The Commission appointed University College London (UCL) to investigate emergent behaviour in systems that have similarities to economic infrastructure systems. The objectives of the research were to:

  • identify complex systems that are similar to economic infrastructure systems
  • identify and describe case studies of emergent behaviour in those systems that have resulted in failures
  • identify systems modelling and policy analysis approaches used in sectors similar to infrastructure 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. UCL considered failures in the finance sector, agricultural sector, health care sector, manufacturing sector and in the natural environment. The case studies draw out parallels with economic infrastructure. The research was undertaken through a literature review.

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