Dr Duncan Thomas

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Profile photo of: Dr Duncan Thomas Email: Show Email Address
Position: Research Fellow and Visitors Coordinator
Academic unit: Innovation, Management and Policy


Duncan joined the 5 RAE research scored and teaching top-scoring 24 QAA Policy Research in Engineering, Science and Technology (PREST) research centre at the University of Manchester in 2002, now the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research within Manchester Business School. He has published in academic journals (e.g. Research Evaluation) and professional journals (e.g. Water & Wastewater Treatment, Utility Week), has led research projects as principal investigator, and has worked in interdisciplinary, international teams.

He has been funded by a variety of organisations, including: EU FP7 IDEAS Programme (ERC); Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); EU FP6; European Commission (EC) JRC-IPTS; EC JRC-EuroFound; PRIME Network of Excellence; ESTO; Defra; Department of Health; Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Dstl/MOD; Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO); British Council; Environment Agency (EA); NWDA; Ofwat; Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation); and UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR).

His professional qualifications and experience includes:

  • MEnt (Tech) - 2006 - University of Salford (with Distinction).
  • PhD - 2002 - ESRC CASE Award with United Utilities; University of Manchester (supervisor Prof. Luke Georghiou).
  • MSc - 1998 - Technical Change and Industrial Strategy; PREST.
  • Research Engineer - 1994-97 - Thorn EMI's Central Research Laboratories.
  • BSc (Hons) ARCS - 1995 - Physics; Imperial College, London.

From 2014 Duncan will be trying out a new form of teaching led by Prof. Dale Whittington by launching a MOOC (massive open online course) via Coursera on Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries.

Research Interests

Duncan's research interests include:

  • European science dynamics.
  • Innovation, climate change resilience and sustainability in regulated water utility sectors.
  • Global water and sanitation planning and policies.

His work for UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) on barriers to innovation in the UK water sector in 2006 received significant attention and has led to Duncan's involvement in a range of high-level water-related initiatives around the UK - including appearing before the All Party Parliamentary Water Group in the House of Commons, and being appointed to Ofwat's Future Regulation Advisory Panel in 2012 (see also his water blog, waterstink.com).

Some of Duncan's recent funded research projects include:

  • EURECIA (EU FP7 IDEAS programme/ERC) - Understanding and Understanding and Assessing the Impact and Outcomes of the ERC and its Funding Schemes - 2009-12 [eurecia-erc.net].
  • UNI-Tekes (Tekes) - Universities, Funding systems, and the Renewal of the Industrial Knowledge Base - 2012-14.
  • JOREP (EU FP7) - Investments on Joint and Open R&D Programs and analysis of their economic impact - 2010-12.
  • EPSRC (Ideas Factory) CREW (Community Resilience to Extreme Weather) - 2008-11 [extreme-weather-impacts.net].

Additional Information

Duncan currently teaches on water supply and sanitation planning and policy in developing countries (BMAN72192) led by MBS colleague, Dale Whittington (a video summary of the course content is available, as are video highlights of a guest lecture by Tony Allan). For 2014, Dale and Duncan are offering a brand new version of this course via Coursera as a MOOC (massive open online course). This Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries MOOC is free and open to everyone and further details are available here.

Separately Duncan has also given MBS Executive Education sessions on innovation for major UK water companies in 2009 and 2012. He has also previously designed and delivered an MSc course unit on Sustainable Policies for Science, Technology and Innovation - and has given guest lectures on technology assessment and evaluation from a sustainability perspective, as well as on qualitative research methods (interviews, case studies). Recently he has supervised Masters dissertations and currently supervises two full-time PhD researchers.

Duncan was formerly a contributing editor for the British Council’s monthly Science Insight bulletin, has undertaken curriculum innovation, has been involved with various committees and interest groups around the University of Manchester, and co-organised the MIoIR seminar series (during 2003-06). He enjoys music performance, recording and production, and photography and film-making (see One Day Films).

