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Prof D'Maris Coffman

Prof D'Maris Coffman

Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment

The Bartlett Sch of Const & Proj Mgt

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2014

Research summary

My interests span infrastructure, construction, and climate change.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure Economics

I want to understand what kinds of infrastructure investment (by sector and in terms of scale) promote sustainable growth, reduce inequality and maximise welfare gains to society. We need global comparisons and rigorous empirical studies. Also how should we measure the welfare costs of unmet demand for infrastructure? I have a research contract from the IGC/DFID to examine "Electricity Crises in Zambia: Estimating the costs of unreliability at the firm level." 

Infrastructure Finance 

I want to understand the extent to which infrastructure should be thought of as a separate asset class. This question arose with alternative investments (hedge funds and private equity mainly) ten years ago. I explore how different types of fund managers think about infrastructure investments. I am also interested in studying how the flow of funds for infrastructure investment in emerging markets has changed since the Great Financial Crisis. 

Historical Infrastructure Finance 

I am interested in understanding what were the most important determinants of sovereign borrowing during the decade of nation-building before the introduction of the gold standard in 1873. How far are the econometric results in panel studies on the determinants of sovereign borrowing dependent on the frequency of the pricing data? What were the relative contributions of project risk, sovereign risk and liquidity risk to railway securities pricing in the late 19th century. What implications does this have for infrastructure finance in emerging markets today?

Construction

I am interested in construction labour markets, embedded carbon in the construction industry, and the origins of the heavy reliance on trade credit in the construction industry. As a follow-up on a conference we held in October 2017 on this theme, I am interested in how Brexit will affect the construction industry, particularly with respect to skills shortages. I also want to understand the problems of supply of  rare earths and other rare commodities in the construction supply chain, and the implications thereof for a transition to a low carbon economy. 

Climate Change

I am motivated by three interrelated questions. What does empirical analysis of international flows of embedded carbon and methane tell us about the political economy of GHG emissions? How should carbon trading and CDR futures markets be designed to promote allocative efficiency, equity and financial stability?  Will Negative Emissions Technologies as anticipated by the Paris Agreements be the locus of a major asset-price bubble? As these are mega-projects that require transformative technologies, how should we think about them?

Teaching summary

I teach infrastructure economics and finance, corporate finance, macroeconomics, some behavioural economics and finance, and economic and financial history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and I supervise MPhils and PhDs in these and related areas.

At present, I primarily lecture BCPM0020 (Agency and Transaction Costs in Infrastructure Projects), which in practice means I teach applications of intermediate microeconomics to infrastructure projects. 

In the past, I have also taught Introductory Infrastructure Economics, the corporate finance component of the Introduction to Infrastructure Finance for the MSc in Infrastructure Investment and Finance. I have also lectured Macroeconomics for Construction for the core curriculum of the MSc in Construction Economics and Management, and financial history and economic forecasting, which is an option module. On the undergraduate programme, I have taught introductory macroeconomics to undergraduates (first year), introduction to corporate finance for undergrads (second year), and financial management of construction projects (third year), but after becoming Head of Department, I had to give those modules up. 

My five doctoral students at UCL work on historical infrastructure finance (railways in colonial India), infrastructure economics and development policy (assessing the welfare outcomes of investments in rural electrification versus water and sanitation in Rwanda), and climate change economics (the role of the sharing economy in promoting sustainable societies, environmentally extended input-output analysis, and integrated assessment modelling). My first UCL PhD student, Dr Roberto Cardinale (infrastructure economics and policy, i.e. EU governance models for transnational gas projects) passed his viva without corrections in July 2019.

Education

University College London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ04 - Recognised by the HEA as a Senior Fellow | 2017
University of Cambridge
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2011
University of Pennsylvania
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2008
University of Pennsylvania
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2004
University of Pennsylvania
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Economics) | 1999

Biography

I am the Director (Head of Department) of BSCPM. I am the Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at the Bartlett. I joined UCL in September 2014 as a Senior Lecturer. In February 2017, I was appointed Interim Director of BSCPM. In late January 2018, I was appointed to my professorial chair.


I am Managing Editor of Elsevier's Structural Change and Economic Dynamics and on the honorary editorial boards of The Journal of Cleaner Production, Economia Politica, and the Chinese Journal of Population, Resources and Environment. I am a Fellow of Goodenough College, where several of our doctoral students are residential members. In 2020, I will be a Visiting Professor at the University of Milan (Statale). I am also a Guest Professor at Beijing Institute of Technology and a Visiting Professor of Renmin University of China. 


Before coming to UCL, I spent six years as a fellow of Newnham College where I variously held a junior research fellowship (Mary Bateson Research Fellowship), a post as a college lecturer and teaching fellow, and a Leverhulme ECF. In July 2009, I started the Centre for Financial History, which I directed through December 2014. It is still going strong, but has moved from Newnham College to Darwin College in line with the affiliation of its new director.


I did my undergraduate training at the Wharton School in managerial and financial economics and my PhD in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, my doctoral research in the UK was funded in part by the Mellon Foundation under the guise of an IHR pre-doctoral fellowship and an SSRC international dissertation fellowship. I have lived in the UK more or less continuously since 2005 (with a brief nine-month stint back at Penn in 2007/8 to finish my PhD and teach as a departmental lecturer), and thus hold both American and British citizenship.



Publications