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Programmes Complexity

Oxford Martin Programme on Complexity, Risk and Resilience

What are we doing?

Issues as diverse as the 2008 financial crisis, climate change and the impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on global supply chains, highlight that our understanding of complexity and risk is often insufficient and our tools for measuring and managing risk are often inadequate. The study of complex networks provides a new and powerful perspective on the spread of social and technological innovation, and the resilience of critical infrastructure in biological, financial, social, and engineered systems. By combining network approaches with methods like agent-based modelling, we seek to understand how such systems evolve dynamically, and respond to changing environments.

Why is it important?

Most of the systems that modern life is embedded in, and that we depend upon, are characterised by patterns of rich and often increasing interactions and interdependencies. As a result, understanding how such systems behave and how they might be modified is a major challenge. Our approach to tackling this challenge is to study different systems in a wide range of contexts, and to explore how and when models developed in one domain (e.g. ecosystems) can be translated to another ( markets).

How are we different?

Our researchers bring a cross-disciplinary perspective to these issues. Economists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, biologists, psychologists are collaborating to develop new tools that can better inform decision making by both policymakers and business leaders. As risk cannot always be predicted or managed, we research the properties that make systems resilient and applying those insights to a variety of economic, social and policy issues.

Our complex systems research is embedded in a larger collaborative network called CABDyN ( which brings together a truly multi-disciplinary group of researchers in more than ten University Departments in Oxford.

A large component of this research, conducted through the Programme on Complexity Economics, is hosted by INET Oxford


Complexity Economics: aims to apply perspectives and tools from complex systems theory, network theory, and evolutionary theory to deepen our understanding of economic phenomena, including financial crises, economic growth, inequality, and the management of systemic risk. This project forms part of the research platform within INET Oxford.

Forecasting financial crises: is a scientific project funded by the European Commission's FET Open Scheme for ICT (Information and Communication Technology), which aims to improve our understanding of systemic risk in financial markets and, if possible, to forecast global financial instabilities. FOC aims to provide a novel, integrated, and network-oriented approach to understanding financial crises. 

Harnessing ICT enabled collective social behaviour (ICTeCollective): focuses on behavioural patterns, dynamics and driving mechanisms of social structures whose interactions are ICT-mediated, from the level of individuals to the level of groups and large-scale social systems. Our unique approach is based on combined expertise in complex systems and the social sciences. 

SATURN (Self-organising adaptive technology underlying resilient networks): is a collaborative research programme with the aim of improving the resilience of the UK critical national infrastructure (CNI). The programme aims to deliver tools and techniques to protect against the vulnerabilities of complex networks and information systems.