Systems research

Systems research is found in groups across Imperial covering areas from systems engineering to systems biology, and systems medicine. Research methods, tools and techniques from different disciplines can be brought together to tackle complex challenges such as climate change, development of low-carbon energy systems, water management, resilience to disease, and innovative diagnostics and therapeutics for healthcare.

We invite you to explore the wealth of research being undertaken at the College using a systems perspective. Please get in touch - we welcome discussions with other academic, industry and policy institutions

Scroll down to find out more.

Systems research centres and initiatives

Systems research programmes

Publication highlights

CSEI 2020-2030 research strategy

A research agenda on systems approaches to infrastructure - paper highlights

  • At a time of system shocks, significant underlying challenges are revealed in current approaches to delivering infrastructure, including the need for holistic assessment and that infrastructure users in many societies feel distant from nature.
  • Adopting an approach that sees the natural environment as all pervasive, where the built infrastructure is inseparable from it and an adaptation of the natural environment to suit societal needs, using its materials and resources.
  • Research focused on complexity, systems integration, data-driven systems engineering, infrastructure lifecycles, and the transition towards zero pollution as key themes that can further our understanding and evaluation of Infrastructure-Environment Nexus.
  • The case for modelling that brings natural as well as built environments within the system boundaries to better understand infrastructure and to better assess sustainability.
  • A 2030 research agenda with the aim to develop novel modelling methods, forms of model integration, and multi-criteria indicators to better understand the natural and societal impacts of infrastructure interventions under uncertainty.

Read the full paper for more information (ResearchGate) 

Briefing Paper: Climate change and the human-made water cycle

A Grantham Institute briefing paper that considers the impact of climate change on water resources, and how the UK water sector can plan for the future by implementing a sustainable water cycle.

Paper highlights

  • Climate change is already happening, and the UK’s climate will continue to change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, with the long-term resilience of its infrastructure at risk.
  • The water sector cannot adapt to the challenges of climate change in isolation, as policy effects in one sector will have indirect effects in others.
  • Current demand pressures and reductions in abstraction licences – rights to draw water – are causing supply-demand deficits and this is coupled to the impacts of climate change. If no action is taken, the current high standards of service that is offered at a fair price, and without causing environmental damage, could soon be at risk.
  • While impact on water flows might not yet be measurable, there is evidence to show that if water companies carry on with ‘business as usual’, we risk a future without enough water for people, business, farmers, wildlife and the environment.
  • With water as the key medium that links atmospheric temperature rises to changes in human and physical systems, government, water companies and all the players in the wider sector need to play a more proactive role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy, while helping people, politicians and decision makers to understand and prepare for the risks of climate change

Read the full paper: Climate change and the human-made water cycle: Implications for UK water sector‌ [PDF]


A systems-based approach to catchment water management

As part of a NERC-funded Innovation Academic Placement, Dr Ana Mijic, Co-Director of the Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation has produced a report in collaboration with the Environment Agency and the Royal Academy of Engineering on A systems-based approach to catchment water management as part of the Systems Water Management for Catchment Scale Processes (CASYWat) project. Dr Mijic's project looked at an innovative, systems-based approach to water management to help organisations involved in water planning and management understand how different parts of the water system interact and develop ways of managing the water environment as a whole.