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Enabling Effective Transdisciplinary Working with the Automotive Sector

   Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS)

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  Prof Linda Newnes  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Over the past few decades transdisciplinarity (TD) has been the subject of increased discourse in the context of large, complex, ill-defined, ‘wicked’ problems. However, there has been less consideration of the potential it offers within the practice of engineering. This research looks to create tools which enable effective TD working within the automotive sector.

The Mobility Engineering 2030 FISTA White Paper identifies that changes within the sector mean that interdisciplinary working, involving groups formed from people working in similar disciplines, will not be sufficient. It recognises that in the future there will be a need for transdisciplinary working, which goes beyond the academic disciplines to understand the societal context. For example, legislation, standards, culture.

However, achieving effective TD working within organisations is not simple. It requires the creation of tools (e.g. processes and methods) which enable clear communication and knowledge transfer within and beyond an organisation. This PhD will leverage input from the TREND (TRansdisciplinary ENgineering Designers) £1.8m platform grant (Dec 2017 – Dec 2022).

The over-arching aim of TREND is to provide tools to assist engineers to work in a transdisciplinary manner and to identify the types of engineers that are transdisciplinary.

Identifying what makes engineering teams in the automotive sector transdisciplinary and how to assess their current readiness level to be transdisciplinary is the focus of this PhD activity. The PhD will have a particular focus on ‘common’ characteristics and automotive design team behaviour within and across industry case studies. Mapping findings at various life cycle stages such as designer requirements, use of digital tools etc. for each case study/domain against the manufacturing life-cycle phases. This would be followed by cross case-study analysis. The analysis may use techniques such as input/output system modelling to map the designer requirements at each stage of the manufacturing life cycle, and/or socio-technical analysis could be used to classify and model the designer behaviour.

In summary the PhD researcher will be required to create a structured framework to estimate the automotive sectors transdisciplinary readiness level.

Specific objectives may include

1. Undertake a literature review to understand the state of TD working within the automotive sector.

2. Engage with stakeholders to gather information which informs the design of the TD readiness tool.

3. Create a TD readiness tool.

4. Validate the proof of concept tool within industry.

This project is offered as part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS CDT).  The Centre is inspiring and working with the next generation of leaders to pioneer and shape the transition to clean, sustainable, affordable mobility for all. 

Prospective students for this project will be applying for the CDT programme which integrates a one-year MRes with a three to four-year PhD  

AAPS is a remarkable hybrid think-and-do tank where disciplines connect and collide to explore new ways of moving people. The MRes year is conducted as an interdisciplinary cohort with a focus on systems thinking, team-working and research skills. On successful completion of the MRes, you will progress to the PhD phase where you will establish detailed knowledge in your chosen area of research alongside colleagues working across a broad spectrum of challenges facing the Industry.  

The AAPS community is both stretching and supportive, encouraging our students to explore their research in a challenging but highly collaborative way. You will be able to work with peers from a diverse background, academics with real world experience and a broad spectrum of industry partners. 

Throughout your time with AAPS you will benefit from our training activities such mentoring future cohorts and participation in centre activities such as masterclasses, research seminars, think tanks and guest lectures. 

All new students joining the CDT will be assigned student mentor and a minimum of 2 academic supervisors at the point of starting their PhD. 

Funding is available for four-years (full time equivalent) for Home students. 

See our website to apply and find more details about our unique training programme (  

Funding Notes

AAPS CDT studentships are available on a competition basis for UK students for up to 4 years. Funding will cover UK tuition fees as well as providing maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,609 per annum for 2021/22 rate) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.
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