The Journal of System Chemistry (most recent impact factor 4.83) will soon be re-launched by Natural & Life Science publishers (


Recently, a review paper about Systems Chemistry was published in Chemical Society Reviews. It was written by Gonen Ashkenasy, Thomas Hermans, Sijbren Otto and Annette Taylor, and can be viewed here


The COST Action management committee would like to congratulate our Action member Prof. Ben Feringa on winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry!

Several PhD positions available at the Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands)

For more information, please click here

Emergence and Evolution of Complex Chemical Systems

This Action brings together over 80 European research groups focusing on complex chemical systems or Systems Chemistry. Complex systems are all around us, ranging from ecosystems, to global infrastructure and computational grids and social networks. Complexity science is well developed in many disciplines, including sociology, physics and biology, but has remained underdeveloped in chemistry. Yet, of all disciplines, chemistry probably harbors the richest diversity of all complex systems, since it deals with the smallest entities that can still be readily manipulated: molecules. A stunning example of what may emerge from chemical complexity is life. Yet life is only one example, and with the creativity that comes natural to chemists many other systems may be created.

Until recently the development of complex chemical systems has been next to impossible, due to a lack of tools for analyzing complex mixtures. However with the recent advances in instrumentation, complex mixtures are now tractable, opening up a huge, exciting and fundamentally new research field. This field is the chemical counterpart to two topical areas in biology: systems biology and synthetic biology. Where the latter fields take a top-down approach, developing complex chemical systems takes place from the bottom up. The advantages of a bottom-up approach are in the ability to control every component and in the unlimited structural variety that is at the synthetic chemist's disposal. The momentum in this field of complex chemical systems is gathering rapidly, but it remains fragmented. Researchers from the mostly unconnected fields of the origin of life, supramolecular chemistry and researchers working on far-from-equilibrium systems are now independently converging on the central topic Systems Chemistry. This COST Action is at the heart of this exciting development.


(As the Action has now close to the maximum number of research groups at this stage only applications can be approved that match perfectly with the research objectives and that are of exceptional quality.)

Scientific Objectives

One of the Grandest Challenges in Science today is the creation of life from completely man-made components.  This requires capturing the various aspects of life, such as its ability to reproduce, its compartmentalized nature (all life forms we know are surrounded by some form of membrane) its far-from-equilibrium character (all life forms we know need energy to maintain themselves). The central idea of this Action is that cross-fertilization between the communities working on supramolecular chemistry, the origin-of-life and far-from-equilibrium systems will boost the scientific development at the interfaces between these areas that is required for advancing towards the tantalizing goal of making life de-novo. Efforts will proceed targeting the following sub-objectives:

1. Establish the methodology for self-assembly far from equilibrium (Working Group 1). Traditionally, self-assembly is about obtaining the thermodynamic product of a given system. However, by operating self-assembly in far-from-equilibrium systems it should be possible to create new properties that are not achievable under thermodynamic control, such as new self-assembled states that do not correspond to the thermodynamic product and stable spatial and temporal inhomogeneity. Attaining this goal will require a joint effort from the supramolecular and far-from-equilibrium communities.

2. Develop a new class of materials that are self-synthesizing, responsive and potentially self-repairing (Working Group 2).
This should be achievable by combining the autocatalytic systems explored by the origin-of-life community with the self-assembly principles of supramolecular chemistry. This may lead to, for example, new self-assembled materials for molecular electronics and self-assembled gels for tissue culture.

3. Develop synthetic self-replicating systems capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution (Working Group 2).
The approach to such systems relies on operating the replicating molecules created by the origin-of-life researchers under far-from-equilibrium conditions. Success here constitutes an important step towards the development of synthetic life. Approach to this goal will require the input from researchers from the origin-of-life and the far-from-equilibrium communities.

4. Develop methodology for compartmentalization of chemical systems and achieve a direct coupling between chemical reactions, energy harvesting and transport and membrane dynamics (Working Group 3).
The development of chemical systems of ever increasing complexity brings with it the need to confine these in space, which protects the systems from the environment and keeps the components together. Yet, in order to be able to interface several different confined systems they need to be separated by semi-permeable barriers with controllable size, stability and permeability. This research requires the involvement of the origin-of-life and supramolecular chemistry communities.

5. Develop synthetic, information-rich molecules or assemblies that have the potential of being replicated in a purely chemical system (Working Group 4).
The incorporation of information-rich molecules is particularly relevant, since advanced functional behavior of complex chemical systems will require increasingly elaborate chemical instructions that need to be carried in the constituent molecules.

A more detailed description of the Action`s plans can be found in the Momerandum of Understanding, which can be downloaded from the documents page.

COST Action

General Information
Start Date: 3-12-2013
End Date: 2-12-2017

Action Chair:
Prof. Sijbren Otto

Vice Chair:
Prof. Gonen Ashkenasy

STSM Manager:
Prof. Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo

Dissemination Manager:
Prof. Annette Taylor

DC Rapporteurs:
Dr. Denis Neibecker

Science Officer:
Dr. Lucia Forzi

Administrative Officer:
Ms. Svetlana Voinova