decennia from now the only work available will be low level menial jobs and mathematics/econometrics-related work. Because, he argued, most skilled and semi-skilled work will be done by robots, and the only people we’ll need are ones who know how to get these machines to do exactly what we want them to do. To do that, you’ll need to apply various data analytics tools, such as forecasting and optimization. So while the trend watcher’s predictions may be a little over-the-top, I think it’s true that econometrics will be an extremely important discipline in the future.

More specifically, how does ORTEC apply Econometrics in its day-to-day work?

It of course depends how broadly you use the word ‘econometrics’. But when we develop tools for the efficient use of resources — such as routing trucks, implementing work rosters or improving production planning — this always includes modelling in the strict sense of econometrics and optimization in its broader sense.

But interestingly these two areas are coming closer and closer together. So, for example, forecasting is becoming more important in routing. And increasingly we are focused not just on cost-efficiency but also on the effectiveness of activities, such as increasing revenue though dynamic flight ticket prices or real-time pricing of online advertising. In all these areas, econometrics is critical in forecasting the behavior of people.

Optimization and econometrics also come together in relatively new areas, like sport. Where we analyze enormous amounts of data from matches around the world to see what does and doesn’t work, then use that to inform how players and teams can alter their behavior to be more effective in particular situations.

In all these areas we first provide tailored consulting work, often for larger companies, to address their specific issues. After a while, when certain challenges keep reappearing in various contexts or sectors, we identify a wider call for a solution to address that broad challenge, for which we then develop a solution as a standardized product.

But customized product or standardized, living data or historical, it all goes back to applying those core skills that events such as The Econometric Game foster and celebrate.

Why not become a colleague of Gerrit?

Discover the career opportunities ORTEC can offer econometrics talents: working at ORTEC.

The post Celebrating talent: ORTEC’s enduring relationship with The Econometric Game appeared first on This Complex World.

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