UK Gov Report: Computational Modelling: Technological Futures

A government report outlining the opportunities and characteristics of the field of computational modelling, which is what the Centre for Policy Modelling does, and which I (Bruce Edmonds) helped write. The report is at

Discover why computational modelling is essential to the UK’s future productivity and competitiveness in our latest report, Computational Modeling: Technological Futures.


Rapid growth in the availability of data and computing power and new methods for modelling complex systems are transforming our capability in modelling. Working with a panel of experts from business and academia, the Council for Science and Technology has been looking at UK computational modelling capability and how it could be better leveraged in both the public and private sector. Our aim for this report is to demystify computational modelling, to demonstrate our capabilities, and to consider steps which could be taken to fully exploit these capabilities both now and into the future. Modelling can be used for a variety of different purposes, and the report starts with a discussion of some of these different purposes. It goes on to discuss the key steps in developing a good model, and to provide a summary of the different techniques that are used. Together these 3 opening chapters provide a guide to how models can be used, but also how they should not be used.

A key message is the importance of close engagement between the customer and the modeller throughout the modelling process, with clarity on user needs essential to getting good modelling outcomes. At the same time the importance of model users’ understanding of the strengths and limitations of a model cannot be understated. Improper use of a model or misinterpretation of model outputs can come at a high cost, damaging trust and credibility which is then hard to restore. Computational modelling has changed dramatically over the last decade, and Chapter 4 considers the future opportunities and challenges. Modelling, already ubiquitous, will become even more so, increasingly embedded in the design and operation of our public services, business processes and national infrastructure, highlighting the importance of support for new skills, standards and collaborations to match our increasing reliance on complex modelling. Chapters 5 to 9 look at modelling through the lenses of different public and private sectors: public policy; business and manufacturing; cities and infrastructure; finance and economics; and the environment. We have been necessarily selective here, aiming to provide a flavour of the range of uses and decisions where modelling can be applied. The sheer range of modelling applications means it would not be possible for a short report to be exhaustive in its coverage.

Computational modelling provides us with a powerful toolkit. This report contains 7 recommendations which we believe would help ensure the UK is well placed to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by advances in modelling capability, as well as ensure resilience to potential vulnerabilities which increasing use of modelling exposes.