EC Pioneer Award Lecture (Professor Thomas Bäck)

Industrial Problem Solving by Evolutionary Computation

Thomas Bäck

Computer Science, Leiden University, The Netherlands


Many industries use simulation tools for virtual product design, and there is a growing trend towards using simulation in combination with optimization algorithms. The requirements for optimization under such circumstances are often very strong, involving many design variables and constraints and a strict limitation of the number of function evaluations to a surprisingly small number (often around one thousand or less).

Tuning optimization algorithms for such challenges has led to very good results obtained by variants of evolution strategies. In the presentation, sample cases from industry are presented, and their challenges are discussed in more detail. Results of an experimental comparison of contemporary evolution strategies on the BBOB test function set for a small number of function evaluations are presented and discussed, and further enhancements of contemporary evolution strategies are outlined.
Our practical examples are motivated by industrial applications. A typical challenge is to find innovative solutions to a design optimization task. Based on a suitable definition of innovative solutions, an application of this concept to an airfoil design optimization task is discussed in the presentation.

In celebration of the 2015 IEEE CIS Evolutionary Computation Pioneer Award, a small part of the presentation will be devoted to my pioneering contribution and its relevance for evolutionary computation.


Professor Thomas Bäck is full professor of computer science at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), Leiden University, The Netherlands, since 2004.

He received his PhD in Computer Science (under supervision of Hans-Paul Schwefel) from Dortmund University, Germany, in 1994, and then worked for the Informatik Centrum Dortmund (ICD) as department leader of the Center for Applied Systems Analysis. From 2000 – 2009, Thomas was President of NuTech Solutions GmbH and CTO of NuTech Solutions, Inc. In 2009, he founded divis intelligent solutions GmbH. The company provides data mining and optimization software and services to customers such as BMW, Daimler, Ford, Honda, and many others.

Thomas Bäck has more than 250 publications as well as a book on evolutionary algorithms, entitled Evolutionary Algorithms: Theory and Practice, and is co-editor of the Handbook of Evolutionary Computation and the Handbook of Natural Computing, and co-author of the book Contemporary Evolution Strategies (Springer, 2013). He is editorial board member of a number of journals and has served as program chair for major conferences in evolutionary computation. He received the best dissertation award from the Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) in 1995 and is an elected fellow of the International Society for Genetic and Evolutionary Computation for his contributions to the field.