The Programme 2018 - Extra Call

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is part of the Scottish Government's Hydro Nation strategy. The objective of the strategy is to develop the economic, environmental and social value of Scotland's water resources. The Hydro Nation Scholars play an important role in supporting this by:

  • developing understanding of how and where best to develop the value of Scotland's water resources
  • focusing on enhancing Scottish capacity in areas of existing research excellence
  • providing new research and insights where there are gaps related to water resources in Scotland.

The Programme and the associated graduate school will be managed on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Hydro Nation Scholars Executive Group (HNSEG), drawing on its Scotland-wide water policy, industry, and academic network.

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for project topics and then for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. The areas of interest are set out below.

Due to the limited applications that were received for topics 2, 4 and 7:

  • Innovative Monitoring and Financial Approaches for the Improved Maintenance of Water Infrastructure Assets
  • Water Management in the Food and Drink Industry
  • Innovation in Water and Health

We have decided to open these topics up to further applications. The deadline for these applications is 27/10/2017.

Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council) for up to 7 PhD scholarships. Two of these may be awarded to "overseas" Scholars. Home and overseas Scholars are defined according to a Scholar's status for University admissions. The funding available will be in line with the Research Councils UK doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees and will be funded for a 4 year period.

Supervisors will be allocated £2,500 per annum for Travel and Subsistence and all fees and stipend will be covered. Exceptional costs, for example, additional research costs, travel costs and placement costs during the scholarship will be negotiated with the HNSEG.


Applications are now invited for project proposals on the following topics of interest:

  1. Innovative Monitoring and Financial Approaches for the Improved Maintenance of Water Infrastructure Assets:
    • Problem: Capital maintenance is the investment required to maintain existing levels of service, through replacing assets at the end of their useful life and intervening to prevent asset deterioration. The very nature of water and wastewater assets make the regulation of capital maintenance challenging. Long life-cycles and the sometimes-inaccessible nature of water industry assets (particularly underground assets) has complicated our ability to understand the likely timing of deteriorations or of critical asset failures.  Given the challenges to develop robust information on asset condition and asset lives, it is difficult to determine the required level of allowed capital maintenance spend consistent with managing water and wastewater assets effectively at lowest whole life cost.  The current focus on short term is likely to have implications for intergenerational equity, maintaining stable charges and the long-term sustainability of the industry. 
    • Ask: Proposals are sought to explore how regulated companies’ information on asset condition and asset lives can be improved and monitored. Recommendations on lessons learned from asset intensive industries in other jurisdictions would be welcome.  Proposals are invited to explore how capital maintenance could be funded over the long-term and what financial mechanisms could be adopted within the regulatory framework to ensure sustainability and intergenerational equity whilst ensuring companies are investing money efficiently and are operating under a hard budget constraint.
  2. Water Management in the Food and Drink Industry:
    • Problem: Food and Drink is a hugely important sector to the Scottish economy and a significant user of water resources with single sites often using water from a variety of sources against which issues of access and security of supply in volumetric and water-quality terms often has to be balanced against the interests of other users.  The need to minimise production costs while observing responsible resource management is adding to increased competitive pressures to which the industry needs to respond creatively. In addition, the impacts of climate change on water resources for the sector need to be to be taken into account.
    • Ask: Proposals are sought that explore opportunities to assist this key industry respond to the kinds of challenges outlined above and maximise the value from the water resources it uses, whether through improved water efficiency, value and resource recovery or the creative use of water resources in relation to production.
  3. Innovation in Water and Health:
    • Problem:  The Scottish Government has identified the need and potential for greater community engagement, particularly within rural settings, to raise awareness of the critical role that human interaction has on our water environment and the impact of the environment on our health, particularly in respect of the role of robust water treatment and sanitation in protecting public health.  As well as individuals there is a need for greater institutional awareness and strategies to reduce negative health impacts associated with the water environment. E.g. in relation to hospital sites and an opportunity to positively influence practice and behaviour through examination of the social dimensions in water service provision and the benefits that this can deliver for the protection of public health, particularly in a rural setting.
    • Ask: As part of Scotland’s ‘green infrastructure’, our freshwaters are an asset which can help contribute to fundamental public health objectives. A number of interventions are underway to develop the practice of the ‘Natural Health Service’ and we would welcome proposals that evaluate the social benefits from these and other innovations. We also welcome projects that examine how public and institutional awareness and behaviours related to the water environment, including the discharge of waste, source control, emerging pollutants and contaminants, use of prescription medication can deliver positive health impacts and reduce negative health impacts for communities.

Summary Timetable

Deadline for Project Proposal Submission

27th October 2017

Full details on programme timetable and a project proposal application form can be downloaded here.