Philip Johnstone

University of Sussex

Senior researcher

I am a senior researcher with a background in Human Geography and Science and Technology Studies interested in energy policy, the political and democratic implications of technological development, understanding the role and nature of the state in the 21st century, and developing more spatial understandings of Science & Technology policy.   

I am currently working on the 'Smart Energy Transition' (SET Plan), funded by the Strategic Funding Plan of the Royal Academy of Finland. This project looks at 'disruptive technologies' in the energy sector, understanding the differences between national contexts in terms of how 'disruptive technologies' are governed within sustainable transformations of energy systems. The team at Sussex are looking at the role of industrial policy and institutions in the development of wind, solar and demand side measures in the contexts of Denmark, Germany, and the UK in order to produce reccommendations to feed in to the Finnish energy transition.

Previously, I worked on a three-year project on the Governance of Discontinuity in Technological Systems (DiscGo). looking at the under-examined ‘flip side’ to innovation – how technology governance can address the crucial task of disengaging from well-established socio-technical systems. The project was in collaboration with colleagues at the INRA in Paris, TSG in Dortmund and Twente.

As part of this project, the governance of nuclear energy was a key focus. This has produced research that develops understandings of the drivers behind the notable divergencies in nuclear policy in Europe between Germany's phase out plans, and the UK's policy enthusiasm for the construction of new nuclear. Developing understandings of the challenges related to the UK's nuclear policy in terms of skills and industrial policy has also been key, where I have also participated in research looking at the UK's commitment to the independent construction of nuclear powered submarines. I am co-convenor of the ESRC seminar series that looks at issues of nuclear waste, entitled 'nuclear futures', and I have engaged with UK nuclear policy including appearing before the Welsh Affairs Select Committee for their nuclear inquiry, and contributing to government consultations on nuclear waste policy.

 Before arriving at SPRU I completed a PhD on Public Engagement with Nuclear Power in the UK. Whilst writing up I worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher on the ESRC Biosecurity Borderlands project, and then the ESRC Visualising Climate Change project also at Exeter.    



Johnstone, Philip and Stirling, Andrew (2016) Submerged politics of UK nuclear power: is Trident renewal influencing UK energy policy? NGLI Spokesman.

Johnstone, Philip (2014) Planning reform, rescaling, and the construction of the post-political: the case of the Planning Act and nuclear power consultation in the UK. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 32 (4). pp. 697-713. ISSN 0263-774X

Gill, Nick, Johnstone, Phil and Williams, Andrew (2012) Towards a geography of tolerance: post-politics and political forms of toleration. Political Geography, 31 (8). pp. 509-518. ISSN 0962-6298

Johnstone, Philip (2010) The nuclear power renaissance in the UK: democratic deficiencies within the 'consensus' on sustainability. Human Geography, 3 (2). pp. 91-104.

Book Section

Johnstone, Philip (2016) Delivering UK nuclear power in the context of European energy policy: the challenges ahead. In: Heffron, Raphael J and Little, Gavin F M (eds.) Delivering energy law and policy in the EU and the US : a reader. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 236-241. ISBN 9780748696796

Reports and working papers

Cox, Emily, Johnstone, Phil and Stirling, Andrew (2016) Understanding the intensity of UK policy commitments to nuclear power: the role of perceived imperatives to maintain military nuclear submarine capabilities. Working Paper. SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS 2016-16), Brighton.

MacKerron, Gordon and Johnstone, Philip (2016) Evidence submitted to the Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry on the future of nuclear power in Wales. Technical Report. House of Commons, London.

Johnstone, Philip and Stirling, Andrew (2015) Comparing nuclear power trajectories in Germany and the UK: from ‘regimes' to ‘democracies’ in sociotechnical transitions and Discontinuities. Working Paper. SPRU, Brighton.

Contact information