7th MEW at ECAL 2017

Morphogenetic Engineering Workshop, at the
European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) 2017

September 4, 2017
LyonTech Campus, INSA Lyon, France
Program - Overview - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Abstracts - Topics of Interest - Registration


This workshop aims to promote and expand Morphogenetic Engineering, a field of research exploring the artificial design and implementation of autonomous systems capable of developing complex, heterogeneous morphologies. Particular emphasis is set on the programmability and computing abilities of self-organization, properties that are often underappreciated in complex systems science—while, conversely, the benefits of self-organization are often underappreciated in engineering methodologies.



The workshop will take place on Monday, September 4 morning at INSA Lyon, in the Rotunda of the LyonTech Campus:

  • 9:05-9:10
    Welcome and introduction
    René Doursat
    Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Part I: Artificial Plants & Biological Morphogenesis

  • 9:10-9:40
    Towards an artificial polytrophic ecosystem
    Kevin Dubois, S. Cussat-Blanc & Y. Duthen
    University of Toulouse, France

  • 9:40-10:10
    Vascular morphogenesis controller: Guiding morphology by competition for resource distribution
    Daniel Nicolas Hofstadler, P. Zahadat & T. Schmickl
    University of Graz, Austria

  • 10:10-10:40
    A model and pipeline for interactive simulation of morphological biology
    Andreas Knote & S. Mammen
    University of Würzburg, Germany

  • 10:40-11:05 - Coffee break

Part II: Cellular Automata & Gene Regulatory Networks

  • 11:05-11:35
    CA-NEAT: An evolved cellular automata morphogenetic system based on compositional pattern-producing network developmental mappings
    Stefano Nichele, M. B. Ose, S. Risi & G. Tufte
    HiOA Oslo, Norway / NTNU Trondheim, Norway / University of Copenhagen, Denmark

  • 11:35-12:05
    Criticality of gene regulatory networks and robustness of morphogenesis against perturbations
    Hyobin Kim & H. Sayama
    Binghamton University, USA

  • 12:05-12:35
    An autopoietic machine to achieve pure self-organization
    Rima Hiouani, S. Cussat-Blanc, N. Djedi & Y. Duthen
    University of Biskra, Algeria / University of Toulouse, France

  • 12:35 - Lunch


Traditional engineered products are generally made of a number of unique, heterogeneous components assembled in complicated but precise ways, and are intended to work deterministically following specifications given by their designers. By contrast, self-organization in natural complex systems (physical, biological, ecological, social) often emerges from the repetition of agents obeying identical rules under stochastic dynamics. These systems produce relatively regular patterns (spots, stripes, waves, trails, clusters, hubs, etc.) that can be characterized by a small number of statistical variables. They are random and/or shaped by boundary conditions, but do not exhibit an intrinsic architecture like engineered products do.

Two salient exceptions, however, strikingly demonstrate the possibility of combining pure self-organization and elaborate architectures: biological development (the self-assembly of myriads of cells into the body plans and appendages of organisms) and insect constructions (the stigmergic collaboration of colonies of social insects toward large and complicated nests). These structures are composed of segments and parts arranged in very specific ways that resemble the products of human inventiveness. Yet, they entirely self-assemble in a decentralized fashion, under the control of genetic or behavioral rules stored in every agent.

How do these collectives (cells or insects) achieve such impressive morphogenetic tasks so reliably? Can we export their precise self-formation capabilities to engineered systems? What are principles and best practices for the design and engineering of such morphogenetic systems?


Past Editions

This workshop is the 7th Morphogenetic Engineering Workshop or Special Session (MEW) of its kind. It follows:


Call for Abstracts (closed)

Authors are invited to submit an abstract (up to 2 pages, figures and references welcome) on their research or a review and discussion about aspects of Morphogenetic Engineering. It should be prepared following the ECAL 2017 paper format. Work may be original or already published (please specify). Accepted abstracts will be compiled into workshop proceedings and published online on the MEW website for free download.

Please send your PDF abstract by email to both organizers: r.doursatmmu.ac.uk, sayamabinghamton.edu

Important Dates:

  • Deadline for abstract submission: July 4, 2017
  • Notification of acceptance: July 14, 2017
  • Camera-ready abstract due: July 31, 2017
  • Date of workshop: September 4, 2017

The workshop will last about 3.5 hours and the total number of speakers is limited to 6. Submissions will be reviewed based on their relevance to the workshop, clarity, and overall quality. Whether submitting or simply attending, please register via the online ECAL 2017 conference registration system.

Topics of Interest

  • 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 (swarm robots, synthetic biology, complex networks, etc.)
  • Philosophical questions about morphogenetic engineering


Registration should be made through the ECAL 2017 website.


Program - Overview - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Abstracts - Topics of Interest - Registration
Page created and maintained by René Doursat
Last update: August 24, 2017