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Diffusion of low carbon innovations (WILSONU16ERC2)

   School of Environmental Sciences

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  Dr C Wilson  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Widespread adoption of low carbon innovations is needed to tackle climate change. Diffusion is the process by which innovations spread through a population of adopters [1]. Diffusion is influenced by both the characteristics of a technology and adoption contexts, including policy and geography [2-4].

The aim of this project is to analyse the diffusion of low carbon innovations. Where do they begin? How fast do they spread? How can this be measured? Does social influence accelerate diffusion? Is diffusion dependent on innovation policy or climate policy? Are there spatial characteristics to diffusion?

This project will focus on ‘disruptive’ low carbon innovations. Disruptive innovations challenge prevailing technologies or practices [5]. Examples include: car clubs, car sharing networks, and car-free communities as an alternative to private car ownership; or smart homes, net zero energy homes, and off-grid homes as alternative ways of heating and powering domestic life.

There is considerable scope for the successful applicant to choose which innovations to analyse, and at what scale (UK, EU, global). Specific research activities include:
(1) compiling data series describing the diffusion of disruptive low carbon innovations
(2) analysing technology, socioeconomic and policy variables explaining diffusion
(3) mapping spatial diffusion and quantifying spatial clustering effects

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, mapping, and/or modelling. Please contact [Email Address Removed] for any further information.

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 they are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (in 2016/17 the difference is £12,879).


[1] Rogers (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. Free Press: 5th Edition.
[2]. Noonan et al (2013). Spatial Effects in Energy-Efficient Residential HVAC Technology Adoption. Environment and Behavior 45: 476-503.
[3]. Bollinger & Gillingham (2012). Peer Effects in the Diffusion of Solar Photovoltaic Panels. Marketing Science 31: 900-912.
[4]. Davidson et al (2014). Modelling photovoltaic diffusion: an analysis of geospatial datasets. Environmental Research Letters 9: 074009.
[5]. Christensen (2003). The Innovator's Dilemma. New York: HarperBusiness.
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