Marine Bio-Energy, third generation marine biofuels

The following opportunity is funded by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Full project title

  • Marine Bio-Energy; what does third generation marine biofuels mean for society?

For marine bio-energy to make a significant contribution to the de-carbonisation of the energy mix, then the scale of production would mean unprecedented development within the marine environment. For any industry to operate effectively within a community and to expand, the industry requires a social licence to operate, going beyond what is just required for strict compliance with the environmental regulation or law (Gunningham et al. 2004). Marine bio-energy development would fall under the regulatory framework developed for aquaculture, and so the development of sites for this new industry would require extensive public consultation through the planning process. As such, the ability for any new industry to develop will ultimately be determined by how the industry is thought of in society, and how marine bioenergy industry reflects the values of the society in which it operates (Hamouda et al. 2005). In Scotland and to a certain extent Europe, it is becoming increasingly evident that the existing aquaculture industry is losing its social licence to operate in certain locations (Leith et al. 2014). Can the marine bio-energy industry avoid the mistakes of the existing aquaculture industry and how can it foster a social licence to operate as it develops?

This PhD will aim to:

  1. Understand how the public perceives marine bio-energy, and how this varies between coastal and non-coastal communities.
  2. Understand how the current regulatory framework interacts with social licence through aspects such as industry  transparency, stakeholder consultation  and information availability
  3. Develop tools that will foster social licence to operate for the emergent industry.

This research will involve extensive primary research into public attitudes to marine bio energy at a range of spatial and social levels.  Approaches will include quantitative assessment using publically available statistics on demographics that can be matched with potential development sites.  It will also require quantitative and qualitative exploration using interviews and focus groups to collect data from specific individuals or groups of stakeholders in targeted demographic ranges and locations.

The project is expected to start October 2018


Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Master’s Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding information

The studentship covers fees, plus a stipend at the RCUK level, for a total of 39 months (including writing-up).

Funding is available for students worldwide, however non UK/EU students will be liable for the difference between home/EU and international fees.  Click to view our current fees.

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding. Students are expected to be based full-time at: The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) UHI.

Supervisory team

Dr. Adam Hughes; SAMS UHI (Lead Academic)

Dr. John Doran; Letterkenny Institute of Technology LYIT (Co-supervision)

Deadline for applications for this project is 5pm 13th July 2018 (UK time).

Informal project specific enquiries can be made to:

This studentship is delivered through The Bryden Centre - a partnership of academic institutions and other stakeholders, supported by industry partners, delivering an exciting collaborative programme of advanced marine renewable energy and bio-energy research.