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UK Network on Emergence and Physics far from Equilibrium

The University of Warwick has been awarded funding to coordinate an EPSRC NetworkPlus addressing one of Physics Grand Challenges: Emergence and Physics Far From Equilibrium (RC Grant reference: EP/K000632/1). The starting date of the grant is: 1st of October, 2012. The proposal, titled "Towards consensus on a unifying treatment of emergence and systems far from equilibrium", included several UK universities, institutes and industrial partners. NetworkPlus has established a direct and formal link with The Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM-I2CAM). ICAM is a world-wide network of about 65 partners with common interest in new research themes in complex adaptive matter and in the emergent behaviour in hard, soft, and living matter. Our affiliation will start in 2013.

The proposed network aims to prepare the UK community to meet the challenge in advancing the field of non-equilibrium systems and to ensure the UK community's international competitiveness as a collective. No discipline alone can address, let alone answer, the open questions related to emergence and physics of systems far from equilibrium. To a certain extent, it is not even clear what are the “right questions” that need to be considered to make progress. Our objective is to use the existing, but scattered, expertise in the UK to collectively identify the problems that UK research community should focus on in the near future. Non-equilibrium systems represent diverse fields of science which are often separated by their unique terminology, methodology as well as by different practical applications they may lead to. This is one of many barriers towards progress, which this network will help to overcome. At the same time the diversity of the theme and the broad base of this network are our strengths: analogies between very different phenomena will be used for addressing specific problems and for building general principles that can be exploited in theory and experiment.

The activities of the network will bring together researchers from different fields and with different expertise. Our agenda is more broad-based than typical conferences and workshops which concentrate on a single field and on already established results. Our activities are focused on identifying topics for future research. We aim to

● identify challenges and barriers, beyond these found in the EPSRC's survey, that hinder scientific progress in this field,

● develop a focused strategy towards advancing our understanding of emergence and the physics far from equilibrium,

● explore synergies between different disciplines, starting with the themes identified above,

● bring coherence to these topics and to unearth as yet hidden potential for cross-field collaborations; establish areas in which collaborations and the exchange of expertise would be most effective, and initiate preliminary cross-cutting work in the areas so identified,

● establish road map towards addressing the challenges of the area beyond the life time of the Network Plus, and to generate the infrastructure required for the efficient implementation of future research into the challenge areas, exploiting the full potential of the existing UK community,

● work with industrial partners, finding areas where we can exploit both new and existing results for non-equilibrium systems, in the context of a clear "user requirement" of industrial research,

● enhance public awareness of the importance and diversity of non-equilibrium physical phenomena.