PhD Studentship - Sustainable Innovation at Heathrow

University of Surrey

Guildford & Heathrow, London
Stipend of £18,000 pa

Paid • Full Time • Fixed Term Contract

Sectors: sustainability, carbon, climate & energy

Closing date: Wednesday, 25th July 2018   7 days left

Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey

Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability: Project Brief

Project Title: Sustainable Innovation at Heathrow

Sponsoring organisation: Heathrow Airport Ltd

Project Overview and Background

Heathrow has a bold ambition as it sets a direction towards a future of sustainable aviation. Its sustainability strategy – Heathrow 2.0 – sets out stretching objectives in diverse areas such as community wellbeing, climate change and the circular economy.

One year on from the launch of Heathrow 2.0 it is entering an exciting stage, with innovation in advanced and sustainable materials central to a sustainable construction programme, and to the achievement of a resource efficient airport.

This project is central to Heathrow’s ambition to deliver an exemplar sustainable airport for the future, ensuring that the infrastructure and activities of the airport provide a great passenger service whilst progressively moving to zero carbon. Heathrow is offering itself as a ‘sustainable innovation testbed’ and this project will be at its heart.

This project requires a holistic systems thinking approach to realise the challenges set out in the Heathrow 2.0 plans. In general, this approach will need to include the sustainable management of resources (including water and waste), the ability to identify and implement best practice for an expanding, complex multi-stakeholder environment and consideration of the whole life-cycle of Heathrow assets to ensure interventions are targeted at areas to capture the most appropriate benefits.

Particular, but not exclusive, foci could include:

  • The application of novel materials in infrastructure and buildings to move towards a sustainable Heathrow
  • Runways, taxiways and apron design and construction including the potential for in situ (ex situ) condition monitoring
  • How design, choice and installation of materials/coatings can influence the carbon consumption of buildings (new and retrofit)
  • Applied research techniques, involving testing and monitoring design interventions and new materials

Project Deliverables

Depending on the attributes and interests of the chosen candidate, projects will be selected that deliver both for

Heathrow 2.0 and to the candidate’s doctoral thesis. The creation, development and testing of innovative processes, materials and designs will be central to this project and, as such, the following deliverables will play a central role:

  • Liaising with the research community to identify and test materials/products that could help cut carbon from an expanded (and/or business-as-usual) airport
  • Setting innovation challenges and the associated appraisal
  • Testing materials/ideas on airport, including engaging with multiple stakeholders (technical, managerial and potentially the general public).


The methodologies employed will be chosen once specific projects are agreed. However, the focus is more likely to be delivering environmental/sustainability improvements. Social and behavioural approaches will be employed where and if appropriate

Person specification


  • 1st/2:1 in either an Applied Science discipline or any Engineering discipline
  • At least 1 year’s work experience
  • Interest in novel materials, and use of materials, in construction (infrastructure and buildings). Specific training / expertise are not required
  • Confident in communication with all levels of staff and management
  • Self-directed and motivated worker


  • Appreciation of full life cycle attributes of buildings/materials
  • An appreciation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


All applications must be emailed to and include all of the following documentation to be considered:

  • Up to date cv
  • Cover letter including why this project is of interest and how your experience and interests make you a suitable candidate.
  • Degree certificates and transcripts
  • References – 2x academic references or 1x academic reference and 1x other reference

Key Dates and Information

This project is due to begin on the 1st October 2018. The successful candidate will spend an initial 11 weeks in Guildford, UK undertaking intensive sustainability and personal development training, after which they will be predominately based at Heathrow.

The programme will run for three to four years.

The successful candidate will receive a generous stipend of £18,000 per annum throughout this time (with potential to increase to c. £20,000 per annum after two years). Stipends are usually tax-free and DPs will also benefit from an additional £500 p.a. allowance for attendance at conferences etc. In addition to this, full-time tuition fees (£4,195) will be covered at the current Home/EU rate for the duration of the programme.

The deadline for applications is 23.59 on the 25th July and Interviews will take place on the 13th August.

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