PhD Studentship: Disruptive low carbon innovations for mitigating climate change (WILSON_U17ERC3)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Science

Start Date: October 2017

Supervisor: Dr Charlie Wilson

Project description: Widespread adoption of low carbon innovations is needed to tackle climate change.

The aim of this PhD project is to analyse how and why low carbon innovations spread through a population of adopters [1]. The diffusion of innovations is influenced by many factors including social networks, policy environments, and geographical proximity [2-4].

This project will focus on ‘disruptive’ low carbon innovations that challenge mainstream technologies or practices [5], and can significantly reduce emissions if adopted at scale.  Examples include: distributed electricity generation and storage (disrupting electricity grids and utilities); or car clubs and car sharing networks (disrupting car ownership and patterns of mobility).

This project will ask: Where have disruptive low carbon innovations originated?  How fast do they spread?  Are social networks important for accelerating diffusion? Is diffusion dependent on innovation policy or climate policy? Are there spatial characteristics to diffusion?


There is considerable scope for the successful applicant to choose which innovations to analyse, and at what scale (UK, EU, global). Examples of research activities include:

(1) compiling data series to map how disruptive low carbon innovations have diffused to-date

(2) analysing technology, socioeconomic and policy variables explaining diffusion

(3) conducting case study research with business or civil society groups involved in disruptive innovation


The successful applicant will be a core part of a larger project team working on disruptive low carbon innovations. They will be integrated into the Tyndall Centre, a world-leading inter-disciplinary research institute on the causes, impacts and responses to climate change. They will also have available comprehensive skills and employment training through the EnvEast doctoral training programme.

Person Specification

Applicants should have, or be working towards, a good MSc degree or equivalent research experience that demonstrates interest and capabilities in innovation, diffusion, climate change mitigation, mapping, and/or modelling.

Please contact for any further information.

Person specification: Minimum 2:1 in quantitative social science, environmental science, public health & epidemiology, engineering

Funding notes: This studentship is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for three years.  Full funding is available to EU applicants only. An annual stipend of £14,296 will be available to the successful candidate. Overseas applicants may apply but are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (in 2016/17 the difference is £12,879 for the School of Environmental Sciences but fees are subject to an annual increase).

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