University of Southampton

Agent-Based Computing

We are one of the world's leading groups in the area of agent-based computing. We have some 30 people working on various facets of intelligent agents and multi-agent systems. This ranges from foundational work in the design of flexible and autonomous individual agents and their interactions, through the principled analysis and design of agent-based systems, to the deployment of real-world applications.

We view agent-based systems as consisting of three main constituent components:


Encapsulated computer systems that are situated in some environment and are capable of flexible, autonomous action in that environment in order to meet their design objectives.


Agents invariably need to interact with one another in order to manage their inter-dependencies. These interactions involve the agents cooperating, negotiating and coordinating with one another to achieve their individual and/or collective aims.

Electronic Institutions

Agent interactions take place within some organisational context (e.g. a marketplace, an auction or some other form of institution) and we are concerned with the analysis and design of such structures to ensure desirable behaviour ensues.

Research Areas

Within this landscape, our particular areas of specialisation focus on

Design of Individual Agents

We are interested in the design of individual agents that can achieve their goals in highly uncertain and dynamic environments. Our work typically uses decision theory, learning algorithms and Bayesian techniques to control the sensing, reasoning and acting of such agents.

Models of Interaction

This work develops new models and techniques for controlling and managing the interactions that take place between multiple autonomous agents. Particular prominence is given to automated cooperation, coordination and negotiation using techniques such as game theory, mechanism design, computational economics, distributed optimisation and constraint satisfaction. We also have a strong interest in the design of a variety of electronic institutions such that the equilibria they produce can be analysed from the perspectives of both the constituent individuals and the collective.

Applications of Agent Technology

This work involves applying agent-based concepts and techniques to real-world applications. In particular, we are concerned with the domains of business process management, eCommerce, logistics, energy systems, sensor networks, disaster response, telecommunications, and eDefence.