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Agent Based Modelling for Policy Seminar

Date: 5 October 2020 08:00 - 5 October 2020 16:30

A joint academic and policy workshop, tailored to promote and widen understanding of the application of agent based modelling (ABMs) in supporting the development of public policy.

There is growing interest in the application of agent based modelling into policy development and exploration across a range of policy areas. Researchers can model complex systems such as, urban development, use of natural resources or networks by describing simple rules of behaviour for individual agents. With the increasing availability of geo-spatial and micro socio-economic data, combined with increased computational power, the potential for the use of ABMs in supporting more realistic exploration of policy impacts are being recognised.

Digital Catapult has been working with a growing network of researchers and practitioners in this field to promote understanding and increased adoption within UK policymaking. The network has an enviable representation across different disciplines including the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL, the Centre for Research in Social Simulation at Surrey and the Centre for Policy Modelling at Manchester Met. There is active engagement from government departments such as BEIS and Defra, as well as ONS, the Intellectual Property Office and Innovate UK.

Digital Catapult will be hosting an online seminar for the network on the 5 October 2020. The agenda consists of four separated sessions each with a different panel discussion comprising experts across the fields of academy and policy in the application and use of ABMs in policy.

The panel and chair’s themes include:

  • Innovation and Economic Growth – Chair: Dr. Mike Keoghan, Chief Economic Advisor at BEIS
  • National Infrastructure – Chair: Dr. Helen Bowkett, Senior Technical Director at Arcadis
  • Physical Environment – Chair: Henry Leveson-Gower, Head of Food Innovation at Defra
  • Social Policy and Public Health – Chair: Prof. Bruce Edmonds, Director of the Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University.


Session 1:

09:30 – Opening Keynote: Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at Bank of England

10:00 – Innovation and Economic Growth Panel

Chair: Dr. Mike Keoghan, Chief Economic Advisor at BEIS


  • Dr William Hynes, Head of the New Approaches to Economic Challenges Unit, OECD
  • Prof Nigel Gilbert, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Simulation, University of Surrey
  • Dr Nigel Shardlow, Planning Director, Sandtable & Dr Lies Boelen, Senior Data Scientist, Sandtable
  • Sergi Martorell, Co-Founder, Glass AI

11:30 – Session 1 end

Session 2:
12:30 – Infrastructure Panel

Chair: Dr Helen Bowkett, Senior Technical Director, Arcadis


  • Prof Liz Varga, Professor of Complex Systems, University College London
  • Prof Ed Manley, Professor of Urban Analytics, University of Leeds
  • Prof Nick Malleson, Professor of Spatial Science, University of Leeds

13:30 – Session 2 end

Session 3:
14:30 – Natural Environment Panel

Chair: Henry Leveson-Gower, Head of Food Innovation, Defra and CEO at Promoting Economic Pluralism


  • Dr Peter Alexander, Lecturer in Global Food Systems, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Helen Wilkinson, Director, Risk Solutions
  • Dr Gary Polhill, Senior Research Scientist, The James Hutton Institute

15:30 – Session 3 end

Session 4:
16:30 – Health and Social Policy Panel

Chair: Prof Bruce Edmonds, Professor of Social Simulation, Manchester Metropolitan University


  • Prof Laurence Moore, Director of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Natalie van der Wal, Marie Sklodowska Curie Senior Research Fellow, University of Leeds
  • Dr James Woodcock, Principal Research Associate, University of Cambridge

17:30 – Session 4 and event end

The event is open to all parties interested in understanding more about ABMs and how they can be applied into the policy arena. No technical knowledge is required, just an enthusiasm to discuss and learn more about this exciting approach.

Why attend?

The presentations will be non-technical so open to all with an interest in policy modelling and impact evaluation

    Who should attend?

    • Senior policy leads across government departments,
    • Academics involved in ABMs
    • Private sector interested in new modelling for strategy