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Enabling Effective Transdisciplinary Working with the Automotive Sector

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

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 within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS CDT). The centre aims to create a diverse and stimulating environment where you can deepen your knowledge in your discipline through your PhD whilst giving breath to your skills through collaborations.

Prospective students will be applying for the integrated PhD programme run by the AAPS CDT which includes a one-year MRes (full time) followed by a PhD programme. The MRes course will be conducted as a cohort with a focus on technology, team-working and research skills. On successful completion of the MRes, you will progress to a PhD programme which can be conducted on a full-time or part-time basis.

AAPS is determined to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members. The whole CDT community will come together at specific events during the calendar year, most notably the induction events, workshops and guest lectures. All new students joining the CDT will be assigned both an academic personal tutor and a student mentor. Each student will be assigned 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 or for more details (

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 (£15,285 per annum for 2020/21) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.

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