Stephen John Powley, MIET


    Willing to speak to media


    Research activity per year

    Personal profile

    Vision Statement

    My vision is for a harmonious, interconnected world that understands how to use technology to break down barriers and bridge divides.

    Research Interests

    The goal of my research is to demonstrate how rigorous modelling of business and engineering practices can contribute to improving the resilience of complex, software-intensive systems. Much of my work is widely applicable, but I focus on the practices needed to keep connected vehicles secure throughout their lifecycle. I apply ontology engineering and model-based systems engineering (MBSE) methods to enterprise systems of systems comprising people, processes and technology. The outputs of my research describe novel conceptual modelling techniques and show how they can be used to give enterprises the capabilities they need to engineer secure vehicle systems.

    Human society is increasingly reliant on complex, networked systems, but our ability to comprehend and describe them is failing to keep pace with the technology. The result is increasingly chaotic, ad hoc systems of systems that can behave in unexpected ways. For example, most new vehicles have safety-critical components connected directly to the Internet, which increases complexity and creates new paths for hackers. Connected vehicles have great potential to create new mobility opportunities, reduce accidents, and reduce pollution. In operation, they form part of a massively complex, ever-changing system of systems that is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. A remote attacker could steal a truck, crash a car or even bring a city to a standstill. Vulnerabilities can be exploited from the concept phase through to end-of-life, meaning rigorous engineering and business practices are required to keep data private and people safe.

    To operate securely, and therefore safely, connected vehicle systems must be developed, operated, maintained and retired using advanced methods that address this shifting complexity. Yet in 2019, the US non-profit organisation Consumer Watchdog reported that automotive companies are deceiving the public about cybersecurity risks and their inability to eliminate them. Moving beyond this is a massive challenge in an environment characterised by rapid innovation, conflicting needs, complex supply chains, and emerging legislative frameworks. Enterprises must evolve to develop and maintain the capabilities needed to manufacture and operate secure connected vehicles.

    Much of my work addresses the challenges of modelling complex socio-technical systems at a more abstract level. This is important because new MBSE techniques are needed to better address complexity, where the relationships between cause and effect are unknown. Careful modelling that accounts for different contexts and ways of seeing the world can help to reveal hidden issues well before they would otherwise be identified.

    I focus on how organisations can collaborate as enterprises to create the conditions needed to ensure that vehicles are acceptably secure. This means exploring both how ‘acceptable security’ is defined and how we can prove it has been achieved. To do this, I am developing an ontologically well-founded conceptual framework to underpin integrated models of needs and evaluations. Building models using this framework not only leads directly to better security outcomes, but also generates business intelligence and auditing information. This is valuable to automotive companies, who must have reasonable and justifiable confidence in the security of their products. They may also be called upon to provide evidence of due diligence to stakeholders such as investors, insurers, regulators and courts.


    I am an innovative systems and software engineer with a passion for improving the way we create complex systems. Before starting my PhD full time, I ran my own consultancy, Omflow Limited, specialising in requirements-led engineering for international businesses. Omflow was actively engaged in research with multiple university partners, focusing on improving how global teams work together to deliver complex, high-integrity systems.

    Since studying Electronic and Computer Engineering to Master's level in Leeds and Germany, my multifaceted, international career has taken me on a fascinating journey. After a period programming Formula 1 car control systems, I took a sabbatical travelling the world that culminated in me guiding customers in whitewater rafts down a 7-metre waterfall. Next, I developed automated gearbox systems for a German Tier 1 automotive supplier, before launching a technical language services business catering to engineering companies in German-speaking countries. A return to active engineering saw me developing processes and tools for the UK powertrain research centre of a major Chinese carmaker. My experiences here informed my decision to launch Omflow to provide international businesses with a holistic approach to reducing the costs and risks of complex projects in multilingual environments.

    In my spare time, I work actively to share the wonder of engineering and technology with young people as a volunteer. I am the co-founder of Robot Day in Derby and Coventry, which in 2019 attracted over 8000 visitors. I also practice yoga and enjoy gardening and walking in the hills.

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

    Education/Academic qualification

    Electronic and Computer Engineering, MEng, University of Leeds

    10 Oct 199310 Jul 1997

    Award Date: 10 Jul 1997

    External positions

    UK Expert SC32/WG11 Automotive Cybersecurity, International Organisation for Standardisation

    24 Jun 2020 → …

    Ontology Working Group contributor, Safety Critical Systems Club (SCSC)

    15 Jun 2020 → …

    Architecture Working Group contributor, International Council on Systems Engineering, United Kingdom chapter

    May 2020 → …

    MBSE/Architecture Joint Working Group contributor, International Council on Systems Engineering, United Kingdom chapter

    5 Nov 2019 → …

    Social Systems Working Group core team contributor, International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)

    4 Nov 2019 → …

    Automotive Working Group contributor, International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)

    Jul 2018 → …

    IET Automotive & Road Transport Systems Executive Team, Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET)

    Jan 2018 → …

    MBSE Patterns Working Group contributor, International Council on Systems Engineering, United Kingdom chapter

    18 May 2016 → …


    • QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
    • Methods
    • Modelling
    • Conceptual
    • Patterns
    • Cybersecurity
    • Cyber
    • Security
    • Design
    • Enabling
    • Ontology
    • Knowledge Representation
    • TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
    • Systems Engineering
    • Software Engineering
    • SysML
    • Cyber
    • Security
    • Cybersecurity
    • TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
    • Cybersecurity
    • High integrity
    • Cyber
    • Security
    • Safety Critical
    • Capability
    • Compliance
    • Assurance
    • Standards
    • Guidelines
    • QA76 Computer software
    • Software engineering
    • Cybersecurity
    • Cyber
    • Security
    • Patterns
    • TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
    • Cyber
    • Security
    • Cybersecurity
    • Capability


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