Circular Economy and Smart Manufacturing: Examining the influence of the circular economy as a driver of smart manufacturing technology adoption in the UK food sector


   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof Chris Simms, Dr Aldo Stornelli, Dr Gul Kaner  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2024. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Professor Chris Simms, Dr Aldo Stornelli and Dr Gul Kaner

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive £2,000 for fieldwork purposes. 

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.    

The work on this project could involve:

  • Exploring the innovation potential of smart manufacturing technologies for organisations and how these can be captured
  • Uncovering how circular economy principles drive the adoption of smart manufacturing systems, alongside the organisational barriers and enablers 
  • Developing managerial tools to assist in the successful implementation of smart manufacturing technologies in the UK food sector
  • Uncovering how innovation is driven by the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies and how this drives sustainability.

Project description

The future of innovation and manufacturing for companies will be dominated by both the need to improve sustainability and the increasing use of smart manufacturing technologies. These two industrial trends are inextricably linked (Kusiak, 2018). Smart manufacturing is revolutionising the way data analytics can be used to improve production management, reduce waste, and provide managers with information on the performance of products and materials. Platforms based on the Internet of Things have the potential to lower production costs and provide a deeper know-how on the business and manufacturing operations. For example, Multinational Manufacturers in the electronics industry who have successfully implemented smart manufacturing, have been able to increase output by 140% without increasing electricity consumption or altering resources (World Economic Forum, 2023). Likewise, in the food industry, using demand forecast and logistics traceability platform has enabled firms to reduce raw material loss rate by 33%, energy per unit consumption by 19%, and consumption of water per unit by 5% (Srai et al., 2022).

The circular economy is changing the way that organisations manage their innovation, in order to drive improvements in sustainability. In order to unlock the innovation and sustainability potential of smart manufacturing systems, manufacturers face several organisational challenges. Yet, there is a need to further understand the sustainability potential of smart manufacturing systems and their relationship to circular economy business models (Lopes et al., 2022; Findik et al., 2023). This project will be set in the context of the food industry in the UK which is vital for the economy (ONS, 2023). Despite the potential recognized by the fourth industrial revolution, this sector is experiencing challenging times due to low productivity and growth. Further, whilst smart manufacturing can drive both sustainable product and process innovations, there is a need to better understand how potential can be captured (Hu et al., 2022). 

General admissions criteria

You will need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

You will need a good understanding of innovation management. We also encourage applicants from different backgrounds, who are knowledgeable about technology adoption within the manufacturing industry and specifically in the food sector. Qualitative research skills and the willingness to develop them further during the PhD project is desirable.

How to Apply

We would encourage you to contact Professor Chris Simms ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SM&I8920124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.


Business & Management (5)

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive £2,000 for fieldwork purposes.
Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.
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