The Programme 2019

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.

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 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Currently these are:

  • National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2018/19 is £14,777
  • Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2018/19 is £4,260
  • Overseas Indicative Fee Level is £21,000

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.

Scholars will be funded for 4 years. The scholarship may involve periods of research at a water related institution, such as Scottish Water, the Scottish Government, SEPA, or industry. The HNSEG will liaise between the applicant and the water organisation to develop this link, following appointment of the Scholar. Please do not contact a placement partner before application.

The Process

Call for project Proposals

  • The call for project proposals, based on advertised topics is made in July/August of the current year
  • There is a strict limit of one application per academic as a primary supervisor and one as a second supervisor
  • Projects proposals must be submitted to the HNSP Secretariat Laura Logie (  on the project proposal form link below.
  • The deadline for the submission of project proposals for the 2019 call is the 26th September 2018
  • Prospective PhD Scholars are encouraged to submit project proposals (Scholar-led proposals), which will be reviewed alongside academic-led proposals
  • The proposal must show that the project is rational, feasible, innovative and relevant to the Hydro Nation strategy
  • Project proposals will be reviewed and selected by a panel chaired by the HNSEG and includes policy stakeholders from Scottish Water, SEPA, WICS and SNH.  Proposers will be notified of the outcome early October 2018
  • A summary timetable for recruitment is shown below:

Summary timetable for recruitment for 2019

Postgraduate Project Proposal Call

July/August 2018

Deadline for Project Proposal Submission

26th September 2018

Review of Project Proposals by Hydro Nation Stakeholder Panel

Late September / early October 2018

Advertisement of Approved Projects

October 2018

Deadline for Scholar Applications

4th January 2019

PhD Scholar Interviews

6th & 7th  February 2019

Final Decisions on PhD Scholars

Mid-February 2019

Topics of interest for 2019 are:


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.


Opportunities for Creating Value in the Water Sector Through a Circular Economy:
Problem:  The "Circular Economy" is becoming an increasingly better understood term and there is a growing appreciation of the new business opportunities that this could create.  Value recovery from waste streams is seen as a particular area of interest for the sector, as much for revenue opportunity as well as reducing treatment costs.

Ask:  Proposals are sought that explore the technological and / or the economic opportunities and challenges within the water sector that Circular Economy approaches could bring. Proposals are invited that explore value recovery in the broadest sense, whether of nutrients, or other value opportunities e.g. water re-use, heat recovery, energy generation etc that consider commercial imperatives and potential, integrated with appropriate academic study. Natural solutions to surface water management / effluent remediation that contribute to CE objectives are also of particular interest.


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.


Innovation in Water and Health:
Problem:  The Scottish Government has identified the need and potential for greater community engagement, to raise awareness of the critical role that human interaction has on our water environment alongside the impact of the environment on our health, particularly in respect of the role of robust water treatment and sanitation in protecting public health.  There is also 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 there can be an opportunity to positively influence practice and behaviour by examining the social dimensions in water service provision and consequent public health benefits.
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’.  We would welcome proposals that evaluate the social benefits from these and other innovations with the potential to actively demonstrate the positive effect that the water environment can have on health and wellbeing, in parallel with other positive outcomes such as environmental quality, flood mitigation and place making. We also welcome projects that examine how public and institutional awareness and behaviours relate to the water environment, including the discharge of waste, source control, emerging pollutants and contaminants, and the use of prescription medication can deliver positive health impacts and reduce negative health impacts for communities.


Assessing Frameworks and Approaches for Advocacy and Influencing by Local Individuals or Groups for Better Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in a Developing World Context:
Problem:  An urgent rethink is needed within the global water sector and the international donor community if we are to meet the goal of sustainable water management and sanitation for all by 2030.  Despite some success in mobilising funds, capacity and institutional reform, global efforts to nurture effective water institutions and implement progressive policy, legal and financing frameworks have stumbled.  Accountability monitoring and advocacy by civil society and citizens is attracting growing interest as a means of improving sector performance, service delivery and governance.  Inspired by work in other sectors, and by notions of participation, inclusion, transparency, integrity and rights, a new wave of initiatives are applying diverse methodologies to support systematic citizen monitoring and civil-society advocacy for water security.  However, there are several areas of uncertainty which need to be addressed so that the opportunities for pro-poor change provided by accountability and advocacy approaches are realised.  In particular a better understanding of what enables citizens raise their voices, what makes governments listen and the optimal design of external support to ensure local legitimacy, sustainability and equitable outcomes.

Ask:  Proposals are sought that explore the local, national and international political economy of accountability and advocacy work in the water sector. In particular we are keen for proposals to deliver strategic insights and practical responses to the challenges facing policy makers and practitioners working for better water governance globally.  



The Project Proposal Application form can be downloaded here.
Please return this form to Laura Logie ( in electronic (Word) format by:  26th September 2018