The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


People: in focus - Roberto Cardinale, PhD candidate, on his Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarship

3 November 2016

PhD candidate Roberto Cardinale speaks to C&PM about his Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarship.


Roberto Cardinale, a C&PM PhD candidate supervised by Dr D'Maris Coffman, was awarded an Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarship in the summer. This is a highly prestigious doctoral fellowship for Italian citizens undertaking their postgraduate studies outside Italy. C&PM spoke to Roberto to find out more about his research and what he has gained from studying at the School.

What was your reaction to receiving the scholarship?

I was delighted, because the Zegna Scholarship is a very prestigious and competitive award. The Scholarship allows the most promising Italian young scholars to pursue cutting-edge research with great potential impact in the best Universities worldwide. I was particularly pleased to see the Scholarship Committee’s enthusiasm for my research project and its potential implications for the energy sector.

In terms of the research that the scholarship is going to facilitate, what does that involve?

My research addresses some of the economic and political implications of the transition from the national to the European model of energy governance, which has been taking place since the 1990s as an effect of the EU liberalization of the energy market. In particular, it investigates the implications that the transition has had in terms of alternative ways to organize the supply chain of gas production and distribution, and how this has affected the profitability of transnational energy infrastructure, the political economy objectives that governments can pursue in and through the energy sector, and the gas prices paid by final consumers.

These are the three aspects I consider because they correspond to the main problem faced by each of the key stakeholders in the transition: energy firms, governments, and consumers.

Starting from this research, I have begun to study how it could be possible to reform the European model of energy governance in ways that take into account the specificity of the energy sector, from the economic and political points of view. In particular, I aim to provide a starting point to think about how to reconcile Single Market policies with sectoral policies of strategic relevance.

What stage are you at now with your research and where will it go next?

I am starting my second year of PhD, having completed my MPhil, in which I carried out a case study on undersea gas pipelines connecting North Africa to Europe. The case study analyses the transition from the national to the European model of energy governance from the perspective of energy firms, focusing on the construction and operation of energy infrastructure. The next step is to analyse how the transition has affected the role of the European governments in the energy sector, in particular through the shares they hold in the energy companies involved in the projects. I will then turn to study the implications of the European governance model for energy security and consumers’ welfare.

As part of my research, I have already carried out interviews with top managers and politicians directly involved in the infrastructure projects I am studying. It was particularly interesting to understand the point of view of the key actors in the decision to build gas pipelines. This gave me important insights on an area that lies at the boundary between the economics and politics of the energy sector. I am looking forward to the next steps of my research, including the further interviews I have been planning.

Have you enjoyed the experience of researching at the School?

My experience at the School has been outstanding. The School offers a vibrant, inspiring environment, in which academics and practitioners discuss cutting-edge issues around the key aspects of infrastructure, including economics, finance, construction and project management. It is also a highly inclusive environment, in which dialogue between different perspectives is always encouraged.

What is your relationship with your fellow PhD students?

The PhD community at the School is a supportive and stimulating environment. Each of us focuses on a personal research project, but there are important overlaps. As a result, conversations are always extremely interesting, and often offer new insights and different perspectives on one’s own work. Over time, many fellow PhD students have also become friends. The diverse academic and cultural background is certainly a key ingredient for this environment.

Read more about the school's PhD programme