Dr Elsa João

Senior Lecturer

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Personal statement

Dr João is Director of Postgraduate Studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde and she is the course leader for the MSc in Environmental Entrepreneurship. She has expertise in the areas of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), environmental analysis, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), scale effects, spatial data quality, enhancement of positive impacts, sustainability and the circular economy. Her current research focuses on how enhancement can improve project design and strategic planning, and how best to implement the circular economy. Together with Dr Girma Zawdie, she supervises the PhD student Jack Barrie, a Schmidt-MacArthur Fellow with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and they have set up the first postgraduate class on the Circular Economy at the University of Strathclyde.

Dr João has been one of the key people promoting SEA in the UK and since 2002 she has trained more than 500 practitioners on SEA from more than 60 different organisations. She was elected one of the directors of the prestigious International Association for Impact Assessment for the period 2014-2017. IAIA (http://www.iaia.org/) is the leading global network on best practice in the use of impact assessment for informed decision making regarding policies, programs, plans and projects. A truly international association, IAIA has more than 1,600 members from more than 120 countries. Dr João is part of the Scottish Government-sponsored Centre of Expertise for Climate Change (ClimateXChange), she is a member of the international editorial board of the journal ‘Environmental Impact Assessment Review’ and she is the editor of the IAIA Key Citations. She was shortlisted for best teacher awards at the University of Strathclyde in 2013 and 2015. Finally, she is the leader of the innovative SME Carbon Clinic, run in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, where students carry out carbon audits for small and medium size organisations.



Assessing the role of triple helix system intermediaries in nurturing an industrial biotechnology innovation network
Barrie Jack, Zawdie Girma, João Elsa
Journal of Cleaner Production Vol 214, pp. 209-223 (2019)
How may sustainability be advanced through Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in small islands? Exploring a conceptual framework
Polido Alexandra , João Elsa, Ramos Tomás B
Ocean and Coastal Management Vol 153, pp. 46-58 (2018)
Leveraging triple helix and system intermediaries to enhance effectiveness of protected spaces and strategic niche management for transitioning to circular economy
Barrie Jack, Zawdie Girma, João Elsa
International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development Vol 16, pp. 25-47 (2017)
Land use planning and the ecosystem approach : an evaluation of case study planning frameworks against the Malawi Principles
Phillips Peter M, João Elsa
Land Use Policy Vol 68, pp. 460-480 (2017)
Exploring experts' views and perspectives on the enhancement of strategic environmental assessment in European small islands
Polido Alexandra, João Elsa, Ramos Tomás B
Environmental Impact Assessment Review Vol 58, pp. 25-33 (2016)
SEA procedures and methods : the importance of baseline, political and pragmatic contexts
João Elsa, Annandale David
European and International Experiences of Strategic Environmental Assessment (2016) (2016)

more publications


EV939 - Environmental Impact Assessment

CL927 - Writing and Presenting Research

CL929 - Client-based environmental entrepreneurship in practice                        

CL986 - Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

CL961 - Geographical Information Systems

CL972 - Sustainability & Strategic Environmental Assessment

CL973 - Independent study in collaboration with industry

CL988 - Leading Issues in Circular Economy

Socio-Economics of Wind Energy Systems

Business skills applied to wind energy systems

Professional activities

Impact Assessment & Design - World Cafe (IEMA’s Scotland West Network Event)
Training day on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control for delegates from the Hebei Provincial Government
Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal (Journal)
Peer reviewer
External examiner for PhD Viva of Nimi Dan Jumbo (Edinburgh University)
External Examiner
Visiting researcher
International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) (External organisation)

more professional activities


SURICATES - Sediment Uses as Resources in Circular And Territorial Economies.
Lord, Richard (Principal Investigator) Bertram, Doug (Co-investigator) João, Elsa (Co-investigator) Zawdie, Girma (Co-investigator) Tarantino, Alessandro (Co-investigator)
€5.7M Interreg NWE Industrial Research Partnership
21-Jan-2017 - 21-Jan-2022
EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind & Marine Energy Systems | Hall, Rebecca
João, Elsa (Principal Investigator) Hall, Rebecca (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 01-Jan-2021
Robust Decentralised Low Energy Faecal Sludge Dewatering leading to Sanitation, Clean Water and Sustainable Energy Resource - Natural Synergies
Lord, Richard (Principal Investigator) João, Elsa (Co-investigator) Knapp, Charles (Co-investigator)
"The project concerns dewatering/treatment of faecal sludge (black waters). Natural Synergies Ltd's (NS) aims are to develop a stand-alone dewatering process for rural areas of the UK/EU, reducing transport costs and carbon footprint and in developing countries as a low cost decentralised/localised sanitation system. The developed system can be also be used as a pre/post-cursor to a small scale anaerobic digestion (a follow-on proposal) or thermal unit, leading to closed loop decentralised, localised sanitation and off-grid energy generation. The dewatering process being developed will incorporate ultrasound to make available free, interstitial and cell water, together with electrokinetics to drive/separate water from faecal sludge via filter mesh. Preliminary work has shown potential for high levels of dewatering (15 - 40 % DM) and pathogen reduction (incl. helminths) at low energy inputs. System design will aim at non-specialised component manufacture, where possible, using local industries.

Our vision is to develop an entire new system of treating pit latrine wastes in developing countries, which not only generates renewable energy, but also a safe, useable fertilizer. In theory, this could be achieved now using conventional process technology. What is lacking, however, is a small scale robust system at relatively lower cost that can be operated with ease in remote areas. Our research contribution to delivering this is focussing on two specific challenges: Firstly, how to destroy human parasitic worms or their eggs, so as to allow safe reuse of the solidified material for agricultural fertilizer; Secondly, can we use locally available plant material to simultaneously increase the amount of energy, as biogas, which can be produced. The systems that Natural Synergies Ltd have been developing are highly effective but also highly innovative. We need to be sure of the overall environmental performance and social benefits of any new system, as well as its cost effectiveness. If successful this technology could also offer significant cost-savings and environmental benefits in developed countries at small-scale wastewater treatment plants in remote locations (e.g. Scottish Highlands), reducing road-tanker traffic, transport fuels and carbon emissions."
01-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2018
EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind & Marine Energy Systems | Topham, Eva
João, Elsa (Principal Investigator) McMillan, David (Co-investigator) Topham, Eva (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 01-Jan-2020
Zero Energy Distributed Micro Pumped Hydro-Innovate UK Early Stage Energy Catalyst Award - Water Powered Technology
Bertram, Doug (Principal Investigator) João, Elsa (Co-investigator) Kalin, Robert (Co-investigator) Tanyimboh, Tiku (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 30-Jan-2017
SME Carbon Audit
João, Elsa (Principal Investigator)
£9600 from the Faculty of Engineering

more projects


Civil and Environmental Engineering
James Weir Building

Location Map

View University of Strathclyde in a larger map