The Complex Adaptive Systems master's programme was developed during the last years of the 1990’s by researchers in complex systems within the School of Physics: Kristian Lindgren, Mats Nordahl, and Peter Nordin. Their research interests spanned from statistical mechanics, information theory, and dynamical systems to computational, evolutionary and theoretical biology, computer science, societal systems, and theoretical and applied robotics. Kristian Lindgren and Mats Nordahl both had a background in physics and complex systems at Chalmers, with post docs and research visits at Nordita (Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics) in Copenhagen and Santa Fe Institute in the USA. The latter being a centre for complexity since the mid 1980’s. Peter Nordin had a background in computer science and he early developed genetic programming. When arriving at Chalmers he set up a robotics lab involving a large group of students focusing on the constructions of the humanoid robot Elvis (named after its uncontrolled hip movements). This complex background lead to the wide range of courses that is still offered in the CAS programme with some revisions and extensions.

With the support from the School of Physics the CAS programme was accepted in the Autumn of 1999. As far as we know, this was the first complex systems master's programme offered in the World. This was very timely as Stephen Hawking soon thereafter stated that "I think the next century will be the century of complexity." The first group of 20 students started the first courses in August 2000.

In March 2001 Bernhard Mehlig joined the School of Physics and Engineering Physics. After studies in Heidelberg, Cambridge, and Stuttgart, Bernhard had worked at the Max-Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, as well as at the Oxford and Freiburg universities. In Gothenburg, Bernhard was appointed to research in the physics of complex systems and to teach courses in the MSc programme. In 2004 he became director/coordinator of the MSc programme.

The programme has continuously developed it's scope and quality : a sister programme at the University of Gothenburg was established in due course, and most recently the CAS programme became part of an Erasmus Mundus consortium (see Opportunities). The first students in the new Erasmus Mundus programme started in the fall of 2010.

Both Kristian Lindgren and Bernhard Mehlig continues to teach in the programme, but from the academic year 2010/2011, Mats Granath has taken over as the coordinator of the programme.