The Programme has four central aims:
- To publish world-class research based on novel datasets that provide new insights into managing environmental outcomes in capital-intense industries.
- To generate concrete, evidence-based recommendations to improve management practice and policymaking to advance the global energy transition to net-zero emissions without compromising on local environmental outcomes;
- Build and disseminate high-quality datasets that spur further research on the roles of technology, policy, and management in enabling capital-intensive industries' transition to superlative environmental performance and economic outcomes;
- Serve as a key connector for people and ideas in this arena by mentoring and supervising doctoral candidates, facilitating international collaborations, and supporting visiting academics and business fellows at Oxford.
In the Programme's first months, we are working to test a number of key research questions and to build out operational datasets following pilot studies. We are currently developing or piloting studies to test the following:
- Can remote sensing technologies enable environmental benchmarking of capital-intensive assets? Using evidence from copper smelting facilities, we are building the world's largest dataset integrating heterogenous streams of data pertaining to the environmental, economic, and managerial features of the world's copper smelters.
- Can remote sensing technologies predict - and thereby prevent - catastrophes that plague large infrastructure? Using remote imagery and machine learning, we are investigating how technology may predict the collapse of tailings dams at mine sites.
- Which new technologies are improving the performance of large-scale (new build and operating) assets not only to reduce negative environmental impacts but also improve economic value creation? What explains the scaling of some technologies, which enhance the business and environmental performance of capital-intensive firms, and not others?
- What government policies promote better environmental and social practices in capital-intensive enterprises? We will compare evidence from the EU and North America to generate key insights to inform political analysis and policymaking.
- What forms of technologies can enable rapid scaling of fixed assets and their benefits to create "welfare abundance," whilst fairly balancing competing imperatives: cost, safety, time, benefits, environment, equitable access, impact on the communities, or aesthetics?
- Capital intensive industries are facing the threat of technological disruption. Many recent technology entrants such as Uber or Airbnb have tended to substitute physical assets with technological investments to "blitz-scale". Are these innovations harbingers of mass-scale technological disruption-emblems of an asset-light model that is also light-footed in it environmental, social, and political imprint-or are these temporary fads?
- The existing stock of global operating assets is ageing rapidly, and many are becoming economically and technologically obsolete. How can the world's retiring fixed assets be suitably dismantled and replaced, with a focus on limiting environmental externalities and feeding into a circular economy? Will new technologies and ample financial capital lower the barriers-to-entry in capital-intensive industries for radical new players?
In pursuing these research questions, the Programme is generating high-quality datasets using a combination of remote-sensing, web-scrapping, open APIs to existing databases, hand-labelled additional features, and artificial intelligence/machine learning techniques. The resulting datasets-some of the largest datasets of their kind pertaining to capital-intensive industries-will provide resources for other research teams around the world to build off the Programme's work.
Interested in helping us solve these questions? Please get in touch or learn about applying to study with us as a doctoral candidate.