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  “Why don’t we retrofit? Developing interdisciplinary insights for the design of area based retrofit programmes” 3.5-year EDRC PhD studentship: SPRU, University of Sussex.

   University of Sussex Business School

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  Dr Donal Brown  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This interdisciplinary PhD studentship, starting January 2024, is hosted as part of the new £15 million Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC). It will focus on enhancing research and policy understandings of the motivations, barriers, and drivers for the adoption of energy demand reducing home “retrofits”. Through a mixed methods approach, including ethnographic case studies, and industry secondments with “area-based” retrofit programmes, the studentship aims to develop novel conceptual understandings of the factors which influence the success or failure of these programmes. These insights will be of core relevance to the EDRC consortium and in developing public policy to inform the design of area-based retrofit programmes to drive the uptake of retrofit measures. 

The core aims and objectives of the studentship are as follows:

1.           Develop an interdisciplinary perspective on the motivations, drivers, and barriers for the adoption of retrofit and renovation measures through deep engagement with academic literature across multiple social science disciplines and perspectives

2.           Synthesise and operationalise this interdisciplinary perspective into a novel analytical framework, and apply this approach in an ethnographic research context

3.           Test and refine this framework in the context of real world retrofit delivery programmes, to understand its explanatory power in terms of the motivations, drivers, and barriers for adoption of these programmes

4.           Contribute to improving academic understanding of how and why households respond to public energy efficiency programmes and how different social science disciplines can be combined in service of this agenda

5.           Provide recommendations to practitioners and policymakers to support the design and delivery of area based retrofit programmes and wider public policy

Novelty and contribution to knowledge

Little is known about the reasons for the success or failure of area based retrofit schemes. By adopting an interdisciplinary social science approach, synthesising ideas from economics, sociology, business and management and innovation studies, this studentship aims to deepen academic understanding as to how and why these programmes may lead to increased adoption of retrofits and household energy demand reduction. By developing this understanding, the studentship will provide insights as to how these programmes should be designed, and how public policy should be reframed in the context of these findings.

Primary Supervisor

Dr Donal Brown is recognised as a leading scholar in the energy business models field and is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on the residential energy retrofit issue. Having undertaken his PhD on new business models and financing mechanism for residential retrofit, Donal’s research focusses on sustainable energy business models, finance, public policy, and its wider political economy.


The PhD studentship is offered for a maximum of three and a half years, renewable on a yearly basis, subject to satisfactory performance on the doctoral degree. The successful candidate will receive a full fee waiver plus a stipend equivalent to the UKRI doctoral stipend, currently £18,622 per annum, paid each year in three termly instalments (typically in October, January and April). In order to prepare students for academic careers, individuals receiving a studentship will be offered the possibility to undertake some teaching and/or marking activities in the School, of up to a maximum of six hours per week during term time, or to apply for any part-time Research Assistant roles that may become available. Any teaching undertaken will be paid at grade 6 of the University’s Doctoral Tutor salary scale in addition to the stipend.

In addition, the studentship aims to support the PhD student to achieve the following objectives:

•            Support the student’s professional and academic development, in a world class, collegiate research environment at SPRU, and as part of the wider EDRC

•            Develop long term contacts and partnerships with core project stakeholders in the UK’s energy and retrofit sectors

•            Publication of high-quality research outputs in top academic journals

•            Securing post-doctoral employment opportunities 


The studentship is available for UK/EU and overseas applicants. Applicants should have an upper second-class honours degree, and already have, or currently be studying for, a Master’s degree in a related subject, or equivalent qualification if a non-UK applicant. A good level pass is usually required for the Master’s degree. Proof of proficiency in English is also required, i.e., an IELTS certificate taken within the last two years showing at least 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in each of the four sections.

Further information

Please see here for full details of the studentship and how to apply. Queries can be directed to either Dr Donal Brown ([Email Address Removed]) or Prof Tim Foxon ([Email Address Removed]).

Environmental Sciences (13) Politics & Government (30)

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will receive:
A full fee waiver, currently either £4712 for home fees or £18,975 for international fees.
A stipend equivalent to the UKRI doctoral stipend, currently £18,622 per annum.