Population growth, ageing populations, international migration and urbanization are global demographic “megatrends” impacting sustainable development (UN, 2019). In 2019, the world’s population reached 7.7 billion, and the UN (2019) expects this to surge by 10% (to 8.5 billion) and 26% (to 9.7 billion) in 2030 and 2050, respectively (UN, 2019). Furthermore, increased life expectancy has stimulated a rising global ageing population. The number of people aged 65 years or above surpassed children below 5-years old in 2018 (UN, 2019). And by 2050, the UN (2019) projects there will be over twice as many people aged 65+ than children below five.
Cities provide better opportunities for education, employment, healthcare, and a more orderly infrastructure system. This drives the migration of people from rural areas to cities (Estevez, Lopes & Janowski, 2016). This also helps explain why cities account for 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) (Estevez et al., 2016). Nevertheless, the inflows of people in cities raise concerns around traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, social tension, and crime (Estevez et al., 2016).
Smart cities represent a solution to rapid urbanization and population growth wherein digital technologies help manage cities’ infrastructure systems (Estevez et al., 2016). Real-time data capture allows instant data analysis and supports strategic decisions. Smart sustainable city initiatives can optimise resource administration, environmental protection, crime prevention, disaster management, and enhance residents’ quality of life (Estevez et al., 2016). However, despite extensive research into smart sustainability cities, theoretical frameworks and practical solutions remain vague (Pira, 2021). Specifically, scholars criticize smart city thinking for being overly technological-driven and diminishing the interactive “human” element (Trencher, 2019).
Addressing calls for future research, this proposed study uses institutional theory to explore the human barriers to smart sustainable city innovation and development. This research aims to inform the successful dissemination of smart sustainable city innovation within developed and developing nations.
This proposed research asks:
- What are the institutional barriers to smart sustainable city innovation and development?
- Do developed and developing countries face similar institutional barriers?
This qualitative study will utilise a multi-case study methodology drawing upon cases in the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Proposed data sources will include interviews, academic and grey literature consistent with prior studies on the subject (e.g. Desouza et al., 2020). Qualitative thematic analysis will be applied following a three-stage inductive methodology (Gioia et al., 2013)
This project is supervised by Dr Ed Cottam.
Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
- Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
- Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
- Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/BL/EIS/COTTAM) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022
Start Date: 1 October 2022
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.