Understanding the performance of complex systems

Understanding the performance of complex systems

We have a sense that the words we use to describe the complexity of the modern world only provide a superficial understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the processes upon which we depend.

In 1989, Professor Roger Sargent gathered together a group of engineers, mathematicians and molecular scientists and established the Centre for Process Systems Engineering to define and quantify the components that make up complex industrial chemical processes in order to optimize performance.

Since then our field of work has expanded to encompass many other critical industrial and biological processes and has led to the development of algorithms and computer simulations that describe individual processes, from the molecular to macroscopic scale, that combine to define, for example; a bacterial cell’s ability to produce a synthetic oil; the design of an optimized urban energy system and the economics of a commodity supply chain. Statistical routines have been developed to enable the performance of complex systems even in the absence of full descriptions of all the contributory components.