Up to £50,000 available for Pilot Studies for application of digital technologies in the creation of a sustainable society

Parties interested in applying for a Pilot Study should read the attached document carefully for full details of eligibility, requirements and application process.


Applicants are invited to apply for funding for pilot projects from the RCUK Digital Economy Theme (DE) Sustainable Society Network+ (SSN+). These pilot studies will be no longer than 6 months in duration and are designed to test new ideas or create novel linkages between research areas in line with the Network’s theme of digital technology and sustainable societies.

The DE Sustainable Society Network+

We are investigating and the role of digital technologies in creating sustainable societies and ensuring the sustainable use of the technologies themselves in society. These societies move towards the “triple bottom line” – promoting economic development, environmental stewardship, and social equity in our world. Sustainable Society Network+ is charged with identifying future opportunities in this area for both industry and academia. It promotes these with funding for UK academics in the form research grants, secondments to industry and events to spur on new collaborations in and between social science, engineering, computer science, the arts and health. The Network is funded by the RCUK Digital Economy Theme. The Theme supports research to rapidly realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy.

The Research

Research into the role of ICT in supporting the development of a sustainable society covers an extremely large number of research areas, from water, waste, energy, local and national transport infrastructures, national and international supply chains, rural and urban enterprise infrastructures, community development and social infrastructure support mechanisms. The systems that form the basis of our society are now extremely complex systems, with multiple layers and multiple interactions between the economic, social and environmental spheres – it is not possible to affect one without affecting the others. The themes should address the “three pillars” (UN, 2005) or “triple bottom line” (Elkington, 1994) of sustainability – social, economic, and environmental. Applications are encouraged on the following topics but are not limited to:

Retail: Digital technologies for real-world impact on reducing the impact of ‘consumer’ culture.  Examples include, but are not limited to: lifecycle management technologies, improved recycling management, etc…

Food Networks: the use of digital technologies for understanding how to help end-users with traceability of food in supply chains, the generation and co-ordination of locally-grown food in urban environments and/or urban farming

Utilities Networks: the impacts of digital technologies on the overall industrial supply chain from extraction to supply to the population, including feasibility studies, capital development, the use and maintenance of assets, and developing and selling resources. Examples include, but are not limited to: the impacts when digital technologies facilitate localised generation and storage by end-users as individuals or in cooperation…

Transport: Digital technologies that promote positive social, economic, and environmental impacts in personal transport, passenger transport, and/or logistics. This includes design to service delivery, synergies with other industries, and demand management. Examples include, but are not limited to: development of a sharing economy in transport, new urban and rural energy storage networks…

Public Governance: How digital technologies are changing the operations of governance and the delivery of services to end-users such as citizens, businesses, and the third sector from online services and business systems to ICT infrastructure. Examples include utilising agile working to deliver services, or developing platforms for more participation from end-users.

Flooding: The impact of digital technologies in the study, prediction of, and design of strategies to adapt urban and rural areas to increased patterns of flooding due to climate change. Examples include, but are not limited to: the crowdsourcing of key indicators, community development of sustainable drainage systems…

The Quantified Self: How digital technologies promote sustainable behaviours at the community, nation, or worldwide scales through individuals who measure themselves. Examples could include measuring impacts of transport demand by mode, patterns of replacement of consumer goods…

“Big” Climate Data: How digital technologies can be used to aid the tracking and dissemination of climate data from the local to the global scale that will impact on value chains of multiple sectors. This could include work at the local scale (such as urban heat islands on property and retail economies) to the global scale (such as the connection between ocean currents and weather patterns on agricultural, property, and food economies).

Planetary resource boundaries: Using digital technologies to measure and disseminate knowledge about a global natural resource base that is not infinite, but can still promote human development. Planetary resource boundaries can be categorised into non-renewable fossil energy and water resources, biodiversity and land use, and human waste flows.

Rural community development: Digital technologies that impact on the development of rural communities in the developed and developing contexts. Examples could be to support the coordination and management of alternative food networks, overcoming the digital divide and isolation of rural communities for farming and tourism, and health services provided at a distance.