PhD Project: Modelling Innovation at Water Energy Food Nexus

Water energy food

Supervisor: Dr Liz Varga

Threats to water, energy, food (WEF) availability and security are placing pressure on the resilience of the economy, environment and society, due to, amongst other things, over use of land, high levels of emissions, increasing inequality, unhealthy diets, and more frequent extreme weather events. Policy makers have also to consider targets to cut carbon emissions and climate change impacts elevating uncertainties about nexus outcomes. Stakeholders from industry, government and society need support to make good decisions. 

This research will take a trans-disciplinary approach focusing on the interconnections between disciplines, examining trade-offs and related economic, environmental and societal outcomes. Case study data will provide examples of low impact WEF systems operating at different scales from micro to macro. There will be several explanations for their success and also innovation potential in other locations or at other scales. The research problem to which this doctoral work will contribute is that of how to step up innovation and demonstrate how the threats to WEF availability and security can be alleviated. 

There are various opportunities for examining this field of study:

  1. Creating alternative representations of the intersections of WEF systems thus contributing to the definition of WEF Nexus, the understanding of this phenomena and the identification of constructs to explain the condition and its desirability
  2. Designing a database of WEF systems for some or all of the UK which will represent the dynamics of WEF systems, federating data from multiple sources, and identifying patterns in big data, to provide insight into changing patterns of WEF threats.
  3. Co-creating business models with practitioners and academics for stepping up innovation, for example, by diffusion elsewhere at the same scale, larger scale or smaller scale or by growth in the same location, all of these with or without adaptation(s).
  4. Modeling abstracts, rules and algorithms (i.e. business models) demonstrating the potential for stepping up innovation, highlighting new opportunities and barriers to WEF availability and security, such as improving unemployment, or increasing poverty.
  5. Simulating the role of alternative governance structures to determine the potential for alleviating threats , identifying feedbacks, rebound effects and other influencers to systemic survival
  6. Examining the transition in various future scenarios, such as population growth, urbanization, rising energy costs, disrupted supply chains (e.g. climate events, terrorism) and identifying the future scenarios which bring on instabilities most quickly

These doctoral studies will be related to EPSRC funded project Stepping Up (EP/N00583X/1) providing access to a team of investigators and researchers, and the wider community of projects interested in the WEF Nexus including More broadly this work connects to the supervisor’s global research and projects in complex infrastructure systems, which are large socio-technical systems integrated with the environment and infrastructure (energy, transport, water, waste and telecommunications). 

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters in a scientific, mathematical, engineering, urban geography or environmental discipline.
  • Motivation to improve societal resilience through reduced emissions or resource consumption whilst recognizing the need for economic viability using novel business models and the need for decision-making for sustainability.
  • Excellent numeracy skills and ability to represent socio-technical systems in models, e.g. using Matlab.
  • Excellent critical thinking and explanatory skills with a desire to work across disciplines, using multiple methods and synthesizing large data sets.
  • Candidates should satisfy Cranfield School of Management admission criteria. Please see Admission Requirements for English language requirements.

Expressions of interest alongside a CV are invited via email to in the first instance. 



Posted on July 23, 2015, in Innovation and Operations Management, Strategy Complexity and Change Management, Supply Chain and Logistics Management and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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