Sustainable design and innovation

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
(MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October January to April
PhD (MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
January to April

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) and the UK’s first PhD on Ecodesign strategies was published (Dewberry,1996). Today in the Design Group we continue this tradition, emphasising the relational and multi-scale nature of sustainable design and innovation and the diverse landscapes it inhabits. Adopting a critical stance, more recent work has focused on among other things the potentialities of smart city initiatives and artificial intelligences in attaining transitions and transformations to more sustainable urban environments.

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

  • Design Ecologies  
  • Sustainable Innovation  
  • Products, Services and Systems (PSS)  
  • Regenerative Design 
  • Design for Sufficiency  
  • Sustainable cities, infrastructures and buildings 
  • Sustainable Fashion  
  • Low-carbon urban transport and mobilities  
  • Smart and sustainable city developments  
  • Sustainable Leadership for Climate Change  
  • Ecoliteracies and transformational learning.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Current/recent research projects

Research projects will be advertised on the Design Blog when they are available. General applications that respond to the themes listed above are welcome.

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £15,698 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £7,849 per year

Some of our research students are funded via the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership; others are self-funded. The funding application deadline for OOC studentships is in early January. 

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


Image of a sustainable building

How to apply

Get in touch

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

Emma Dewberry or Matthew Cook
Email: stem-ei-phd

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.