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The smartGrid concept envisages a much more actively controlled distribution network with high asset utilisation and many active elements such as distributed generation, storage and responsive demand. One way of handling the increased control and communication complexity is to decentralise control and place autonomous controllers in substations that have authority to manage tap-changers and generator constraints so as to increase DG capacity while respecting network limits. Such controllers can also perform feeder-level restoration based on local measurement. Such controllers can be gradually introduced as SmartGrid regions within existing networks. The Aura-NMS project is a collaboration of eight UK universities, two network operators and a manufacturer to develop and test these ideas.