The Commission appointed the University of Bristol to investigate emergent behaviour in economic infrastructure systems. The objectives of the research were to:

  • describe the types of emergence that could be exhibited in infrastructure systems
  • identify and describe case studies of emergent behaviour in infrastructure systems that have resulted in failures
  • identify systems modelling and policy analysis approaches used in infrastructure sectors to understand and manage these types of failures, and assess their level of maturity.

Emergent behaviour is the properties of a system that are created by the system components and the interactions between them. The behaviour cannot be seen by looking individually at the components. Depending on the complexity of the system, emergent behaviour can be predictable or highly unpredictable. The case studies draw out the relevance of the failures to current and future infrastructure systems. The research was undertaken through a literature review and interviews with systems experts.

This report is part of the evidence base supporting the main Resilience Study report, Anticipate, React, Recover: Resilient infrastructure systems.