Center for Mathematical Economics at Bielefeld University

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The History of the IMW

The Institut für Mathematische Wirtschaftsforschung (IMW) [Engl.: Center for Mathematical Economics (IMW)] was founded on November 10th, 1970 through the constitution of its Kuratorium. It was the third scientific institution of the new Bielefeld University following only the Departments of Sociology and of Mathematics founded in 1969.


After a first Germany wide initiative to establish an international center for research in Mathematical Economics, the Kuratorium of the Volkswagenstiftung decided on June 6th, 1969 to establish such a center in Bielefeld. A Founding Board had its first constituting meeting on November 11th, 1969 and worked out a plan for the structure of the future institute. In particular, the board selected the first Kuratorium. Among the members of the Kuratorium were famous economists, as for instance Martin Beckmann, Janos Kornai, Wilhelm Krelle, Edmond Malinvaud, James Mirrlees, René Roy and Reinhard Selten.


Already during its first meeting the Kuratorium decided on the two first professorships for the IMW, as it was called, namely Carl-Christian von Weizsäcker and Reinhard Selten. At the same time the Kuratorium declared Professor von Weizsäcker the first Managing Director of the new institution. At that time the IMW was planned to become a large center with international visitors and further chairs in econometrics, operations research, mathematical psychology etc. whose beginning financing was provided by the Volkswagenstiftung and should later be transferred to the Land North-Rhine-Westfalia.

Financial difficulties of the land, attempts of some persons to relocate the IMW in an "easier accessible" region of Germany and Professor von Weizsäcker’s accepting an offer from the University of Bonn in 1973 left Professor Selten and some few coworkers as the rest of the institute. After foundation of the Faculty of Economics of Bielefeld University on November 28th, 1974, a discussion began about the future of the IMW that led to the decision to create two new positions (one for a full professor, one for an associate professor) and to inject these professorships into the IMW. These positions were offered to Professor Joachim Rosenmüller and Wulf Albers, respectively, who joined the IMW in 1978.

selten_2On October 24th, 1979 the Academic Senate of Bielefeld University decided to bestow upon the IMW the status of a scientific institution of supraregional and international character under the responsibility of the Faculty of Economics and the participation of the Faculty of Mathematics with its own budgetary responsibility. Reinhard Selten remained the Managing Director of the newly institutionalized IMW that received its own constitution (Satzung) published on November 30th, 1979.


In October 1984 Reinhard Selten accepted an offer from the University of Bonn and left Bielefeld and the IMW. The new Managing Director became Joachim Rosenmüller. Walter Trockel, after visiting IMW from Bonn for one academic year, followed Reinhard Selten on his chair in September 1985. Under the initiative and lead of the IMW the Departments of Mathematics and of Economics started the new Diplom curriculum "Mathematics of Economics" in the winter semester 1988/89.

As the budgetary independence for non-central institutions like the IMW was seen by some in the university in conflict with ruling university law the Academic Senate, after intensive discussions within the university, transformed the IMW on February 2nd, 1990 into a central institution, controlled only by the Academic Senate and independent of departments. This central institution was established for a period of seven years with the option of confirmation in case of support by two thirds of the members of the Academic Senate.

In October 1991 the IMW succeeded in receiving a Research Training Group "Mathematical Economics" in cooperation with economic theorists from the Economics Department that lasted for the maximal possible time period of nine years. Its spokesman was Professor Joachim Rosenmüller.

An application of the IMW for its continuation for another period of eight years led to an outside evaluation by peers. After a very positive evaluation by Professor Albach, E. Dierker, van Damme, Grodal, Herrero Blanco, Werner Güth and Bezalel Peleg the Academic Senate voted on April 30th, 1997 with two thirds majority to continue the IMW as a central institution for another period of eight years.

WT2After Joachim Rosenmüller’s resigning in 2002 Walter Trockel became Managing Director of the IMW.

In November 2004 Herbert Dawid, already full professor at the Department of Economics since his move from USC, where he had been an associate professor till 2002, became in addition a full member of the IMW.

On April 1st, 2005 the International Research Training Group "Economic Behavior and Interaction Models" in cooperation with the Doctoral School of University Paris 1 Panthéon–Sorbonne financed by the German Research Association (DFG) and the German–French University (DFH) became the second Research Training group organized by the IMW with Walter Trockel and Herbert Dawid as spokesman and vice-spokesman. Through the participation of Herbert Dawid and Walter Trockel the IMW played also a significant role in the International Graduate School "Stochastics and Real World Models" at the Department of Mathematics jointly with the Academy of Science of China in Bejing that started in January 2006. Since the winter semester 2006/2007 the IMW is chairing the Bielefeld part of a joint Erasmus Mundus Master program on "Models and Methods of Quantitative Economics" (QEM) of the universities Bielefeld, Autònoma de Barcelona, Ca’ Foscari di Venezia and Paris 1 Panthéon–Sorbonne.


In the summer semester 2007 Frank Riedel, Associate Professor at the University of Bonn, followed Joachim Rosenmüller, who had retired in 2006 on his chair at the IMW as a full professor and joined the International Research Training Group EBIM and Stochastics and Real World Models. Via a new joint project of Frank Riedel with Gerhard Jäger from the department of linguistics the IMW will participate in the DFG-Sonderforschungsbereich "Alignment in Communication" (SFB 673) that started at Bielefeld University in July 2006.

In addition to this collaborative research center, Frank Riedel initiated several interdisciplinary projects with the biology, sociology and sports department. From these departments, two professors are associated to the IMW: Prof. Jäger (Linguistics) and Prof. Mühlheußer (Sport Economics). Furthermore, from the math department, Prof. Kaßmann.

The main goal by 2007 was to ensure the prolongation of the IMW and hence several measures had to be taken. In 2011 Christoph Kuzmics, an excellent, young and ambitious professor at Northwestern University, followed Prof. Trockel, the former director of the IMW. Since 2012, the IMW is staffed by three full professors: Riedel (Director), Dawid and Kuzmics. Furthermore there are currently four Juniorprofessors and six research fellows at postdoc level.

ebimIn the same time, a new doctoral program was established at the IMW: European Doctorate in Economics Erasmus Mundus (EDE-EM), which is composed of seven European institutions and coordinated by the University of Paris 1, France. The International Research Training Group EBIM was prolonged until 2014. 22 doctoral students currently complete the scientific staff at the IMW.

On the undergraduate level, in 2011 the Erasmus Mundus Master (QEM) was prolonged and in 2012, the IMW started a new Research Master of Science in Quantitative Economics (QE). In addition to the Master of Science Wirtschaftsmathematik, the IMW is now strongly involved in two master programs.

Furthermore, the IMW has not only increased its staff but also its reputation in the scientific society. It is currently featured on ten Editorial Boards, among others the top-field journals "Journal of Mathematical Economics" and "Economic Theory".