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First International Workshop on Morphogenetic Engineering

Complex Systems Institute, Paris, June 19, 2009

This workshop aims to promote a new field of research called "Morphogenetic Engineering", which will explore the artificial design and implementation of autonomous systems capable of developing complex, heterogeneous morphologies. A particular focus will be on the programmability and controllability of self-organizing complex systems, properties that are often underappreciated in many disciplines.

Authors are invited to submit a 1-page abstract on their research, or on a review and discussion about any aspect of Morphogenetic Engineering. Contributions may be original or already published (please specify when submitting). Authors of outstanding works will be invited to collaborate to a Springer book.

Keynote speaker: Marco Dorigo (other keynote speakers to be confirmed)
Organizing committee: Rene Doursat, Hiroki Sayama and Olivier Michel
Workshop Website:


Engineering products are generally made of a number of unique, heterogeneous components, assembled in a precise and complicated way, and work deterministically following the specifications given by the designers. By contrast, self-organization in natural systems (physical, biological, ecological) often depends on the repetition of identical components and the stochasticity in their dynamics. These systems produce nontrivial, yet relatively regular patterns or behaviors that can be described with a small number of macroscopic variables.

One salient exception is the morphogenesis of biological organisms. Morphogenetic processes demonstrate the possibility of combining self-organization and elaborate structures. Organisms are made of segments and parts arranged in specific ways that resemble the products of human inventiveness. Moreover, they self-assemble in a decentralized fashion, under the precise control of genetic and epigenetic information stored in the zygote. In other words, they are the examples of programmable self-organization, a concept that has not been sufficiently explored in complex systems science and engineering so far. How do biological organisms achieve morphogenetic tasks so reliably? Can we export their self-formation capabilities to engineered systems? What are principles and best practices for the design and engineering of such morphogenetic systems?

Call for Abstracts

  • Important Dates:
    • Deadline for abstract submission: Monday, March 23
    • Notification of acceptance: Monday, April 6
    • Deadline for registration: on a first-come, first-served basis, until maximum capacity is reached
    • Date of workshop: Friday, June 19
  • Abstracts should be submitted electronically via the online Submission & Registration system.
  • The number of speakers is limited to 12 and the total number of attendees to 40.
  • Submissions will be reviewed based on their relevance to the workshop, clarity, and overall quality.
  • If you only want to attend without giving a presentation, please also register via the online Submission & Registration system.
  • There is no registration fee for this workshop.

Topics of Interest

The topics that we anticipate will include, but are not limited to:

  • New principles of morphogenesis in artificial systems
  • Bio-inspiration from plant vs. animal development
  • Programmability of self-organizing morphogenetic systems
  • Indirect, decentralized control of morphogenetic systems
  • Sensitivity to environmental/boundary conditions vs. endogenous drive
  • Evolvability, by variations and selection, of morphogenetic systems
  • Links with evolutionary computation, artificial embryogeny, "evo-devo" approaches
  • Swarm-based approaches to morphogenetic systems
  • Design techniques for morphogenetic engineering
  • Causalities between micro and macro properties of morphogenetic systems
  • Physical implementations
  • Applications to real-world problems (nanotechnologies, reconfigurable robots, swarm robotics, complex networks, etc.)
  • Philosophical issues on morphogenetic engineering


The details of the program will be announced once we have a list of scientists interested in presenting at the workshop. All speakers will be asked to give relatively brief (around 30mn) presentations about their models and/or views about such models. The workshop will conclude with a round table discussion aiming to characterize this body of research and its future prospects.