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Spatial diffusion of low carbon innovations (WILSONU17SF)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Wilson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Widespread adoption of low carbon innovations is needed to tackle climate change. Diffusion is the process by which innovations spread through a population of adopters [1]. Diffusion has important spatial characteristics [2-4].

The aim of this PhD project is to analyse the spatial diffusion of low carbon innovations. Where do they begin? How fast do they spread? How can this be measured? Does social influence accelerate diffusion? Is diffusion dependent on innovation policy or climate policy?

This project will focus on ‘disruptive’ low carbon innovations. Disruptive innovations challenge prevailing technologies or practices [5]. Examples include: car clubs, car sharing networks, and car-free communities as an alternative to private car ownership; or smart homes, net zero energy homes, and off-grid homes as alternative ways of heating and powering domestic life.

The successful applicant can choose which innovations to analyse, and at what scale (UK, EU, global). Specific research activities include:
(i) compiling time series and geospatial data on disruptive low carbon innovations
(ii) mapping spatial diffusion using GIS software
(ii) modeling socioeconomic and policy variables which explain spatial variation

The successful applicant will have proven research capabilities demonstrated through a Masters-level qualification or equivalent experience in a relevant social scientific discipline. Applicants with applied or vocational experience in a related field are also encouraged. The successful applicant will be based in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a leading interdisciplinary research centre at the University of East Anglia. Through this PhD, the successful applicant will develop knowledge and methodological skills to support evidence-based policymaking.

Applicants from the UK or EU who are interested in this topic can apply separately for ESRC studentships to the SENSS consortium of which UEA is a member. Please contact the supervisor to discuss this further.

The project may be available at an earlier start date of 1 April or 1 July 2017 but should be discussed with the primary supervisor in the first instance.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


[1] Rogers (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. Free Press: 5th Edition.

[2]. Noonan et al (2013). Spatial Effects in Energy-Efficient Residential HVAC Technology Adoption. Environment and Behavior 45: 476-503.

[3]. Bollinger & Gillingham (2012). Peer Effects in the Diffusion of Solar Photovoltaic Panels. Marketing Science 31: 900-912.

[4]. Davidson et al (2014). Modelling photovoltaic diffusion: an analysis of geospatial datasets. Environmental Research Letters 9: 074009.

[5]. Christensen (2003). The Innovator's Dilemma. New York: HarperBusiness.

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