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Automatic control is concerned with designing dynamic systems such that they behave in a desirable way. Such systems are often complex, and many include feedback loops, either inherent or designed-in to achieve required characteristics. Control is a fundamental part of engineering, and critical in the operation of aircraft, process plant, hybrid vehicles, mobile phones, wind turbines and a multitude of other machines. But feedback control is equally evident in other fields, such as biological and economic systems for example.

As machines become more complex, control systems are a way of imparting the correct functionality in a reliable and safe manner, and sometimes providing a degree of intelligence. The optimum design of control systems is growing in importance, and the academic study of control is mostly concerned with designing the best possible controller based on an understanding the underlying dynamics of a system (a ‘plant’) . Although the importance of control is recognised in a wide range of industries, in many cases mathematically-based approaches are only just beginning to supplant heuristic trial-and-error methods. The challenge for control academics is to ensure that new methods can be commissioned by the non-specialist, are robust, reliable, and provide a return on investment.

Established in the late 1950′s, UKACC is the UK’s network of university groups, engineering institutions, and companies with an interest in control. It is the gateway to the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), the global community of control professionals with representation in 50 countries.

I would like to encourage you to support UKACC’s various activities: the biennial conference is an excellent opportunity both for networking and for presenting developments in the theory and application of control to an international audience; the annual lecture and reception provides an update on some topical areas of control and again is an excellent opportunity for networking. I am particularly keen to increase industrial involvement in UKACC; there is considerable room for improvement in the follow-through from the strong academic base in the UK to industrial and economic impact.

Andrew Plummer, Past Chair
Professor of Machine Systems
University of Bath