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The project

ComplexWorld is a Research Network that was created to lead the long term research needs of SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research), one of the European Commission’s most ambitious research and development projects. SESAR is a results-driven initiative with the aim of meeting future air capacity and safety needs while building the European economy on strong foundations of knowledge, research and innovation.

Work Package E, the Long Term Research vehicle of SESAR, sets out to explore four areas of exploration, one of which is ‘Mastering Complex Systems Safely’. The ComplexWorld Network is specifically tasked with addressing this theme and with establishing how Complexity Science can contribute to understand, model, and ultimately drive and optimise the behaviour and the evolution of the ATM system that emerges from the complex relationships between its different elements. 

Promoting Research and Complexity Science in Aerospace and Air Traffic Management

ComplexWorld is bringing together the world’s leading experts in the field of Air Traffic Complexity Management from academia, research establishments, industry and SMEs. The ComplexWorld Network aims to be the main driver for long term and innovative research in Europe in the field.

About Complexity Science

Complex Systems can be defined as the collection of a high number of parts (e.g. elements, individuals, agents) that interact in a nonlinear fashion. The system exhibits behaviours at the system-wide level that emerge from the combined actions of individuals within the system (emergent behaviour) and cannot be understood only from the information stored at the individual level. Such as floaks formed by birds. Complexity Research provides us with methodologies and tools aimed at understanding the mechanisms that govern such emergent behaviours, and to reduce their negative impact.

Complexity Science is not a single theory, but a highly interdisciplinary set of ideas that encompass methodologies and tools from different fields, including nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics and numerical simulation.


As an open partnership between universities, research centers and industry, ComplexWorld’s objective is to:

  • Provide a structured forum for the development, exchange and dissemination of research knowledge in ATM Complexity Management

  • Lower the barriers for the ATM community to have access to and benefit from Complex Systems science

  • Attract talented Complex Systems researchers towards ATM.

  • Foster the interaction and ideas sharing between the Air Transport and the Complex Systems research communities

  • Define, develop and maintain a clear roadmap for establishing and consolidating a research community at the intersection of Complexity and ATM of clear added value for the European Air Transport sector.

Complexity in the Air Transport Network

The air transport system contains a huge number of elements, or agents, that interact, in many situations nonlinearly, giving rise to emergent behaviours. System failures are usually a consequence of small and localized problems which spread across the entire network. Technical problems or adverse weather may generate delays at one airport, which then propagate to other airports and result in a major disruption in the European air transport network. In this kind of system, any external, but also internal, disturbance can lead the system beyond a critical point generating a major disruption.

In other words, the air transport system is a complex system. However, most efforts in air traffic modelling thus far have not taken into account this paradigm, and thus have failed to model emergent behaviour with a suitable treatment of the uncertainty. There is wide consensus within the ATM community that the state-of-the-art in ATM modelling still lacks useful macro-approaches able to capture system behaviour and explain high-level cause-effect relationships. Complex systems techniques can provide new insight into the understanding of these phenomena, focusing on interactions among elements, and help overcome some of the limitations of the current models.

ComplexWorld: bridging the gap

ComplexWorld will analyse the research on the applicability of state-of-the-art Complex Systems Science methodologies with the objective of advancing the understanding of ATM system behaviour, as a necessary step prior to improving its overall performance.

Modelling complexity will allow the operation of the system far from those conditions that raise unwanted behaviours, leading to a more rational allocation of resources and improving the benefits for airspace users and passengers.

In the ATM framework, the main challenges or the ComplexWorld Network will be to advance the following aspects of the system:

  • Develop design principles that facilitate the introduction of changes in one or more subsystems, or the adaptation to external changes (agility).

  • Study and understand its resilience to internal and external perturbations; its tolerance to faults; and the way such disturbances propagate
    through the system.

  • Define concepts, solutions and architectures in favour of a more reliable system adaptation, as well as strategies for an intelligent healing of the ATM
    system of systems.

  • Investigate the impact of uncertainty on overall system behaviour and understand how sensitive the system is to measure errors (e.g. position, speed),
    to the lack of precise data (e.g. wind, turbulence) or to the uncertainty introduced by certain phenomena that are intrinsically unpredictable.

  • Build a true performance-driven ATM system, by allowing the development of a set of performance metrics that incorporate uncertainty as part
    of their definition.

  • Consider the variability and non-determinism of human performance.

    Who we are

    The ComplexWorld Network is led by the the Innaxis Foundation and Research Institute (Network Coordinator), the University of Seville, DLR, the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), the University of Palermo, and the University of Westminster. Additionally, iIt has a network of 70 plus participants.

    Participants from academia

    Chinese University of Hong Kong
    Institut des Systèmes Complexes de Paris-Île de France
    ETH Zurich
    Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen Nurnberg
    HCF – Human-Factors-Consult GmbH
    Instituto Tecnologico del Valle de Morelia, Mexico
    Kiev National Aviation University
    Linkoping University
    National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)
    Polytechnical University of Madrid (UPM)
    TU Braunschweig
    TU of Catalonia
    TU Darmstadt
    TU Delft
    TU Dresden
    TU Harburg
    Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
    Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
    University of Belgrade
    University of Catania
    University of Hannover
    University of Helsinki
    University of L´Aquila
    University of Leicester
    University of Melbourne
    University of Milano-Bicocca
    University of Naples- Parthenope
    University of Porto, LIACC/NIADR, TAP Portugal
    University of Salzburg
    Uppsala University
    University Rey Juan Carlos
    Vilnius University
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

    Participants from other entities

    Airspace Management Strategies Inc.
    ALG Indra
    Atos Origin
    BluSky Services Group
    Capgemini Sud
    Deep Blue
    DSE Consulting LTD
    GMV Aerospace and Defence S.A.U
    GMVIS Skysoft S.A.
    Hafner Engineering, LLC
    IDS Ingegneria Dei Sistemi S.p.A
    Integrasys S.A.
    ISI Foundation
    Lufthansa Systems
    NextGen AeroSciences, LLC
    Research Executive Agency (REA)- European Commission
    Roke Manor Research
    Slot Consulting

    Promoting Research and Complexity Science
    in Aerospace and Air Traffic Management

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