Programme involvement

Specialist fields




Publication summary




Working papers

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Showing 39 publication(s)



  • Reale, E., Nedeva, M., Thomas, D., & Primeri, E. (2014). Evaluation through impact: a different view point. fteval journal for research and technology policy evaluation, 2014(39), 36-41. . Publication link: 6cd737bc-7e6a-48e3-bc9d-8fb02b37d546


  • Thomas, D. A., & Nedeva, M. (2012). EURECIA Work Package 3 (WP3): Survey of Starting Independent Researchers - Final Report. No publisher name.. Publication link: 32dfb75e-0be6-42b4-82e7-226710f6eb53
  • Thomas, D. A., & Ford, R. (2012). Same Old Story: Duncan Thomas and Roger Ford dub the new £4 million water innovation competition woefully inadequate and say it will fail to spur change. Utility Week, 13-14. . Publication link: a005d054-09cb-4da7-82bd-69a5d80d91d4


  • Thomas, D. A. (2011). Developing indicators and typologies of frontier-­potential researchers to explore impacts of the ERC’s Starting Independent Researcher Grant. In host publication.. Publication link: e1865a22-0b91-4770-b422-3817595e8e08


  • Thomas, D. (Composer), Knudsen, E. (Composer), Millar, M. (Composer), Wood, J. (Composer), & Bath, D. (Composer). (2010). The Silent Accomplice. One Day Films.. Publication link: 097457da-db2e-43ca-8eed-a23138684d4d


  • Thomas, D. A. (2009). Innovation, sustainability & carbon in the UK water industry. The Carbon Crunch? Technology Solutions for the Water Industry, Mereside Conference Room, Haweswater House, Lingley Mere Business Park, Warrington, .. Publication link: ec0ffa62-26dd-4b3c-9a94-0abf49f6ce41


  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Innovation and the ladder of sustainable development in the UK water sector. Future Challenges in AMP5 and Beyond: Focus on Innovation and Sustainable Solutions, Manchester Central, Manchester, .. Publication link: cfad38ca-1b15-479f-b065-e6218bdcb472
  • Thomas, D. (2008). Invited presentation at the evidence workshop for the Cave Review of competition and innovation in water markets. Cave Review of competition and innovation in water markets evidence workshop, Warwick Business School, Coventry, .. Publication link: 8f06fe30-0347-4aee-892c-775897fcdeef
  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Oral evidence in a private, closed session for the Council of Science & Technology innovation review. Council of Science & Technology innovation review, Department of Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS), London, .. Publication link: 793d8144-5b5e-4afd-afd3-d471fec84be2
  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Will the Cave Review address the UK water sector's innovation deficit?Water & Wastewater Treatment, 51(9), 14-14. . Publication link: 517995e1-67d8-4197-bde6-3306a8c79c77
  • Nedeva, M., & Thomas, D. A. (2008). Can integration be a policy objective for public science and research? In host publication. PRIME Network of Excellence. . Publication link: 4777abf2-8af2-4a2c-9b15-d4884e661b22
  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Written evidence submission for the All Party Parliamentary Water Group (APPWG) inquiry. Manchester: University of Manchester.. Publication link: 3dbbe8bf-3e5e-4ac9-88b7-206c6ad5b637
  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Oral evidence session on innovation and the future of the UK water sector. All Party Parliamentary Water Group (APPW) Inquiry into the Future of the UK Water Sector, House of Commons, London, .. Publication link: 2dc5d12f-9aa6-46c3-b802-31b037b25ab0
  • Thomas, D. A. (2008). Innovation and sustainability in the England and Wales water industry. Promoting innovation in regulated utilities: pushing water uphill?, Indepen Chief Executives Forum, London, .. Publication link: 125a165a-0bae-4307-b48a-265df83db257


