< HighWire : PhD (Full Time)

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PhD (Full Time)

UCAS Code: 
Minimum Length:36 Month(s)
Maximum Length:48 Month(s)
Credit Points:180
Director of Studies:Professor GS Blair

Educational Aims: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

Subject Specific Knowledge, Understanding and Skills:

The central goal of HighWire is to produce a new breed of PhD graduates, centred on digital innovation, i.e. placing innovation at the heart of the programme, in the training, and indeed throughout the working of the Centre, to produce innovative people capable of leading the desired transformation in business and society more generally.


Our core argument is that innovation is both absolutely central to the vision of creating a vibrant Digital Economy and that people emerging from this programme will have the core skills needed to apply and develop these skills to a variety of key business, government and societal challenges.



Through a problem-based learning approach, students will gain experience and skills in problem solving, innovative design, cross-disciplinary working, project management, effective communication, group working, working with external stakeholders, leadership and being effective agents of change in organizations (public, private and 3rd sector).



Through the various modules that comprise the scheme of study, participants will gain an in-depth knowledge of approaches to innovation from three disciplinary perspectives, and also on how to apply such approaches to end user problems thus transcending disciplinary boundaries. They will also be given an opportunity to enhance this knowledge with specific advanced study in key areas of the three disciplines through electives.


Student experience:

HighWire will offer students a unique and stimulating experience through:


  •      A customized collaborative working environment designed to support cross-disciplinary, innovative research in the Digital Economy;
  •      Access to state-of-the-art equipment;
  •      Opportunities for industrial internships in arrange of companies including SMEs;
  •       Opportunities for international placements in world class research institutions;
  •     Access to master classes offered by inspirational speakers from a variety of backgrounds.

    General Educational Aims:

    Knowledge, understanding and skills related to (digital) innovation are complemented by a heavy emphasis on transferable skills. This transferable skills programme is designed top down to consider the desired needs of innovators in the Digital Economy, and to ensure that these are covered. In particular, we seek articulate and reflective innovators who are: both organizational, end-user and media focused, have a developed skill-set for leadership in digital innovation; and who are prepared for subsequent careers in the Digital Economy.





Innovation Strand:
Business Innovation
Design and Innovation
Software Innovation

Applied Innovation Strand:
Phase 1
Phase 2

Special Topics
Free Choice

The first strand covers theory and practice of innovation as viewed by each of the three disciplines involved. Students will be exposed to the various approaches to innovation and will then be asked to apply the approaches in the next strand as detailed below.

The second strand is then applied innovation and this is essentially the project element of the course where students apply the above concepts and also are challenged to work together on real world problems and in groups with the goal of transcending the disciplinary boundaries. This module is organised in two phases, an initial phase lasting from October to December and a second phase lasting for the rest of the academic year (until end September). This module also incorporates taught elements on research methodology (again from the different disciplinary traditions) and related transferable skills (addressing our requirements for reflective and user focused innovators).

The following three years represent a period of post-disciplinary research leading to the submission of a PhD dissertation (or equivalent). This is supplemented by additional transferable skills courses on career development, leadership and media skills and also by an associated masterclass programme. These additional elements are viewed as supplementary and not assessed. Attendance however is compulsory and will both attendance and performance will be taken into account in annual reviews.

Cross-disciplinary work is intrinsic to the operation of the Centre and hence it is a strong requirement that students are supervised by at least two supervisors from two different disciplines. If appropriate, supervisory teams will also be formed from all three disciplines although it is expected this will not be the norm. Inexperienced supervisors will be required to take training provided by the Centre of

Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) on postgraduate supervision; they will also be twinned with a more experienced supervisor who will mentor the member of staff through the process.

Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills
On successful completion of this scheme of study students will...
General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills
On successful completion of this scheme of study students will...

The successful doctoral student on the programme is expected to have (taken from the expected Doctoral outcomes as published by the QAA):


  • The ability to create and interpret new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, to extend the forefront of the discipline, and to merit publication;
  • To be able to perform a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge, which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
  • To have the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
  • To have a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.

In keeping with the goals of the Doctoral Training Centre initiative generally and the more specific goals of HighWire, we add the following key learning outcomes:


  • To have a deep appreciation of the concept of innovation, defined in terms of bringing about improvement through the introduction of something new, whether a new idea, product or process, as explored from three disciplinary traditions, i.e. from technical, business and design perspectives, and to be able to transcend these disciplinary perspectives to achieve a deep understanding of the innovation process;
  • To have a strong appreciation of the process from innovation to impact including impact on business, government and in societal concerns;
  • To be able to transcend disciplinary boundaries more generally in solving real world problems relating to the Digital Economy.

Other differentiating factors relating to transferable skills are brought out in the section below.


The integral MRes qualification provide the necessary underlying skills in terms of research, innovation and core transferable skills (being able to articulate, reflect and to be user facing). In more detail, the MRes will develop the necessary skills to define and manage a collaborative, cross-disciplinary and user focused research project. This will equip them for more sustained, individual and original work at the doctoral level.


The intended learning outcomes for the MRes students are that they should develop:


  • An ability to initiate research projects and to formulate viable research questions in consultation with other stakeholders including end user organisations;
  • A capacity to design, conduct and report collaborative and original research on a user-focused project;
  • An understanding of the major contours of international research in the research area (including crossing disciplinary boundaries);
  • A capacity for critical evaluation of relevant scholarly literature;
  • Well-developed and flexible problem-solving abilities appropriate to the associated disciplines;
  • An understanding of and facility with scholarly conventions in the associated discipline areas;
  • A respect for intellectual integrity and the ethics of research and scholarship;
  • A capacity to cooperate with other researchers;
  • An ability to manage time in order to maximise the quality of research;
  • An ability to manage information effectively, including the application of computer systems and software where appropriate to the student’s field of study;
In addition, students should attain the general skills as outlined below related to being articulate, reflective and user-focused.

General Educational: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

The programme has a strong emphasis on transferable skills and has the following specific intended learning outcomes in this area:


  • The articulate innovator – to be able to present work both in written form and verbally to a variety of audiences to the highest standard, to be able to discuss work in collaborative settings and to be able to engage in academic discourse;
  • The reflective innovator – to have  a deep understanding of research methodology including qualitative and quantitative techniques from the different traditions involved and to be able to reflect over such techniques and adopt and adapt techniques for their own particular problem domains;
  • The user-focused innovator – to be prepared for working with end user organisations including business, societal and government end users and to have knowledge of the issues and expectations associated with such interactions;
  • Media-focused innovator – to be able to present research in a way that is engaging to the general public and to be familiar with techniques to do this through a variety of media (radio, TV, newspapers, etc);
  • Organisational leadership – to develop the capacity, skills and knowledge of students to be able to lead innovation, to be agents of change in end user organisations and settings, and to understand the processes of entrepreneurship and enterprise development;
  • Career support – to have the necessary skills in terms of career planning, developing CVs, and interviewing to maximise opportunities for future careers.
Lancaster University
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