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Exploring the Role of Digital Technology (Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability) in Promoting Sustainable Urban Development

   School of Environmental Sciences

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

About the Project

This project is part of a 4 year Dual PhD degree programme between the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and the University of Liverpool in England. As part of the NTHU-UoL Dual PhD Award students are in the unique position of being able to gain 2 PhD awards at the end of their degree from two internationally recognised world leading Universities. As well as benefiting from a rich cultural experience, Students can draw on large scale national facilities of both countries and create a worldwide network of contacts across 2 continents.

I. Background

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 accelerate 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.

This UoL-NTHU dual PhD project aims to capture this significant trend in global megacities and focus on critically exploring the features, applications and limitations of digital technologies. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is a suite of 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 Microsoft Taiwan, this project aims to explore the potential and policy implications of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability for modern smart urban development.

II. Aim and objectives

With the world's population becoming increasingly urbanized, the development of sustainable and resilient cities has become a global priority. Cities and county agencies are often overwhelmed by data. Technologies like IoT and AI can help sift through data to help make smarter decisions that lead to more sustainable communities. Smart cities, built on digital technologies, could be a promising approach to promoting sustainable urban development. For example, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is a suite of software tools and services designed to help organizations monitor, analyse, and manage their sustainability performance. However, the nature, approaches, and the effectiveness of using digital technologies in achieving sustainability goals remains underexplored.

Aim: This research aims to investigate the role of digital technology in promoting sustainable urban development in smart cities. By collaborating with IBM Taiwan, this project will focus on the application of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability for sustainable and smart city planning.

Possible research sub-questions:

1) What is the relationship between digital technology and sustainable urban development in smart cities?

2) How can digital technology be effectively utilized to achieve sustainability goals in smart cities?

3) What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using digital technology to promote sustainable urban development in smart cities?

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.

III. Expected outcome

Overall, this UoL-NTHU dual PhD research project aims to critically examine whether the digital technologies (here Microsoft Taiwan I as a collaborator through Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability which will be examined) 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. More importantly, this is a joint project with Microsoft Taiwan that not only creates academic value, but also has commercial value and practical policy implications. This UoL-NTHU-Microsoft collaborative 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. 

When applying please ensure you Quote the supervisor & project title you wish to apply for and note ‘NTHU-UoL Dual Scholarship’ when asked for details of how plan to finance your studies.

This project is a part of a 4-year dual PhD programme between National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and the University of Liverpool in England. It is planned that students will spend 2 years at NTHU, followed by 2 years at the University of Liverpool.

For academic enquires please contact:

Dr Chia-Lin Chen ([Email Address Removed]), Department of Geography and Planning, at UoL;

Dr Chung-Han Yang ([Email Address Removed]) Department of Environmental and Cultural Resources at NTHU

For enquires on the application process or to find out more about the Dual programme please contact [Email Address Removed].

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

When applying please ensure you quote the supervisors & project title you wish to apply for and note ‘NTHU-UoL Dual Scholarship’ when asked for details of how plan to finance your studies (‘Other Information – Finance and Publicity’ section of the online application form). 

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

Funding Notes

Both the University of Liverpool and NTHU have agreed to waive the tuition fees for the duration of the project and stipend will be provided as a contribution to living costs (£550 per month while in Liverpool and TWD 11,000 (the equivalent of £280) per month while in Taiwan). While studying in Taiwan, the PhD candidate will receive support from her/his academic supervisor at NTHU to secure additional funding from the National Science and Technology Council, Taiwan.


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
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