PhD Research Projects 

Action Research at the ICNZ has a new look for explorers looking to be Transition Leaders.    Video overview

PhD level research requires that a contribution to the body of knowledge be achieved. This means answering a research question rather than carrying out a large and difficult task. In order to determine if the project is a PhD research project, ask these questions:

1)  If sufficient funding were available, could a person fully skilled in the current standard methodologies and tools be able to carry out the work? 

If yes, then it is a scope of work that could be done by a knowledgable consultant, and not a research project.

If no, then the question is;

2) What is missing? What would be needed in order to carry out the difficult task? If the answer is “a way to reliably carry out the task based on rigorous fundamentals and methods” then developing that way to do the work is a research project.

Right now, the biggest task facing humanity is “change the incumbent energy consuming economic and social activity systems so that they use 80% less fossil fuel by 2030?”   There is a knowledge gap in every place in every energy using system. “how do we achieve the net zero climate targets?” This is the research question.

The methods for assessing LCA are fundamental tools. The methods involve finding, cleaning and analysing data from many sources in a way that produces a coherent assessment of the energy and materials consumed in the system and the use of the system.  But the LCA does not answer the question of how to achieve the target fossil fuel reductions. In order to make a contribution in this area, the research question is framed this way:

A given activity ecosystem currently is comprised of a certain set of capital assets and technology artefacts and habituated econo-social behaviours. How can the participants, stakeholders and overseers of the activity ecosystem carry out a change project that is on the direct line-of-sight pathway to the target?

This is a Transition Engineering Challenge. And it will have a good PhD research project with great potential for innovation no matter which activity ecosystem we work on.

The first Transition Engineering Challenges we are working on in 2022 are activity ecosystems of residential, public schools, and shops/commercial. These activity ecosystems include factors such as buildings design, construction and condition, technologies, fuels and electricity, regulations, spatial geography, behaviours, culture and quality of life.

We have a hypothesis that the “way we achieve the net zero targets” Is to apply Transition Engineering methodologies and tools in a Transition Lab architecture, comprising an integrated process with partners, stakeholders, and end users.

Thus, the research will be to test out the hypothesis through experimentation with the architecture and processes of the Transition Lab, evaluate the results, and provide the findings of how to structure and run a transition challenge for a given activity ecosystem in a way that either achieves the net zero target directly, or starts on a net zero pathway that will achieve the target. 

Imagine if we could answer the question “How do we achieve the net zero targets and just transition InTIME?”  that would be a very good research result that could be used in a standardised way in activity ecosystems around the world.

This project is available to UK and International students. The successful candidate will have a B.Sc. (2:1 or higher) and M.Sc. (distinction) or equivalent, and ideally additional experience in computer science, modelling, image analysis or engineering, ideally with some experience of applying these skills to other disciplines (e.g. in the life sciences, social sciences, transport, urban form, buildings and built environment, community activities). You will have good programming skills, preferably in Python, ArcGIS, game development or other advanced programming languages. Knowledge of transportation engineering, building energy science, or freight supply chain would be beneficial. You will be highly self-motivated and confident enough to seek out solutions beyond the current team if required. You must be able to describe complex issues in a means that is accessible to the range of stakeholders with whom you will work.

How to apply

To apply you must complete the online application form. Please select EGIS PhD programme Environment and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor (Prof SP Krumdieck) on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.

You must complete the section marked project proposal; upload a supporting statement documenting your reasons for applying to this particular PhD project, and why you are an ideal candidate for the position.  You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate/s and relevant transcripts. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee who will be able to provide a technical reference. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English within the last 2 years). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Please contact Prof Susan Krumdieck ( for further information or an informal discussion. Contact Susan Smith (S.

The ICNZ was launched Spring 2023. Prospective candidates are welcome to apply at any time. Search for scholarships you may be eligible for. 


[2] United Nations Secretary-General (09 Aug 2021)

Florain Ahrens

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