Two 3-year PhD studentships on “Energy Demand in the Digital Society” at SPRU, University of Sussex (2018)

Two 3-year PhD studentships on “Energy Demand in the Digital Society” at SPRU, University of Sussex

Type of award

Post-graduate Research

PhD project

The department

The PhD will be based in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Established in 1966, SPRU conducts research, consultancy and postgraduate teaching in the area of science, technology, and innovation policy.

SPRU comprises over 70 faculty and 60 doctoral students and is ranked third in the world and the highest in the UK in a global list of think tanks in science and technology.

SPRU has a track record of mentoring researchers from different backgrounds and training them to produce interdisciplinary social science research that is highly relevant to policymakers and other stakeholders.

The Sussex Energy Group (SEG) at SPRU aims to understand and foster transitions towards sustainable, low carbon energy systems.

Drawing from SPRU's tradition, the Group undertakes academically rigorous, interdisciplinary social science research on contemporary energy and climate policy challenges.

SEG's work is funded from a range of sources, including the UK Research Councils, UK government departments and the European Commission.

The research area

These two PhD studentships will explore the potential contribution of digital technologies to reducing energy demand and assisting the transition to secure, low carbon energy systems.

Digital technologies are driving a new industrial revolution that is transforming industrial structures, business strategies, employment patterns, consumer preferences and social practices around the world.

This revolution is gathering pace, with developments in automation, the 'Internet of Things' and 3-D printing set to unleash further transformational change.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have wide-ranging and complex implications for energy demand and there is ongoing controversy about their net impact.

On the one hand, they offer many benefits, such as optimising energy use in buildings and industrial processes and displacing the transport and consumption of material commodities.

On the other hand, the digital economy has a large and rapidly growing energy footprint, with improvements in the energy efficiency of individual devices being offset by the continuing increases in the number, power, complexity and range of applications of those devices, together with the associated growth in energy-intensive digital services.

Applications are welcome for projects that investigate the historic and potential future impact of digital technologies on energy demand, the mechanisms contributing to those impacts and the means by which the energy-saving potential of digital technologies can be maximised.

The projects may use ideas from economics, innovation studies, sociology or other relevant disciplines and may employ both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

The studentships will contribute to a larger programme of research in this area, led by Professor Tim Foxon and Professor Steve Sorrell.

Possible topics for research projects include:

  • the recent and future impacts of ICTs on energy consumption and energy productivity at the sectoral and macroeconomic level
  • the potential for innovative, ICT-based business models to deliver end-use services with lower energy use and carbon emissions
  • the influence of smart systems on energy-related user practices (e.g. working remotely, changing leisure patterns) and the effect of these on energy consumption
  • the use of digital technologies to optimise the energy efficiency of industrial processes, logistics and larger systems such as entire cities.


You receive:

  • full tuition fee waiver
  • three years tax-free stipend (£8,500 per year) paid in three instalments in October, January and April.

The two PhD studentships are offered for a maximum of three years, renewable on a yearly basis, subject to satisfactory performance on the doctoral degree.

To prepare you for academic careers, you 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.

Any teaching undertaken will be paid at grade 6 of the University's Doctoral Tutor salary scale in addition to the stipend.


You need to:

  • have an upper second class honours degree
  • 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, such as 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.

We welcome applications from suitably qualified people, regardless of ethnicity, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and working patterns.


12 April 2018 23:45 (GMT)

How to apply

You need to

  • apply for a PhD place in Science and Technology Policy Studies at the University of Sussex
  • include a research proposal addressing one of the research topics above or a closely related topic. 

Contact us

Email if you have a question about applying or eligibility.

Informal enquiries in relation to ideas for research topics may be made to Tim Foxon or Steve Sorrell


The deadline for applications is 29th March 2018.


At level(s):
PG (research)

Application deadline:
12 April 2018 23:45 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired


The award is available to people from these specific countries: