The Evolution and Resilience of Industrial Ecosystems (ERIE) is an EPSRC “Complexity Science for the Real World” interdisciplinary project. Linking collaborators from the departments of Sociology, Maths, Computing and The Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, ERIE is addressing the application of complexity science to social and economic systems.
ERIE aims to integrate mathematical and computational tools with complexity science methods and techniques to produce decision making frameworks for stakeholders and policy makers in “industrial ecosystems”. These industrial ecosystems are made up of networks of companies connected by material, energy, economic, informational and social networks each of which has different structures and dynamics and which interact with each other. The approaches employed allow us to model these layered, nested, multi-scale systems, where the links between actors are dynamic and the exchanges between them are unpredictable, fluctuating and perhaps sporadic. Within this context, concepts and measures of resilience, emergence and immergence are being measured, some of the most intriguing open questions of complexity science.
Two key case studies have been identified in which to develop and explore the utilization of such tools and techniques:
- Structure and Dynamics of the Humber Region, North Lincolnshire
- FoodSCCAM: Models to explore the security and sustainability of food supply chains
It is an integral part of ERIE to study those with a stake in the system, as controllers, decision makers, customers, workers, etc., their goals, policy options and their links with the industrial ecosystems that they are interacting with. These data will be collected through longitudinal interaction with stakeholders at all points of the project, from question identification, exploration of dynamics, model development and scenario analysis, ensuring the tools developed are directly relevant to the stakeholders and systems in question.
Our vision then is to provide models of multi-level socio-economic systems that are useful for decision-makers aiming to 'steer' towards policy-relevant goals. It is not our intention to provide 'the' policy solution to policy problems (specifically, it is not our intention just to show how particular ecosystems may be made more resilient or more sustainable), but rather to provide a suite of tools which will allow decision makers and their representatives to investigate alternative scenarios given a set of assumptions and initial conditions.
The project began in June 2010 and will run until May 2016.