Entry Date:
July 27, 2011

Center for Complex Engineering Systems (CCES) at KACST and MIT

Principal Investigator Olivier de Weck

Co-investigators Carlo Ratti , John Williams , Anas Faris Alfaris , Richard Larson , Abel Sanchez , Alex Pentland , Christoph Reinhart , David Autor , James M Lyneis , Kenneth Strzepek , Kent Larson , Marta Gonzalez , Vivek Ashok Sakhrani

Project Start Date July 2011


We rely heavily on man-made systems such as air and rail transportation, the electrical grid and water distribution networks to meet our daily needs. As the world's population continues to grow these systems are becoming increasingly complex and interlinked in unanticipated ways. This challenge is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, which is experiencing rapid population growth and a gradual transformation from a petroleum-based economy to a knowledge-driven society.

The Center for Complex Engineering Systems (CCES) at KACST and MIT was created to improve our understanding of these systems and to jointly conduct world-class research. This requires an unprecedented level of inter-disciplinary collaboration among scientists and engineers who study nature, technology and social phenomena at multiple scales.

The problems themselves that CCES addresses situate themselves in one or more domains. Domains are functional areas of applications that have traditionally been self-contained and often evolved independently. The problems addressed by CCES touch on several domains as well as on the interactions amongst those domains.

Tackling engineering systems challenges requires an engineering problem-solving mind-set, as well as new framing and modeling methodologies that are referred to as engineering systems approaches. These approaches combine perspectives from engineering, management, and social sciences to explore the fundamental structures underlying engineering systems and to frame and model problems so that they can be rigorously addressed.

A key component of CCES is the active engagement of researchers at KACST and MIT with collaborators and partners from educational and research institutions, government, industry and private institutions in Saudi Arabia. This collaboration provides CCES researchers with local expertise and knowledge while the collaborators gain the opportunity to access internationally recognized experts, innovative technology and unique research opportunities at KACST and MIT.

​The cross-domain views, new models and approaches that include both the technical and social complexities and the strong network of collaborators together define and distinguish CCES research Areas in complex engineering systems. The focus in CCES's research is provided by a set of well-defined projects that engage the collaborators and stakeholders with a broader set of issues.

​We expect that the research resulting from CCES will lead to a significant improvement in our ability to analyze, design and manage complex engineering systems worldwide.​

The Center for Complex Engineering Systems is a world-class international research program that strives to uncover fundamental principles and to develop new methods and tools such that complex, highly integrated systems can be modeled, designed, and managed more effectively than is possible today.

Among our goals and aspirations are to seed a new generation of internationally experienced scholars and to excite and inspire a new generation of researchers and engineers in pursuing complex systems as a research direction. In the spirit of cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration one of the hallmarks of our research approach is to embrace intellectual risk, and to attempt to tackle issues that appear, at least in part, to be non-quantifiable, vague, overly complex or even unsolvable. Our scholars and researchers work diligently and creatively to solve previously intractable engineering systems problems by integrating approaches based on engineering, computation, and the social sciences, using new framing and modeling methodologies. One of CCES's overarching applied goals is to help position Saudi Arabia as a new leader in systems thinking and to assist it in tackling its society's challenges, both inside the country as well as in the region. Research strikes the balance of facilitating the beneficial application of systems principles and properties, while ensuring that these solutions are sustainable in terms of social equity, economic development, and environmental impact.