Dr Alice Owen

Dr Alice Owen


My career has spanned private, public and voluntary sector organisations before undertaking PhD research and joining the University of Leeds in 2013.  I have a track record of achievement in developing and delivering projects to support more sustainable development.

I was the lead Commissioner for local and regional issues with the UK Sustainable Development Commission from 2005-11, working with the politicians and executives of the UK and its devolved governments. I originally trained as an engineer and I've been working in the field of sustainable development since 1991. I have first hand experience of the chemical industry and of waste management operations. From 1996-8,I was an NGO project manager on a wide range of environmental education projects internationally. I first worked in the public sector as Head of Conservation and Policy at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, from 1998-2001. In 2001, I established the sustainable development team in Yorkshire Forward, one of nine English regional development agencies. I also established and ran my own freelancing consultancy business working in the UK and Canada, and I worked for the Environment Agency in regional policy development.

I led consultancy firm Arup’s sustainability consulting work from Leeds for five years before joining the University of Leeds.

I was a Member of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Green Economy panel from 2016-2021.  I was deputy chair of the newly formed Bradford Sustainable Development Partnership in 2020-22. 

I was a member of the NERC Innovation Advisory Board 2017-18, was appointed to ESRC's Strategic Advisory Network in 2019 and am also a member of ESRC’s Environmental Social Science Strategic Advisory Group.


Research interests

The role of 'place' in sustainability – I was part of the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN  2019-2023), an ESRC Network+ working with local authorities across the UK.  I’m also interested in researching the non-technology aspects of the circular economy and have done research exploring the circular economy at city scale, working from the starting point of a city's assets rather than the problem of a city's waste arisings.

Achieving domestic low carbon retrofit - particularly the role of advisers and installers; NGOs and micro-enterprises. The GLIDER project was a research collaboration exploring these issues with ECI, Oxford, funded by the UK Energy Research Centre.

Innovation for sustainability – growing from my PhD research on the diffusion and impact of domestic green technology, I am now a co-investigator on the ESRC PRoductive and Inclusive Net Zero (PRINZ) project and a member of the Innovation & Research Caucus ‘council of experts’, funnded by InnovateUK and ESRC.

Effective knowledge exchange - I am keen to develop further capacity to bridge between academic research and public sector practitioners. A knowlege transfer project with Leeds City Council led to generating new lines of reserach, but also found ways to use existing city assets and knowledge to drive positive research impacts.I have delivered a number of "impact acceleration" projects translating University research into action in the city of Leeds, particularly working with organisations on the built environment.

In 2017, I became a Fellow of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity. The fellowship focuses on the role of micro-enterprises in sustainable prosperity. In addition to developing my research on construction firms, I'm investigating the role of craft and textile enterprises in sustainability.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Leeds.
  • MBA, University of Manchester
  • BEng, Special Engineering Programme, Brunel University London

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)

Student education

I have designed and led two MSc modules looking at different aspects of project management in practice and have developed new teaching looking at how to deliver sustainability through projects and in organisations.

I also teach the topics of environmental policy and regulation, and case studies in corporate sustainability.

I remain involved in the delivery of the 'Sustainability Consultancy Project' which is a unique feature of the MSc Sustainability & Consultancy programme. Teaching to support this project module involves a wide range of skill development and professional practice sessions.

Research groups and institutes

  • Social and Political Dimensions of Sustainability
  • Sustainability Research Institute
  • Business Organisations for Sustainable Societies
  • Energy and Climate Change Mitigation
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>