  • Thomas, D., & Kirby, R. (2007). Barriers to Innovation in the Water Sector - Output from the Project Dissemination Conference. In host publication. London: UKWIR. . Publication link: 1d4b5bb5-3d62-4611-bead-fe82037541ae
  • Thomas, D. (2007). Barriers to innovation in the UK water sector. Innovation and implementation, a meeting for innovators, Corus Hotel, Solihull, .. Publication link: 233e38d7-02f6-4f39-8e9a-d121e3973b56
  • Thomas, D. (2007). Barriers to innovation in the water sector. Innovation: who cares?, Lancashire County Cricket Club, Manchester, .. Publication link: 7cd358b2-bc2f-4288-b152-09cae292e5c6
  • Thomas, D. A. (2007). Barriers to innovation in the UK water sector. British Water Innovation Working Group, Minworth WwTW, Birmingham, .. Publication link: 67742464-341c-4fe6-9c42-43c8727b984c
  • Thomas, D. A. (2007). Technological Innovation in the UK Water Industry for Climate Change Adaptation. All Party Parliamentary Water Group (APPWG) Meeting, Portcullis House, London, .. Publication link: ddf7ae0c-515b-4350-a56e-d15ab81c9586
  • Thomas, D. (2007). Barriers to innovation in the UK water sector. Too late to innovate? Meeting the challenges of a 21st century water industry, Ramada Belfast Hotel, Belfast, .. Publication link: c6c0dc15-112a-4ec5-bb0d-fc92d772550f
  • Thomas, D. A., & Bleda, M. (2007). Evaluation of the Success of the Reforms to NHS R&D Funding. Department of Health: National Health Service (NHS).. Publication link: fc3cd0d0-1e2a-40d8-9f0e-c189d23873b4


  • Thomas, D. A. (2006). Founding a creative, not-for-profit social enterprise: Green Island Films (GIF) Business Creation Unit (BCU), School of Computing, Science & Engineering: University of Salford. Publication link: a29e4fa2-d2bd-45fa-ab69-a5cb56b82641


  • Thomas, D. A., Strosser, P., Cunningham, P. N., Rijnveld, M., Lack, T., & Kroll, A. (2005). ERAWATCH Prototyping Phase: analysis on water research policies in Europe [EC JRC-IPTS report]. (EC JRC-IPTS). No publisher name.. Publication link: 9520d80a-b12d-466a-bb4e-7b82d6b84f7a


  • Miles, I. D., Keenan, M. P., Loveridge, D., Thomas, D. A., & Popper Villarroel, R. (2004). European Knowledge Society Foresight: The EUFORIA Project Synthesis Report. No publisher name.. Publication link: 644de2f7-444d-45e7-9caa-7f27c4341482
  • Thomas, D. A. (2004). Water: an interdisciplinary challenge for teaching and learning. In Proceedings of the 7th Symposium. (pp. 11-13). Manchester: University of Manchester. . Publication link: 46e808da-e764-431c-8974-dd6f0279afcd


  • Thomas, D. A., & Cunningham, P. N. (2003). A Guide to the Organisation of Science, Engineering and Technology in the United Kingdom. The British Council / Foreign and Commonwealth Office.. Publication link: 8fd3af83-cb9b-4c21-9439-521b8469f804
  • Cunningham, P., Rigby, J., Thomas, D., & Ashby-Crane, R. (2003). Development of a Planning Process Management Tool for Catchment Hydro-environmental Planning at the Environment Agency [Report to Environment Agency Flood Defence Division, Halcrow Group Ltd and PREST]. No publisher name.. Publication link: 7cc2dc7c-2ca7-4b1a-a7e1-d964a8374d41


  • Thomas, D. (2002). Incrementalism versus breakthrough: which is more appropriate for a regulated water utility? University of Manchester. Publication link: 726a237b-bc1d-4e24-b93c-94b9453eae84
  • Cunningham, P. N., & Thomas, D. A. (2002). Telecommunications Research in Northwest Universities: A survey for the Northwest Development Agency. Manchester: PREST.. Publication link: 4c78b254-9fff-496c-aab6-c160a1f75341
  • Thomas, D. A. (2002). Women, wealth creation, and prosperity in the UK. In Summarised to the 46th UN Commission on the Status of Women. (pp. 1-35). Publication link: c9aac0d1-1480-43d5-9995-aaf067408be8


  • Chell, E., & Thomas, D. A. (2001). MSEC Response to the UK Howard Davies Review of Enterprise and Education. Manchester: Manchester Science Enterprise Centre (MSEC), UMIST.. Publication link: 74fa85f6-502d-4eeb-919d-789c09f9d38c


  • Thomas, D. A. (1998). Pedalling towards a better future? An examination of bicycle culture and car culture in light of the DETR's National Cycling Strategy (NCS) Policy Research in Engineering, Science and Technology (PREST), School of Social Sciences & Law: University of Manchester. Publication link: 38916fcb-f1dc-4458-b89e-06f08ac37a30