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HighWire is a world class, cross-disciplinary and user-centric Doctoral Training Centre at Lancaster University which places innovation at the heart of its curriculum and ethos and crosses three key disciplines, namely computer science, management and design.

HighWire is delivered through InfoLab21’s School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University Management School and ImaginationLancaster. HighWire offers a training programme, spanning four years and consists of an initial year of both formal and practical training, culminating in the award of a Masters of Research (MRes), followed by a three-year period of study leading to a PhD.

Our aims

The emphasis is on producing innovative people prepared to work in challenging roles in organisations and ready to drive radical change in the digital economy. We closely align with the needs and goals of business and industry to ensure the relevance of our programme and to encourage technology exchange and early adoption of emerging technologies, processes and ideas.


Our environment: Imagination Lab

ImaginationLancaster is an open and exploratory research lab that investigates emerging issues, technologies and practices to advance knowledge and develop solutions that contribute to the common good. Providing an environment where companies can think collaboratively and creatively to describe something, to create something, to challenge something and develop strategic imagination.

Support for Businesses: Bespoke Research Projects Delivered through Placements

InfoLab21 is currently working with 10 companies on 11 projects through HighWire. The PhD students work on a part-time basis for one or two days a week totalling between 60 to 80 hours.

What the students will do
The students undertake a study of the company’s strategic position in its marketplace, its existing products and services and any specific business operations or issues specified by the company.

The student will work with the company to identify and research further market opportunities / business strategies through the application of digital innovation.

If there is significant interest in the resulting project proposal from both the student and the company it could be progressed through to the student’s dissertation for further research and prototype development where applicable.

How placements are arranged:

Placements are arranged by matching companies with students based on their areas of expertise and their research interests.

What skills are on offer:

HighWire training emphasises digital innovation through technologies, products, and processes and through close involvement with organisational end-users, producing career-related transferable skills that makes HighWire students valuable in a wide range of organisations.

Examples include the technologist with an awareness of the challenges of design (manufacturability, human-factors, aesthetics etc.) coupled with an appreciation of the business considerations of developing and marketing digital innovations into services and products, for organisational end-users and their customers.

Areas of expertise include:

  • The Impact of Emergent and Disruptive Communication Technologies on Rural Communities

Exploring the impact of emergent and disruptive communication technologies and services on rural communities and the possible fusion of business and governmental opportunities arising from this contribution, especially for small and medium sized enterprises.

  • Structuring of Organisations and Technology

Looking at how organisational practices and capabilities are affected by the need for the development and marketing of digital innovations in the case of digital system producers, and the need for modifying digital artefacts and organisational practices to exploit capabilities offered in digital innovations in the case of organisational end-users.

  • Digital Products and Sustainability

This would explore ideas that enable an interdisciplinary approach to the challenge of design for sustainability. Grounded in technical feasibility and new production possibilities and informed by the need for transitions in business organisation, supply chains, etc. this will develop constructive and sustainable relationships between global and local/regional production.

  • Democratisation and Open Innovation

This theme would study the emerging phenomenon of the democratization of innovation and its technical, business and design implications as a key strategic contribution to the digital economy. Areas of activity would include, citizen journalism, open source, co-creation, open innovation, post-participatory design and mass creativity.

How placements are managed and supported:

The placements are supported by the Student Academy Technical Officer who will co-ordinate all activity with the students and academic supervisors. They will also be supported by an academic supervisor who will have input into the work undertaken by the student.

The student will be based on the company premises for the period of the placement but will not be a paid employee. The company is expected to cover any travel or other expenses incurred.

Continuing the relationship:

This is not only an opportunity for a bespoke piece of research for your company but also an opportunity for ongoing engagement with both the student and academic base, possibly through to PhD level research.