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  Exploring the Role of Digital Technology in promoting Sustainable Urban Development

   Department of Geography and Planning

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  Dr C Chen, Dr Chung-Han Yang  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Cities and climate change could hardly be more closely intertwined. As ‘heat islands’, urban areas influence the climate by raising temperatures on a regional scale. With two-thirds of the world's population living in urban areas, the vulnerability of cities to climate change is a pressing concern as climate change exacerbates existing demographic inequalities in urban areas. Migration to urban centres increases the need for digital transformation as governments and city administrations are under increasing pressure to make cities safer, more accessible, sustainable and smarter.

Smart cities are the cities of the sustainable future. A smart city is an urban area that uses a range of digital technologies to improve the lives of residents, optimise infrastructure, modernise government services, improve accessibility, promote sustainability, and facilitate economic development. Governments and city planners are using a combination of Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), edge, blockchain and other innovative solutions to gain a comprehensive view of all city operations, infrastructure and services to create sustainable smart cities.

On the other hand, the process of digital transition might not be socially inclusive for citizen and residents who lack access to the digital technologies. The impacts of COVID-19 on digital adaptation are profound, which transforms the traditional way of work/life decoupling and poses serious questions about the location of residence and workplace - What activities could not be replaced with digital communication? Would human settlement be more dispersed or centralised? What does that mean for future digital urbanism evolving in a sustainable, inclusive and active manner? The full picture of digital transition in shaping sustainable urban development is yet to be clear.


This UoL-NTHU dual PhD project aims to capture this significant trend and critically explore the features, applications, and limitations of digital technologies. Digital technologies such as Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability are software tools and services designed to help organisations monitor, analyse, and manage their sustainability performance. Key features include Data collection and aggregation, analysis and reporting, scenario planning, benchmarking and collaboration, and carbon accounting. Through collaboration with digital platform providers such as Microsoft Taiwan, this project aims to explore the potential and policy implications of digital technologies for future smart urban development.

The candidate is required to demonstrate understanding of the state-of the art in the relevant research fields and discuss potential research gaps and contributions. While this project is inherently cross-disciplinary and centred around digital technologies, we anticipate that the ideal candidate will possess not only a strong inclination towards delving into the technical intricacies of Microsoft Cloud but also possess exceptional insights into leveraging this digital technology for future urban planning, policy development, and commercial opportunities.

This PhD scholarship is signalling a cutting-edge research area which requires further development through a critical examination of current debates and future challenges. We encourage the research projects could be designed and tested in the real-world contexts and could contribute to making real impacts on achieving sustainable, inclusive, and active digital urbanism in the future. 

Expected outcome

Overall, this UoL-NTHU dual PhD research project aims to critically examine whether the digital technologies (e.g., Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability and/or other powerful digital technologies) can provide cities with a comprehensive set of tools and services to develop and implement smart and sustainable initiatives. By examining these tools and cases, cities can gain insight into their sustainability performance, identify areas for improvement and take action to reduce their environmental impact. The research will also contribute to the academic literature on smart cities and sustainability by identifying knowledge gaps and suggesting possible research directions. This research project could be an exciting opportunity of training and engaging a wider set of stakeholders, including government agencies, service providers, academic researchers, urban planners, local communities and the general public, etc.

Academic background

The academic qualification should be at least MSc level (or at the completing status). Either undergraduate level or master's degree is preferably in the field of city and regional planning, human geography.

Application materials

The applicant is required to apply online through the link listed below. The documents required to be prepared and submitted include a personal statement, CV, two recommendation letters, , transcripts of the holding degrees, and a research proposal (specifying potential research gaps, aim, objectives, research methodologies and design; please note, don’t just copy paste what is written in the call above, the expectation is to see the extent to which more thoughts have been developed further to narrow down for a potential research focus in addressing the issues in relation to this broad research direction).


To make a formal application, please create an account using the link provided below: 

If you have any questions regarding the online application process, please refer to the "How to apply for a PhD programme" webpage below: 

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Business & Management (5) Education (11) Geography (17)

Funding Notes

This project is funded by a 4-year dual PhD programme between National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), Taiwan and the University of Liverpool, UK. On successful completion, the PhD candidate will be awarded dual PhD degrees respectively. The candidate is expected to spend 2 years respectively in both countries, which enables rich cultural experiences and a worldwide research network.
The tuition fees will be waived, and stipend (monthly living costs) will be provided, £550 in the UK and TWD 11,000 in Taiwan.
Please quote the supervisors, the project title, and the funding ‘NTHU-UoL Dual Scholarship’ while filling out the application online.


• Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability
• Smart Sustainable Cities, UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)
• Special Issue "City 4.0: Urban Planning and Development in the Age of Digital Transformation", Sustainability
• Alternatives to smart cities: A call for consideration of grassroots digital urbanism
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