The department of Engineering Systems and Services contributes to Comprehensive Engineering from a systems integration perspective. In today’s interconnected world, energy, mobility and ICT services continuously converge into complex engineering systems. ESS analyzes, shapes and assesses these systems, using cutting-edge tools such as Agent Based Modelling and Simulation, Choice Behavior Modeling, IT architecting and policy analytics.

The systems studied at ESS involve many actors and users, who can each own, regulate or influence a part of the system, and will take decisions based on their own objectives. These decisions are taken in a dynamic, unpredictable environment. Such systems evolve over time and are therefore very difficult or impossible to blueprint. Since complexity science conceptualises systems as evolving, interacting subsystems, that show emergent, often unpredictable behaviour, complexity science is a key underlying paradigm of research at ESS.

Studies carried out by the department show time and again that successful long-term design and management of, and policymaking in, such systems involves taking flexible measures that allow for an uncertain future. 

ESS is historically rooted in the application areas of energy, mobility and information systems. A comprehensive knowledge of ICT architectures is increasingly indispensable: systems for smart mobility and/or smart energy networks depend more and more on the exchange of information between its components. The ESS department also studies the integrated cross-sectoral problems, such as climate effects on water-born logistics, the effects of mobility choices on the smart grid, or the effect of floods on energy production. To this end, ESS combines a deep-seated technological understanding of the infrastructure systems in energy, industry, mobility, and logistics, and its overlaying data and ICT architectures, with insights and theories from social sciences, and increasingly, the humanities.

ESS possess rigorous knowledge of and hands-on experience with key methods and modelling techniques. Important methods, in which ESS has and aims to maintain a leading international profile, include: 

  • Discrete Choice Modelling (DCM); statistically rigorous modelling choice behaviour of users, designers, policy-makers, etc.
  • Agent-based Modelling and Simulation (ABM); to study and explore (emergent) system behaviour of engineering systems and services.
  • Information Architecting (IA); to develop effective, efficient and acceptable designs of information technology and infrastructure.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis methods (CBA); to quantitatively support the evaluation of interventions in engineering systems and services.

As a matter of course, ESS also uses and contributes to improving other theories, methods and tools, such as institutional economics, multi-objective optimatisation, back-casting, artificial intelligence, algorithmics, co-algebra, and game theory, as well.

Results, impact and quality

The research conducted within the department is successful in journals with high impact factors and publications have been widely cited. Members of the department serve as Editors-in-Chief and on the editorial board of leading journals. 

Stories of Science