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Harnessing the socio-economic benefits of green growth in the Tees Valley

   School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law

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  Prof Matthew Cotton  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Tees Valley has become a key site of low carbon and clean energy innovation in the United Kingdom, driven by national and regional policy that is geared towards green economic growth. This includes the Conservative Government’s Levelling Up Agenda and the investment framework championed within the Tees Valley Combined Authority, including ongoing development of the Net Zero Strategy for Tees Valley. The Tees Valley has one of the largest clusters of biomass, biofuel, bioethanol and energy from waste plants and Teesside University is collaborating closely with the Tees Valley Combined Authority in the development of low carbon energy, resources and technologies. This has led to the creation of an internationally recognised Net Zero Technology Cluster (including sustainable energy and energy optimization, decarbonisation, circular economy and the application of industrial digitisation as an enabler to Clean Technology) in the region. The Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre (NZIIC) is an innovative new £13.1m facility and key component of Tees Valley Combined Authority's regional innovation strategy, which will position Teesside firmly at the heart of the UK's green industrial revolution.

This collective policy framework and investment strategy has led to a rapid expansion in research, development, and deployment across a range of green economy sectors including: the hydrogen economy for transport and domestic fuels, carbon capture utilisation and storage, energy storage, biofuels, plastic alternatives, and minerals processing. Collectively these innovations provide a range of new economic opportunities as well as environmental benefits. This PhD will assess the ways in which these new opportunities can be harnessed to improve socio-economic outcomes for the region.

The Tees Valley’s history as a site of industrial innovation since the late 18th century provides both a legacy of physical infrastructure and the social capacity for a new “green industrial revolution”, facilitated by its geographic features (e.g. the deep shipping port at the mouth of the Tees), and recent changes to its regional economic geography (such as gaining freeport status, and the shift of the new economic campus to Darlington, bringing major functions of government to the north-east of England). Collectively, these technical, geographic, and socio-cultural facets of green industrial growth and governance transition present massive economic opportunity to the region in the face of some of the greatest socio-economic inequality experienced anywhere in the country. The decline of traditional industries such a steelwork, economic challenges for regional public services, growing costs of food and fuel, and persistent educational and health inequalities present potential barriers for local involvement in the green economy. It is necessary therefore to understand the interplay between the supply of opportunities generated by investment in green growth, and the barriers and facilitators to economic conversion – how local institutions and policy authorities harness this investment to build social capacity, employment growth and economic regeneration within the region.

In this PhD project the researcher will use a critical policy analysis and qualitative research approach to assess the opportunities for a just transition for the Tees Valley – in which economic growth is harnessed to improve social, economic, and environmental welfare outcomes for a range of diverse communities. Using a combination of document analysis, interviews and ethnographic research with key regional policy stakeholders, educational institutions, skills training providers, green industries and residents, the research will assess the dynamics of regional policy, industrial innovation, and green growth, identifying the barriers and enablers of green recovery and economic opportunity for the people of the Tees Valley. The supervisory team and researcher will work in collaboration with partners in the Tees Valley Combined Authority who will provide strategic input on the direction of the project as well as support for the stakeholder engagement.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a good honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant discipline. A masters level qualification in a relevant discipline is desirable, but not essential, as well as a demonstrable understanding of the research area. Further details of the expected background may appear in the specific project details. International students will be subject to the standard entry criteria relating to English language ability, ATAS clearance and, when relevant, UK visa requirements and procedures.

How to Apply

Applicants should apply online for this opportunity at:

Please use the Online Application (Funded PHD) application form. When asked to specify funding select “other” and enter ‘RDS’ and the title of the PhD project that you are applying for. You should ensure that you clearly indicate that you are applying for a Funded Studentship and the title of the topic or project on the proposal that you will need to upload when applying. If you would like to apply for more than one project, you will need to complete a further application form and specify the relevant title for each application to a topic or project.

Applications for studentships that do not clearly indicate that the application is for a Funded Studentship and state the title of the project applied for on the proposal may mean that your application may not be considered for the appropriate funding.

For academic enquiries, please contact Prof. Matthew Cotton [Email Address Removed]

For administrative enquiries before or when making your application, contact [Email Address Removed]. 

After an application has been made, please contact [Email Address Removed].

The online application portal and all document templates required for an application can be accessed at:

Selection process

All applications received by the closing date will be considered. Successful applicants at the application stage will be shortlisted and contacted to arrange an interview. All interviews will be held online. Unsuccessful applicants will be contacted to confirm that the application will not be progressed. After interview, all interviewed applicants will be contacted to inform them of the outcome. Successful applicants progressing to an offer of a place, to commence in either May or October 2022.

Key Dates

Closing date for applications is 5pm on Monday 28 February 2022.

We envisage that interviews will take place in April 2022.

Successful applicants will be expected to start May or October 2022

Funding Notes

This Fully Funded PhD Studentship covers tuition fees for the period of a full-time PhD Registration of up to four years and provide an annual tax-free stipend of £15,000 for three years, subject to satisfactory progress.
Applicants who are employed and their employer is interested in funding a PhD, can apply for a Collaborative Studentship. More details here.
Applications are welcome from strong UK, EU and International students.
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