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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Research on radical innovation and disruption – opportunity for junior researchers (Sept 2021 - May 2022)

Background to the research

The science is clear: we must rapidly decline our greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero by mid-century if we aim to avoid catastrophic damages due to climate change. The evidence shows that a substantial disparity exists between the necessary rate of diffusion of low-carbon emission technologies and current progress in low-carbon innovation and deployment. With so much at stake, we cannot just hope for the right technology to be developed and deployed in time. Instead, we need to build a strategy based on a balanced portfolio of climate policies, technological development, industrial strategies and business incentives that can ensure a resilient decarbonisation pathway. Working in this direction, this research project studies the potential for radical innovation to disruptively catalyse the transition to a sustainable economy. 

The project has three main objectives:

  • Provide an updated theoretical framework for the process of radical innovation and disruption, in the context of a dynamic policy environment.
  • Identify the main gaps and opportunities to foster radical innovation in strategic technological and business sectors.
  • Develop a strategy to facilitate radical innovations in key technological and business sectors. 

The research is being developed using future scenarios of the global economy based on integrated assessment models (IAMs). 

Overview and requirements

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is seeking to contract a junior researcher at the level of Research Assistant or Research Associate (subject to candidate’s qualifications) to support research on the three objectives described above. The work will involve doing literature review, searching, processing and analysing secondary data, design and conduct interviews and surveys, working with modelling scenarios in MatLab and presenting the results of the research to differences audiences. 

This research is associated with The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship in Radical Innovation and Disruption, supported by a philanthropic donation from Paul and Michelle Gilding. The research is also linked to the project EEIST - Economics of Energy Innovation and System Transition.

For an appointment at the level of Research Assistant (Grade 5), the junior researcher needs to have completed (at a minimum) an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as Engineering, Economics, Geography or similar, and a Masters degree with research methods would be an advantage. 

For an appointment at the level of Research Associate (G7) the junior researcher needs to be working towards a PhD degree in a relevant subject such as Engineering, Economics, Geography or similar. Having completed a PhD would be an advantage.

The following skills and knowledge are essential:

  • Good communication skills
  • Academic writing
  • Programming in MatLab
  • Advance user level on Office, especially Excel
  • Good quantitative skills. 

The following skills and knowledge would be an advantage

  • Climate change mitigation, especially from the perspective of economics
  • Integrated Assessment Modelling (IAM)
  • Calculus
  • Complex systems
  • Finance

The role

The junior researcher will be contracted on a part-time or a full-time basis, at a Grade 5 or 7 equivalent of the University’s Temporary Employment Service (£14.22/hour - £16.47/hour) - subject to some flexibility in line with the successful candidate’s availability, and the demands of the project. The contract as advertised, however, is for 9 months, with a probationary period. The Principal Investigator is Pablo Salas.

Expressing your interest

If you are interested in this role, please send a cover letter and CV to The cover letter should state your availability and whether you would be interested in this role on a part-time or full-time basis.

Closing date for expressions of interest: 19 September 2021.

We particularly encourage expressions of interest from researchers with diverse backgrounds, recognizing a need for greater representation of minority groups in academia. 

If you have specific queries, please contact Pablo Salas directly at

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