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Sustainable design and innovation

Study Sustainable design ecologies with The Open University

Sustainable design and innovation research has a long legacy at The Open University. In the 1970s seminal work was undertaken framing up alternative technologies, particularly in the context of energy and sustainable policy (Boyle and Elliott). In the 1980s and 1990s work originated here on ‘green innovation’ theory and practice within commercial, social and policy contexts (Roy & Potter). Today in the Design Group we continue this tradition of sustainable design and innovation research. This research is termed design ecologies to emphasise the relational and multi-scale nature of sustainable design and innovation and the diverse landscapes it inhabits.

We welcome research applications that align to the following areas of research interest:

  • Products, Services and Systems (PSS)
  • Sustainable Design and Innovation
  • Cultures of Sustainable Consumption
  • Sustainable buildings, cities and infrastructures
  • Low-carbon housing and transport policy and design
  • Smart grid and city developments
  • Innovation leadership and organisational change
  • Ecoliteracy and transformational learning.

The Design Group is part of the AHRC CDT Design Star, partnering with Brighton, Goldsmiths, Loughborough and Reading Universities. This provides a supportive environment for our postgraduate students in both exploring different approaches to design research and in developing interactive knowledge exchange. Design-focused research events are held throughout each academic year alongside the OU-focused research training.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil 


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding. 

Potential research projects

  • Cultures of consumption in circular economies
  • Sustainable urban design ecologies: the integration of local wisdom on design for adaptable infrastructure.
  • Exploring sustainable product service system innovation in urban environments
  • Designing ecoliteracy for sustainable transitions
  • Sustainable innovation and leadership: beyond the triple bottom line

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Emma Dewberry
+44 (0)1908 332940

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.