A realist investigation of co-design and development practices in complex systems environments PhD

Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering
Entry requirements:
3 years
6 years
Reference number:
Start date:
01 July 2018, 01 October 2018, 01 January 2019 or April 2019
UK/EU fees:
International fees:
Application deadline:
22 April 2019



in the UK for research quality

REF 2014


in the UK for Mechanical Engineering

The Complete University Guide 2018


of 2 Queen's Anniversary Prizes


Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career. 

Project detail

The 21st Century presents tough global/societal challenges. The Engineering Systems of Systems (SoS) research group aims to seek solutions to these challenges through the study and advancement of complex SoS engineering and the socio-technical systems that shape our world.

This studentship is focused on the novel application of a theory-driven realist evaluative research approach to investigate co-design and co-production practices in complex systems environments. Evidencing what works (or does not work) and more importantly why, is particularly challenging for SoS researchers due to both the pace of technological change and complex human factors in socio-technical systems. What works in one context may not work well in others, for example, studying how requirements are generated and knowledge is managed within agile co-design and development environments that incorporate non-specialists and end-users.

There is opportunity for the successful candidate to carry out this research in a variety of application domains, specifically those organisations developing software-based and data-intensive systems/products/services often with ‘smart’ connected components. For example; smart systems within our homes and work places, urban systems within cities, transportation, healthcare, emergency services, manufacturing, retail, defence or even exploration.

The over-arching aim is to progress our understanding of ‘what works, for whom, in which contexts and why’ in the development of complex systems throughout the systems lifecycle. It is anticipated that by adopting both a critical realist and systems thinking perspective, this will further our understanding of the attributes and practices of successful development teams and the contextual factors that contribute towards positive outcomes.


Primary supervisor: Dr Melanie King

Find out more

For further project details email Dr Melanie King or register your interest and ask us a question.

To find out more about the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, please visit our website.

Please visit our website for more infomation about funding your PhD.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in engineering, computer science or a related subject.

A relevant Master’s degree and/or experience in one or more of the following will be an advantage: systems engineering, agile development practices, Internet of Things environments.

All students must also meet the minimum English Language requirements.

Fees and funding


Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Special arrangements are made for payments by part-time students.

This is an open call for candidates who are sponsored or who have their own funding. If you do not have funding, you may still apply, however Institutional funding is not guaranteed. Outstanding candidates (UK/EU/International) without funding will be considered for funding opportunities which may become available in the School.

How to apply

All applications should be made online. Under programme name select Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. Please quote reference number: MKUF2018