CSaP Policy Workshop: 'Making Systems Resilient'

4 December 2014


Reported by Belen Tejada-Romero, BBSRC-Funded CSAP Policy Intern (September - December 2014)

On 4 December 2014 CSaP ran a policy workshop on entitled “Making Systems Resilient”. This workshop was organised in partnership with Dr Nathan Crilly, from the Engineering Design Centre which is based in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. The workshop was chaired by Sir John O’Reilly, Director General for Knowledge and Innovation in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The workshop addressed the topic of resilience. We are living in a constantly changing environment, with an uncertain future. To design for this future we need our systems to demonstrate resilience, flexibility and adaptability. Resilience must be demonstrated in a wide range of systems, including (but certainly not limited to) technologies, industries, people and economies. The uncertainties in these areas will take many forms, and require wide expertise. The objective of the workshop was to explore how different fields both define and implement resilience in a variety of systems.

The workshop was designed with three overarching aims. The first of these was to discuss how to design things to work well through an uncertain future. The next aim was to discuss resilience as a concept in different types of systems. The final aim brought together these, considering how we think about, plan and implement resilience in the different systems discussed.

The policy workshop began with short presentations from Nathan Crilly, Steve Platt (Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd), Regina Peldszus (European Space Agency), Neil Lindsay (DSTL, on secondment to Defra) and John Tesh (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). These presentations were followed with discussions which continued over dinner. Other attendees included civil servants from the Department of Health and from the Cabinet Office, a member of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, industry representatives and academics from the University of Cambridge and elsewhere. The breadth of fields relating to resilience was highlighted with the academics present, ranging from the Department Engineering, to the Department of Politics and International Studies, and the Department of Psychology. As a consequence, the examples of resilient systems that arose were incredibly interesting and varied, from the resilience of space travel to the that of vulnerable societies after a natural disaster.

The workshop was a huge success, and the participants both contributed to and benefited from the discussions. Sir John O’Reilly, who chaired the event commented: ‘I found the format and topic such that I couldn't resist joining in.’

Banner image from montillon on Flickr