Prof. Kiran J. Fernandes Interview: Cities, Connectivity And The Internationalisation of Complex Systems

Professor Kiran J. Fernandes, Dean for Internationalisation at Durham University Business School and Vice-chair of UK National Commission for UNESCO – among others, joins Dinis Guarda in this interview for citiesabc interview series. Both experts speak extensively about major challenges worldwide, including the Covid-19 pandemic, Industry 4.0, and the role of technology in industries and the economy. As an academic in complex systems, Professor Kiran J. Fernandes believes that current problems are not linear and, as such, there are no simple solutions.

Here are the topics the two expert go through in the interview:

1. Biography, academic background
2. Geopolitical and cultural challenges worldwide
3. Complex system perspective to provide solutions to today’s problems
4. Cities and connectivities. Trade corridors
5. Durham University career and ongoing research projects
6. Work with UNESCO

Interview Takeaways

About Complex Systems and Covid-19. “To solve a problem like Covid-19, which is a complex problem, we need to take a look at multiple aspects and from different perspectives as there is no single and simple solution to it.”

About Industry 4.0 and technology. “Industry 4.0 is a journey, not a race. Technologies will create a new way of understanding industry, new solutions that haven’t been taken into consideration before and it will even give way to new forms of jobs that haven’t been created just yet.”

About cities and trade corridors. “From a complex system perspective, cities will remove their borders and create new boundaries between them. It is happening already in China. Technology is critical to this as it will help create and manage these huge regions, the population within, the connectivity, etc.”

About his role in Unesco and SDGs. “Being appointed the Vice-chair Vice-chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO has given me the opportunity to explore with other members the current state of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These, being agreed by country members, look at how to improve the quality of life of people from an economic and societal perspective. One of the biggest challenges is that there are a majority of countries that aren’t actually making any progress in achieving these goals. The reasons are many, but the most important one is finance. To achieve these goals by 2030, the cost is around $7 trillion globally. So what I have been trying to push within members is to stop tackling this individually, from a national perspective and start seeing the problem without national boundaries: all actors involved, globally, need to cooperate to achieve them together.”


Professor Kiran Jude Fernandes is the Chair of the Operations Management Group and a Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute. He is also a Fellow of the interdisciplinary York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis (YCCSA). He holds a PhD in Operations Management and Systems from the University of Warwick; a Masters (MS) from the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University (MSU) and a Bachelors of Engineering (Hons) degree in Production from Waltech. Prior to his current role, Professor Fernandes worked as the Pro-Dean for Research and Head of the Operations Management Group at The University of York. He started his academic career as an EPSRC Senior Research Fellow at the University of Warwick. He worked as a sub-systems engineer at NASA – John C. Stennis Space Centre working for the Late Tom Cobb (Product Director for the Space Shuttle Main Engine Program). Working at NASA also allowed him to complete a professional program from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Professor Fernandes works with UK and International companies on modelling complex business domains ranging from operational processes to strategic decisions. Using a complex systems lens he has worked with construction, pharmaceutical, biotech and digital firms. His research has been funded by prestigious and competitive funding bodies like the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Economic and Social Research Council, Sun Microsystems, Chongqing Foreign Trade & Economic Relations Commission, Yorkshire Forward, Royal Academy of Engineering, British Council and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He has published widely in the area of operations management and sits on the editorial board of a number of top journals in the area. Professor Fernandes is a Chartered Engineer and advises a number of companies both nationally and internationally.