Copenhagen Wind Farm

PhDEPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Power Networks & Smart Grids

Research opportunities

The way in which we produce and consume energy is changing. We can no longer rely on the centralised power generation model of yesterday, to solve the global energy challenge of providing clean, affordable and reliable energy.

The power system of tomorrow is being shaped by climate change policy, socio-economic pressures and technological advances in materials science, power electronics, communications and data processing.

10 funded four-year PhD studentships on offer

Two of the UK’s leading research institutions for power systems, the University of Strathclyde and Imperial College London, have combined their expertise and world-class facilities to establish a centre that will address this global energy challenge. It has been designed to produce world-leading engineers with the cross-disciplinary expertise needed to help realise the future low carbon smart grid.

The centre is supported by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in partnership with leading UK engineering consultancies, equipment manufacturers and network operators. A unique training and research programme blends together leading-edge information and communications technology solutions, radical new power systems architectures and innovative market mechanisms to support the increasing renewable energy deployment and electrification of transportation and heating.

The programme

This four-year programme is composed for a one-year MRes instructional course and three-year PhD research study.

Year 1 - Instructional course (MRes)

You'll complete a series of short intensive research-led masters-level courses delivered jointly by Strathclyde and Imperial College, combined with professional engineering skills and research methodologies training.

You're based primarily at Strathclyde, but complete a two-week course in Power electronics in February, and a one-week course in Risk management in May at Imperial. All costs associating with the visits to London are covered by the centre.

The Masters-level courses cover the smart-grid concept, protection systems, communications networks, operational reliability, asset management, the role of interconnection and European network integration, and power electronics. You'll develop in-depth understanding of traditional power systems design and operation, and gain industrial context for your PhD topic.

Potential PhD topics are explored through the completion of two industry-inspired mini projects.

Years 2 to 4 - Research study (PhD)

You'll study for a PhD in a research topic of your choice. You'll also complete an industrial or international work placement of up to three months, and be required to participate in joint events, activities and training at Strathclyde and Imperial College.

Research topics are broad-ranging, based on industry needs and ongoing electrical power and energy research within both institutions. Example topics include:

  • future power networks & smart grid paradigm
  • control & protection of future networks
  • communications for power networks
  • power electronics for transmission & distribution networks
  • asset management & condition monitoring
  • managing risk & uncertainty in grid operation
  • offshore and pan-European super-grids

Fees & funding


All fees quoted are per academic year unless otherwise stated.

2019/20 entrants may be subject to a small fee during the writing up period.

Scotland/ EU

  • £4,327

Rest of UK

  • £4,327

International students

  • £9,000

The centre has up to 10 four-year PhD studentships on offer for the coming academic year.

The studentships are available for UK and eligible EU citizens, who possess or are about to obtain a UK first class or 2.1 BEng (Honours), MEng or MSc degree, or equivalent EU qualification, in a relevant physical sciences or engineering discipline.

The centre is composed of a students from a variety of age groups, academic and industry backgrounds, and experience; from physics graduates and civil engineers to power systems industry experts returning to academia.

The studentships cover university tuition fees, provide a highly competitive stipend to help with living costs, and a travel allowance for conference attendance, for the full four years of the programme.

EU applicants are only eligible for the stipend if they have been resident in the UK for three years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting the programme. If an EU applicant cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for the tuition fees element only of the studentship.

International students may be eligible for the studentships if they are 'settled' in the UK. 'Settled' means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of the stay. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode, Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.

Students with full refugee status are eligible for the tuition fees and stipend elements of the studentship.

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year.

How can I apply?

You can apply for a postgraduate research degree at any point in the year.

All you have to do is complete an online application.

Applications open annually from 1 October and are accepted all year round.

To apply,complete an online application, uploading copies of your academic transcripts, degree certificate, passport, and a covering letter explaining why you are interested in studying on the programme. Your application will be for the one-year instructional MRes in the first instance, with transfer to the PhD made at the end of Year 1 upon satisfactory completion of the MRes.

Applications are reviewed by an Academic Panel, with selected candidates then invited for interview. Interviews are conducted between January and July.  These are held at either the University of Strathclyde or Imperial College London, depending on candidates’ geographical location.

Decisions on interviews are confirmed within one working week, with successful candidates made a formal offer of a studentship.

Entry requirements

Studentships are available to UK citizens who have, or are about to obtain, a first-class or upper-second Honours or MSc degree in a physical sciences or engineering discipline.

You can apply for a postgraduate research degree at any point in the year.

All you have to do is complete an online application.

Support & development

Academic support

Continuous learning: a programme of continuous professional development supplements your research, with courses designed to develop skills such as project management, health and safety, writing with confidence, presentation and communication, along with opportunities for conference attendance and industrial engagement.

Industrial/international placements: In Year 2 of your PhD, you have the chance to spend up to three months with an associated industrial partner, or at an international academic institution to enhance interaction and explore options for collaborations between academia and industry.

Two academic supervisors: Supervision by world-class academics from the UK’s leading research institutions for power systems.

Conference attendance: All students receive a dedicated annual conference budget. With guidance from their supervisor, they will identify the most suitable conferences to attend to advance their learning and share experiences in their field of research. All students attend the annual UK Low Carbon Network & Innovation conference. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest technological and management developments within the UK power sector.

Personal development

Upon joining the centre, you have the opportunity to participate in the professional engineering development society (PEDS).  This student-led society coordinates a number of personal development, schools and public outreach activities, and industry engagement events, including:

  • outreach - you can participate in outreach activities as a STEM ambassador, to promote the benefits that science and engineering subjects can do in the world
  • industrial engagement - you can participate in activities including site visits, guest lectures, and network with industry through academic presentations and assessments
  • communications - you can participate in promotion of the Centre through providing news and updates via digital marketing and social media platforms
  • social - you can help organise social events and recreational activities

Engineering Chartership (CEng)

Chartership is not an expectation, but it's available to professional engineers interested in obtaining recognition for their work.

It normally takes about five years to achieve CEng status following graduation from a professionally accredited undergraduate degree. The centre aims to support you with targeted training activities to develop the necessary academic and professional competences required for Chartership (CEng) with the professional body, the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET).

From the outset of the PhD component, you'll be encouraged to record your professional development activities which will contribute towards your Chartership application. Professional development can include a range of activities, such as attendance at conferences, presentations made, roles held within working groups/committees, and any training courses completed.

Career development

There's currently a global shortage of trained power systems engineers. Transmission systems and distribution networks operators such as ScottishPower, SSE, UK Power Networks and Northern Powergrid are always looking for highly skilled engineers who can bring knowledge and experience to their rapidly changing industry.

Alternatively, you may work on the development of novel power generation or storage solutions, the implementation of performance monitoring sensors and smart demand management systems. Opportunities also exist to create new products and services that can be development as university spin-out and student start-up companies, in which both Strathclyde and Imperial have significant expertise and success.