The purpose of the International School of Non-Equilibrium Physics is threefold: (i) to bring together scientists, theorists and experimentalists, interested in the difficult problems related to the dynamics of classical and quantum non-equilibrium physical systems and biological systems; (ii) to create a discussion forum to promote new ideas in this fertile interdisciplinary research field; (iii) highlight new trends such as quantum thermodynamics, high Tc superconductivity, quantum dynamics in non- equilibrium phenomena to develop quantum computers, new types of quantum phase transitions and quantum critical phenomena occurring in non-equilibrium steady states and topological phase transitions. As a field of research, non-equilibrium physics is both very new and very old. Although it has long been realised that all natural phenomena occur in non-equilibrium conditions, only recently have experimental and theoretical advances allowed access to the fundamental time scales that define and control the evolution of matter, be it a chemical reaction, a biological process or a phase transition.
The physics of non-equilibrium is inherently interdisciplinary and touches many fundamental aspects of human life, from the formation of galaxies in the cosmos, to climate change on our planet, to emergent phenomena, phase transitions and chemical reactions, and finally to the design principles that allow living systems to function. Moreover, metastability, which is a common phenomenon in many natural systems, from physics to cosmology, chemistry, biology, and ecology, is present in the dynamics of out-of-equilibrium systems, and the problem of living metastable states involves fundamental aspects of non-equilibrium physics that are still unresolved. Indeed, despite this ubiquity, the microscopic understanding of metastability and related non-equilibrium dynamics still raises fundamental questions. Progress in non-equilibrium physics will in many cases depend on our ability to transcend length and time scales and bring together different scientific disciplines and cultures.