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Smart-BEEjS | Human-Centric Energy Districts

Research theme: Sustainable Futures

School: Nottingham Business School


A Europe-wide project to study and support cities and communities in their goal to produce more energy than they use is being led by Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University.

The aim of the Smart-BEEjS project is to boost knowledge sharing across stakeholders, exploiting a human-centric and systemic approach to designing Positive Energy Districts (PEDs) for sustainable living for all. It presents a balanced consortium of beneficiaries and partners from different knowledge disciplines and different agents of the energy eco-system, to train at PhD level an initial generation of transformative and influential champions in policy design, techno-economic planning and BMI in the energy sector; mindful of the individual and social dimensions, as well as the nexus of interrelation between stakeholders in energy generation, technology transition, efficiency and management.

Addressing the Challenge

The global energy sector is in the midst of a transition. Deregulation and liberalisation of energy markets, the availability of new lower-priced and more efficient renewable technologies for decentralised energy supply, efforts to protect the environment and conserve resources, and corresponding incentives and political strategies to support these efforts are all drivers for this shift towards decentralised energy.

Within the EU, legislative developments have led to market decentralisation in generation, supply, and retail, “away from a regulated environment dominated by a few quasi-monopolistic companies, to one that is increasingly competitive ”. Indeed, the EU has used the Strategic Energy Technology Plan to transfer power to consumers, by decentralising the energy eco-system at the local district-level. One of the targets of the plan is to establish “100 PEDs by 2025 (baseline 2015) and 80% of electricity consumption to be managed by consumers in four out of five households ”. PEDs can generate local decentralised and innovative ecosystems, placing the consumer at its centre. The EU has dedicated for the next programmatic period a funding strand close to €1 billion to research and develop actions in relation to PEDs around three main priorities; capacity building in cities, cross-sector urban policies, and challenge driven R&I policies.


A substantial €4 million research bid has been awarded to NTU by the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks Fund for a four-year project on PEDs, promoting efficient energy generation, use, and energy justice for sustainable living.

The bid was developed with a consortium involving 24 organisations across the EU, seven other universities and 16 private and third sector partners. It will provide funding for multiple research activities with the partner organisations, built around funding and co-supervising 15 full-time PhD students.

This complex project will be led by Kostas Galanakis (PI, Project Coordinator and Training Manager, and PhD supervisor) with NBS support from Rob Ackrill (CI, Scientific Manager and PhD supervisor), Néstor Valero-Silva (CI, Ethics Advisory Board Coordinator and PhD supervisor), Eleni Stathopoulou (CI, Work Package Leader and PhD supervisor) and Adrian Axinte (Project Administrator).

The bid is aligned to the research interests of these academics working on energy policy, systemic thinking, stakeholder engagement, and sustainability, and their respective NBS research groups: Innovation, Digitalisation, Entrepreneurship and Operations (IDEO), the Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab (RSL), and Applied Economics and Policy Analysis (AEPA).

The project commenced in April 2019 and will take place over four years. Of the total budget of €4 milllion, €914,000 is dedicated to the UK-based beneficiary as project coordinator and primary research investigator on Business Model Innovation in decentralised energy systems.

The project involves eight main research beneficiaries from the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Switzerland; 16 non-academic organisations from the areas of energy transformation (electricity, heating, cooling), energy justice, local governance and the mobility sector; and 15 PhD researchers across the consortium.

Making a Difference

Smart-BEEjS funders

The overarching aim of Smart-BEEjS is to provide, through a multilevel, multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary training and research platform, a programme to produce the technology, policy making or business-oriented transformative and influential champions of tomorrow; educated in the personal, behavioural and societal concepts needed to deliver the success of any technological proposition or intervention under a human-centric perspective.