Ensuring Flexible Design Strategies for Complex Systems Engineering.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Aerospace Engineering


This PhD seeks to investigate the application of complexity science tools and techniques to
systems engineering and design. Increasingly, companies like Thales are challenged to
design and deliver complex engineered systems that must be able to cope with ongoing
change in both their operational environment and the requirements of their users. These
complex systems are characterised by their architecture (their scale, interconnectivity of
components and ability to exchange information/energy with the environment), their
dynamic behaviour (non-linear, adaptive, decentralised control) and their behaviour (which
may be emergent, may exhibit non Gaussian distributions). It is important to consider
complexity because conventional systems engineering and design principles are built on a
foundation of reductionism and decomposability which are inadequate starting assumptions
to deal with complex systems. The research explores the complexity science approaches in
the application of systems engineering and design. Systems engineering and design
principles include: requirements analysis, system thinking, system lifecycles, architecture
frameworks and evaluation. The tools that could be exploited from complexity science
include: graph theory, agent based modelling, non-linear dynamics and information theory.
The research will analyse the utility of these approaches with a view to providing an
overarching framework for the application of complexity science to systems engineering and

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/P510427/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1834868 Studentship EP/P510427/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Matthew Potts