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Producing chemicals and materials sustainably: Understanding the economic implications and firms decision making

Business School

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Prof E Phimister , Dr J Cai No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

There are a range of potential novel processes and techniques which would allow the sustainable production of chemicals and materials from organic waste particularly involving anaerobic digestion. Which methods are most economically feasible from an industry and society perspective remains an open question. This study will identify the major cost factors in the alternative processes, and will compare the economics of the proposed processes with the economics of alternative uses of the waste, the adoption decisions by firms and the potential disruptive effects of the new technologies on existing markets. Since anaerobic digestion of organic waste can generate many chemicals in much larger volumes than their current production, there may be market impacts of these new processes which may have wider impacts on global chemicals markets. Hence, using economic analysis, the PhD will focus on exploring the following questions:

What are the main economic and social costs that are associated with the use of anaerobic digestion technologies to convert organic waste into chemicals and materials?

What key factors that influence firm or society’s strategic decisions when adopting anaerobic digestion technologies?

What potential new markets (both domestic and global) would be generated as a result of increased volume of chemicals produced through the use of anaerobic digestion technologies and how might the adoption of these new technologies disrupt existing chemical markets?

To answer these questions, a detailed Cost-Benefit Analysis will be applied to new technologies to evaluate the potential net economic benefits of the new technologies and to explore the impacts of cost reductions e,g, associated with learning by doing. To provide an analysis of the incentives for firms to adopt the new technologies this framework will be extended to allow for risk. The exploration of the potential disruptive impact of the new technologies at the market level may consider the impact on prices, market shares and social welfare associated with wide-scale adoption by applying both analytical and simulation methods.

The successful applicant is expected to have (or be close to graduating with) an MSc in Energy Economics or Economics or in a related area e.g. an MSc in engineering with significant prior training in economics and management, and to have evidence of research potential. S/He will need to have an interest in the broader energy issues and will be expected to work in an interdisciplinary environment


Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics
• State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Leverhulme CDT in Sustainable Production of Chemicals and Materials’ as the Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Funding Notes

Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars will receive maintenance costs at Research Council rates and tuition fees at the rate for UK/EU students. In 2019-20 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £15,141 per annum. International applicants who can pay the difference between the Home and International Fees would also be welcome to apply.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.
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