The history of Systems research within the Engineering Faculty, University of Bristol dates back to the early 1990’s when systems-based approaches began to be researched and advocated for engineering applications, particularly in relation to safety, risk and uncertainty management.
A key tenet of the Systems research undertaken at Bristol was to recognise explicitly that engineered ‘hard’ systems are embedded in the ‘soft’ human systems, including those of research, design, manufacture and end use, and therefore, that all technical ‘hard’ systems risks need to be understood within a socio-economic context.In the last decade new themes of multidisciplinary fundamental and applied research in Systems have emerged and in 2009-2010 the Systems Centre was launched to lead in application of Systems Thinking to complex engineering problems.
The Systems Centre at the University of Bristol collaborates with other Universities and with ~40 Companies in the UK to make a contribution in the following fields:
Prof Patrick Godfrey (point of contact), Prof Hillary Sillitto (Thales), Prof John Davis, Prof Colin Taylor, Prof David Oxenham (Dstl), Prof Alan Champneys, Prof Dawei Han , Prof Peter Head (Arup), Prof Chris McMahon (University of Bath), Prof Gordon Hutchinson (Forum for the Future), Prof Dave Cliff, Dr Mike Yearworth, Dr Anders Johansson, Dr David Barton, Dr Ges Rosenberg, Dr Chris Preist, Paul Best (FNC), Dr Jeremy Burn, Dr Mike Tierney, Dr Oksana.
The focus of this research theme is to investigate and develop new approaches to engineering design that apply appropriate techniques from complexity and social sciences, environmental monitoring and modelling. It includes the development of concepts such as ‘systems architecting’ as a means of achieving a better response to understanding of stakeholder needs, environmental factors and interoperability of systems during the goal setting and problem definition stages, as well as creating a space in which design engineers can explore innovative conceptual designs. Some of these concepts are implemented and developed through the Centre’s research into national infrastructure.
Dr Mike Yearworth (point of contact), Prof John Davis, Prof Patrick Godfrey, Dr Jacqui Wilmshurst, Dr Ges Rosenberg, Prof Leroy White, Dr Gordon Edwards, Katharina Burger
With more than 70 Industry based EngD in Systems research projects and 40 companies supporting these projects, this research programme aims to deepen an understanding of Systems Thinking as a set of methods and tools, as well as a purposeful human activity. Research work is also looking at developing methods and tools for generic networking analysis and agent-based modelling of complex systems, including applications areas in improved reliability and vulnerability analysis.
The Centre’s preliminary research findings show that many partner organisations are in the process of transforming their business to orientate it around a systems thinking approach. The benefits to industry and society from research within this theme include:
Dr Theo Tryfonas (point of contact), Prof David Blockley, Dr John May, Dr Jitendra Agarwal, Dr Mike Yearworth, Prof John Davis, Prof Derek Hitchins, Prof Hillary Sillitto, Prof Peter Head, Prof David Oxenham, Prof Patrick Godfrey, Paul Best, Neil Allan, Dr Ges Rosenberg
Consolidating on world class research in Safety Critical Systems and Risk at the EngF in Bristol, we are seeking to develop enhanced techniques for handling cross-disciplinary ‘wicked problems’.