Postgraduate research opportunities Minewater geothermal district heating for Scotland’s low-income ex-mining communities


Key facts

  • Opens: Monday 4 October 2021
  • Deadline: Monday 8 November 2021
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Funding: Home fee, Equipment costs, Travel costs, Stipend


Exploring the business models, finance, legal structures, partnerships and policies necessary to scale-up minewater geothermal district heat, across Scotland’s low-income ex-mining communities.
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Candidates are required to have:

  • a background in social science (business and management, economics, sociology or any other cognate discipline) with a first or 2:1 UK Honours degree, or overseas equivalent. We also welcome applicants with an engineering or science background, who demonstrate a strong interest in the topic
  • a Masters degree or equivalent work experience in a relevant subject will be strongly preferred
  • interest in how technological and business model innovation shape sustainability transitions
  • a strong understanding of:
    • Energy market and policy frameworks
    • Local/community energy
    • Heating technologies and associated challenges of decarbonisation
  • excellent analytical skills and a demonstrable aptitude to undertake research and develop into an independent researcher
  • prior knowledge and/or willingness to employ qualitative research methods, especially documentary analysis, interviews, workshop and/or focus groups. Also, quantitative skills to manipulate larger datasets and undertake basic statistics are desirable
  • excellent written and oral English language skills (see our Entrepreneurship PhD page for minimum test scores if English is not your first language).
  • excellent interpersonal skills and a proven ability to build strong working relationships
THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

This PhD is co-funded by the Energy Technologies Partnership, the University of Strathclyde and Scottish Enterprise. The research explores strategies to deliver affordable low-carbon heat to low-income communities.

The focus is on supplying mine water geothermal district heating (MGDH) to deprived ex-mining communities across Scotland’s Central Belt, in such a way that supports local economic growth and tackles fuel poverty. Whilst technical barriers remain, MGDH projects already exist in the UK and beyond. Alongside technical considerations, of critical importance are the policy, market and social conditions necessary to incentivise and enable local stakeholders to deliver MGDH.

The PhD’s central research question is which combinations of business models, legal structures, finance and partnerships can help local stakeholders to deliver MGDH at scale across Scotland’s ex-mining communities? It will deliver on the following research objectives:

  1. to determine the ‘lived experience’ of consumers (both residential and commercial) across low-income ex-mining communities with regarding to heating their properties
  2. to identify the full range of co-benefits could MGDH schemes offer local communities
  3. to determine the barriers to deployment across Scotland, both technical and socio-economic
  4. to establish what mix of business models, finance, legal structures and partnerships are necessary to overcome these barriers, whilst maximizing local benefits for lower income communities
  5. to formulate and test community engagement strategies could help to garner support for MGDH
  6. to develop and test policy recommendations, at different levels of government, to support MGDH

The successful applicant will be responsible for independently designing and leading a PhD research programme capable of answering these questions. You will be expected to rely primarily on qualitative research methods (eg interviews, focus groups, documentary analysis), as well as undertake basic quantitative analyses of national databases relating to energy and socio-economic trends. A key focus of your work will be to engage with ex-mining communities, as well as industry experts on minewater geothermal and district heating, to understand the potential for this technology across Scotland. As such it's essential you have strong interpersonal skills and are capable of building stakeholder relationships.

You'll join a vibrant research community within the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Hunter Centre is now one of the largest university-based centres of entrepreneurship in the UK and is home to a team of recognised entrepreneurial experts. You'll work alongside 45 other PhD students, all supported by a tailor-made training programme and subject to rigorous progress checks to identify where support is most needed.

The Hunter Centre sits within the triple-accredited Strathclyde Business School, ranked number one in Scotland in the REF2014.

You'll be connected to other PhD students too, via Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy associate network and the Centre for Sustainable Development. Through the two academic supervisors, you'll also be integrated with the £10m Energy-REV consortium, which brings together 60 researchers and 22 universities from across the UK to undertake research on smart local energy systems. The PhD student would work closely with both work packages on: a) policy and regulation and b) business models and finance. The student will also enjoy access to UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) community via the supervisor, through their Whole Person-Whole Place energy retrofit project.

Due to the nature of this research, there will be plenty of opportunities to engage with external stakeholders. The project will be supported by an Industrial Advisory Board that includes senior representatives from a wide range of organisations including Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Power, Ramboll, EnviroCentre, SunAmp and TownRockEnergy. This highlights both the industrial focus of the research and how well connected the student will be with industry stakeholders from the outset. It'll be your responsibility to manage the advisory board and the relationships with these stakeholders.

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Funding details

One studentship covering home fees and a tax-free stipend circa £15,609 per annum for up to 36 months. International applicants will need to cover the difference between Home and EU/international fees. We also welcome self-funded or externally funded applications.

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Dr Matthew Hannon

Senior Lecturer
Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship

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Dr Iain Cairns

Teaching Associate
Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship

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At this stage, we are inviting applicants to apply for the scholarship only. The successful candidate will then be asked to complete an application for PhD study at Strathclyde.

All applications should include:

  • a cover letter indicating the candidate's relevant skills/experience and how they can contribute to this research
  • a CV and relevant qualification transcripts (eg undergraduate and/or postgraduate degree)
  • two references (please refer to the guidance on references) 

When sending the above documents please use the following file-naming convention: fullname_typeofdocument

For example:

  • Johnsmith_coverletter
  • Johnsmith_CV
  • Johnsmith_transcript1
  • Johnsmith_transcript2
  • Johnsmith_reference1
  • Johnsmith_reference2

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