Complexity science

Complexity science explores the emergent behaviour of complex systems by focusing on interconnections of the system components and systems architecture, rather than the individual components themselves. It represents a novel scientific approach across traditional discipline boundaries.

The EPSRC Complexity science research area includes funding from all four capability areas - Mathematical Sciences, Information and Computer Technologies (ICT), Engineering and Physical Sciences. New funding applications are processed by the most relevant theme, with joint funding across themes as appropriate.


This area has grown significantly in the UK over the past few years and the UK is now internationally strong, both in terms of underpinning theory and application to real world problems. In recent years, complexity science has been funded by the Cross-Disciplinary Interfaces programme which has coordinated a number of initiatives. These managed activities have led to a broad portfolio spanning the EPSRC capability themes; Mathematical Sciences, ICT, Engineering and Physical Sciences, as well as research in application areas, such as energy. The importance of the area is demonstrated by the International Review of Mathematical Sciences 2010 (IRMS 2010) landscape document, which highlighted the opportunities that complexity science presents to mathematics (in particular Non-linear Systems), and the links with physical sciences, engineering, computer science, biology and social sciences through application.

Complexity science has strong potential societal impact (for example applications in healthcare), it has potential economic impact (for example through links to finance) and it also has potential impact on many other areas of research. The vast array of application areas are demonstrated by the programmes for the annual European Conference on Complex Systems, and the background reports and projects funded through the Complexity-NET European Research Area Network.

EPSRC investment in this area will be maintained, relative to other areas of the portfolio, in order that the UK can retain its international position. This will be achieved through standard application routes under the most appropriate theme. We will encourage proposals where underpinning theory is inspired by or strongly linked to applications. EPSRC has supported three doctoral training centres (DTCs) in this area. We will monitor the career trajectories of the DTC graduates, and we will seek to support the very best DTC graduates as they progress through their careers through fellowships. The multidisciplinary nature of the area should be strengthened, for example by linking to Systems Engineering, and awareness of complexity science in related disciplines should be raised.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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EPSRC support by research area in Complexity science (GoW)
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Contact Details

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Name: Michele Erat
Job title: Senior Manager
Department: Mathematical Sciences
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444237