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Professor Matthew Cook

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Innovation
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Engineering & Innovation
  • matthew.cook

Professional biography

Prior to academic life, Matthew worked for 11 years as a professional spatial planner specialising in urban regeneration and sustainability.  He returned to university in 1999 as Research Assistant on a UK Government funded project and completed a doctorate in Innovation and Sustainability.  Following an appointment as Lecturer at Cranfield University in 2003, Matthew joined the Open University in 2009 and is now Professor of  Innovation.

Research interests

Matthew's research interests are in innovation.  Drawing on several related literatures (including sciene and technology studies, urban studies, complex systems, transition management and spatial planning) he follows a socio-technical approach to understanding these complex pocesses.  This novel approach recognises the instrumental value of technologies in achieveing desirable outcomes such as imporvements in resource productivity and crucially, the meanings they recreat when combined with the social in various contexts, e.g. firms, urban environments.  His current research fosuses on three main topic areas:

1 Critical perspectives on innovation to promote smart and more sustainable urban futures

2 Fluid transitions to more sustainable Product Service Systems

3 Inducing, shaping and modulating sustainable innovation journeys in pursuit of circular economies

Matthew uses a variety of qualitative research methods in his work including longitudinal case study, ethnography and discourse analysis.

Teaching interests

Matthew's teaching interests are in innovation.  He is presentation chair of the post graduate module T849 Strategic Capabilities for Technological Innovation.  He is also lead author of a new block concerned with cities and sustainability which will form part of the revised module U116 Environment: Journeys Through a Changing World.

External collaborations

Matthew has worked on both research and teaching projects with a variety of industrial and non-industrial partners including Western Power Distribution, The William Jackson Food Group, Milton Keynes Council, Defra, CGI.


Matthew has strong international links with universities in Northern Europe.  He has worked on complex system approaches to urban planning with Drs Ward Rauws and Terry van Dijk from Groningen University, The Netherlands.  He has a strong relationship around teaching and research projects focused on product service systems in cities with Professor Tim McAloone, Danish Technical University, Denmark.  

Finally, he has developed an effective and enduring collaboration on sustainability and innovation in both cities and the food and farming sector with the Swedish Life Sciences University, Uppsala, Sweden, where he is now August T Larsson Visiting Scholar.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Design GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

OLEV/Innovate UK Feasibility Study Bid

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Jan/201931/Mar/2019Innovate UK
The growth in the use of electric vehicles (EVs) needs to accelerate if the targets to reduce transport’s C02 emissions are to be achieved as well as meeting health standards for city air quality. Some key commercial transport sectors (e.g. taxis, service vehicles and delivery vans) have the potential for rapid EV adoption, but operators in these sectors have shown little interest in EVs, one factor being the need to use wired charging. The provision of wireless charging in cities could help, but for success there is a need for a more in-depth understanding of the culture, practices and business models of businesses in these sectors. The feasibility study would involve reviewing how wireless charging could play a role in possible technical options and business practices/models for taxi and on demand minivan operations in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes has undertaken a number of EV innovation initiatives that have provided experience and understandings that can be applied elsewhere. A technical review will take place on potential EVs and charging systems, their performance and cost. This will involve an exploration with operators and cab driver/owners to understand what combinations of charging infrastructure would encourage them towards commercial EV operations. Ways to manage risk and appropriate MK Council support actions would form part of the exploration. The feasibility study would provide the technical and business/institutional specification for the main project, which would be the trial implementation and monitoring of the identified combination of wireless charging infrastructure, supporting actions and business model systems for these sectors. The project is led by the company eFIS (Electric Fleet Integrated Services), who has managed the successful introduction of wireless-charged electric buses in Milton Keynes. The other project partners are the Open University, Milton Keynes Council and the University of Warwick.

PhD Studentship - Exploring UK energy futures: implications, opportunities and risks

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Feb/201731/Jan/2020CGI Group
The UK electricity sector is at a point of change in response to both internal and external pressures: potential new demands for transport and heat; policies to cut carbon emissions and the resultant increased use of renewables; the development of smart grids and new entrants into the sector. However, exactly how the UK electricity sector will change in response to these stimuli is unclear. Indeed, there could be several futures, creating implications, opportunities and risks for key actors. This PhD explores, with experts in the field, some of these futures and the potential implications they will have for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) among other key actors.

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