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Agent-based modelling of linked circular economies

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, March 07, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from highly motivated and suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship.

In many urban areas, pathways of essential resources such as food, water and energy are subject to multiple inefficiencies. Circular economies try to minimize wastages by reusing or recycling the waste products within each resource stream. Explicitly linking these circular economies will enable us to exploit synergies between these cycles, thereby further reducing waste in the urban food-energy-water nexus.

This PhD aims to analyse the potential for waste reduction in urban food-energy-water nexus by explicitly linking the circular economies. The PhD focuses on Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) of food, energy and water fluxes in urban or urbanising environments. Innovatively, these fluxes will be modelled as emergent properties arising from agents’ (i.e. stakeholders’) decision making, explicitly recognizing that they depend on power relations between the various stakeholders and on non-linearly propagating effects.

ABM can: a) illuminate the decision-making structures and power-relations in the food-energy-water nexus; b) evaluate sensitivity to volatility and vacillation in stakeholder decision making; c) illustrate how potential changes in nexus management affect stakeholder decision making and resource fluxes; and d) identify unanticipated feedbacks, thresholds and other potential problems under different management or usage scenarios. Four ABMs will be developed for up to four case study cities (metropolitan areas), located in the UK, the Netherlands, Brazil and South Africa.

This PhD project is linked to a broader research project (Waste FEW-ULL), funded by ESRC, which aims to map, model and reduce waste in the urban food-energy-water nexus in the four cities.

Academic Environment

Coventry University has been the UK’s top modern university for seven consecutive years (Guardian University Guide 2013-2019) and holds a number of other prestigious accolades. Established in 2014 through substantial university investment, the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience (CAWR) is rapidly building a global reputation for transdisciplinary research into processes of resilience in social-ecological systems. Among its key lines of research is work focusing on modelling of water and food systems, aided by high performance computing facilities.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.
All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD

• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

For further details see:

Essential criteria:
• a proven ability to undertake independent study
• excellent written and spoken language skills
• sound knowledge of food, water and energy resource cycles

Desirable criteria:
• MSc in geography, environmental sciences or similar
• experience with agent-based modelling
• solid understanding of standard statistical techniques
• solid understanding of qualitative research techniques
basic-intermediate programming skills

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr. Marco Van De Wiel ()

To apply on line please visit:

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Interview dates: Interview details will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: May 2019

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded position for three years.
Student fees for the first three years of the PhD will be waived as part of this project. The successful candidate will receive an annual bursary.

Basic research costs (e.g. equipment, travel for fieldwork) are covered by Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience. The successful candidate will receive an additional allowance of £250 per annum for professional expenses.

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