University of Exeter funding: Renewable Energy - PhD

Ecologies of innovation for Smart Distribution Networks. Self-funded PhD in Renewable Energy Ref: 3083

About the Research Project

University of Exeter Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

Academic Supervisors:
Dr Peter Connor, Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy Policy, University of Exeter

Project Description:
The UK’s electricity networks are in a process of substantive change that will require new approaches to the use of technology and its adoption. A de facto framework for driving innovation has been created as part of the RIIO approach to incentivisation of innovation concerning technologies and services that might be applied to improve efficiency and performance on UK distribution networks. This system is rooted in encouraging DNOs to work with third party companies to develop appropriate technologies which can then be applied within distribution networks. The work will investigate whether this approach assigns too much control over the innovation process to the DNO, essentially allowing them to limit innovation either intentionally or as a result of assigning it a low value. The PhD will consider whether different approaches to network regulation would allow for a more open ecology of innovation.

DNOs have only limited experience with managing research and development; there was little spend in this area as a result of the regulatory framework that was applied after privatisation and R&D departments were largely discontinued under this regime. Regulatory schemes such as RPZ, IFI and particularly the Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF) have gone some way to address and RIIO will attempt to go further. However, there are a number of factors which may constrain their approach, limit innovation relating to network technology and management and thus engender higher customer costs than necessary.

This PhD will work with the industry to consider the potential for alternative ecologies to the one that has emerged from RIIO and to make recommendations for change rooted in widening sectoral innovation. The focus will be on the UK electricity distribution sector though it can be expected that outs put will have wider international value.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor: Dr Peter Connor
Information about current fees can be found here:
Information about possible funding sources can be found here:

Entry requirements

Applicants for this research project must have obtained a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Experience in Renewable Energy  is desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

 You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and two academic references. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project. You may also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email

Please quote reference 3083 on your application and in any correspondence about this project.


Application deadline:3rd June 2019
Value:This project is self-funded
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: PGR Enquiries