Skip to main content

About NICO

Using complexity science to solve practical problems

About NICO

NICO's mission is to incubate innovative collaborations that leverage complexity, networks, and data science to address societal challenges.

The Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) was founded in 2004 with the goals of uncovering fundamental principles that govern complex systems in science, technology, and human behavior.


NICO faculty are distinguished researchers from across Northwestern University. Faculty core competencies include:

Meet our faculty

Complex Systems

Based on the belief that breakthroughs in complex systems require collaboration across boundaries of traditional domains, NICO brings together faculty in business, engineering, education, medicine, natural sciences, and social sciences. Cross-disciplinary collaborations break down barriers due to disciplinary knowledge silos and domain-specific terminology, accelerating the development of the new science of complex systems.

Networks of neurons, social networks, ecosystems, the US power grid, the world wide web, and insect and robot swarms are all examples of complex systems. These systems consist of a large number of agents that interact with each other and their environment. A typical characteristic of complex systems is an emergent organization without centralized control.

Read a position statement written by NICO co-founder Julio Ottino for Nature.

Research & Education

To accelerate progress in complex systems, NICO engages in a variety of education and research activities:

Back to top