UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Studentship on ‘Pricing of metals – contributing to a more circular and sustainable metals industry’

15 December 2020

Key information

  • Application deadline: 11.59 pm on Monday 25th January 2021
  • Interviews will be held online during the week of 1 Feb 2021
  • Start Date: Spring 2021

Apply now 
Studentship coverage

Funded by the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources (BSEER) as part of an institutional commitment to the UKRI CE Centre of Circular Metals. Awards are normally tenable for a 4 year a full-time PhD degree programme, subject to annual review and renewal.

About the studentship and the UK CE Centre on Circular Metals

Metals are the backbone of our economies and a key to achieving the SDGs and net zero carbon. Yet, their extraction, processing, use and disposal comes with enormous environmental pressures. According to UNEP’s International Resource Panel, base metals are as environmentally intensive as fossil fuels. Many future low carbon technologies, however, depend on the availability and supply of metals. A more circular use of metals is at stake.

The new UKRI Centre on Circular Metals is driven by the vision of full circularity – without circular metals, there won’t be a circular economy at all. Overcoming barriers will be a main challenge in the establishment of economies running on more circular metals. With a duration of four years, run by an interdisciplinary partnership of excellent universities led by Brunel, working closely with a range of stakeholders, and in a collaboration with four other UKRI Circular Economy Centres, this announced position is designed to make a difference.

Studentship aims

We are now recruiting one PhD student to tackle the vexed issue of metals pricing. Prices for metals have been increasing significantly in past years, especially from year 2000 onwards; the overall tendency however remains highly volatile. The drivers for price changes are predominantly related to economic variables such as the demand from China and other emerging economies and constraints in financing supply. Main environmental externalities are not priced properly; variables such as water stress and energy resilience, expected climate action and feasible circular economy solutions do yet not seem to enter market expectations of relevant market actors.

The research question of this PhD will address the price mechanisms for main corporate actors, relevant countries, and new circular business models in the realm of metals. We expect this PhD to assess prices and their developments over the last years in an international perspective, to identify relevant drivers and barriers, and to analyse institutional and macro-economic settings. The perspective should include assets and be one of identifying pathways to a more circular metals industry, net zero carbon and other long-term environmental goals and to the SDGs.

There are various methodologies to address this topic; an interdisciplinary approach will be useful. A vast amount of environmental and monetary data is available (e.g. through EXIOBASE, UNEP IRP, corporate reporting) although data gaps continue to exist. The ultimate methodology mix should give evidence on net present value, full life-cycle costs and total costs to access services derived from using metals in the future. They should be used in efforts to develop scenarios and roadmaps along with future policy pillars (including resource taxation and materials stewardship) and assess impacts in macro-economic modelling (UCL ENGAGE is a CGE model). International standards such as the OECD due diligence guidelines, the International Financial Reporting Standard, and the International Accounting Standard shall be taken into account to help creating an impact.

What we offer

This BSEER funded student will receive a stipend which is tax free (approx. £17,285 tbc) plus UK or overseas fees for four years (conditions apply) as well as an annual equipment budget of £1200. Students funded by BSEER contribute to teaching and related duties for approximately 25% of their time.

The programme emphasises close faculty-student collaboration in research and involves a variety of research seminars and training activities that equip students with advanced research skills and competences. Students take part in research events and meetings with academics and practitioners and contribute to a thriving academic community, including the collaboration with our CircMet Centre partners from Brunel University and Warwick University, industry, consultancies, central government, charities and professional institutions. They co-fund our research, support our students’ work and provide a route to impact and future employment.

Who we are looking for

Applications are invited from graduates with a good first degree (1st or 2:1) in one of the following areas: economics, business administration, social sciences, law, engineering, environmental science.

Applicants with other relevant qualifications or extensive relevant industry experience who can show evidence of a relevant research capability may also apply. Self-funded students are welcome to apply.

We expect candidates to have a strong quantitative skillset and a desire to use data creatively for applied interdisciplinary research purposes. We also expect candidates to understand systems thinking and share a quest for novel methodologies. A mission to sustainability and a more circular economy will be an asset. Candidates should have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. We will also consider skills and potential contribution to teaching for the Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy & Transitions programme.


Please include:

  • A covering letter.
  • CV.
  • Names and addresses of two academic referees.
  • Copies of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s).
  • A short research proposal (1000 words) with a research question, a proposed methodology mix, and a tentative structure.
  • A suggested contribution to the MSc SR:EPT programme (e.g. a particular module or suggested tutorial(s))

For informal enquiries on the research topic or your eligibility, email Prof. Raimund Bleischwitz r.bleischwitz@ucl.ac.uk with ‘Pricing of metals’ in the subject field.