Senior Researcher

Academic Profile

Patrick Thomson is Lead Researcher for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment's Water Programme. He is an Environmental Social Scientist researching how information and institutions in the rural water sector moderate people’s interaction with their environment. This research is a mixture of social science, natural science and engineering, challenging orthodox ways of thinking while maintaining a practical focus on how to ensure that this research improves health and human development outcomes. Patrick invented and developed the first 'Smart Handpump' and leads the continuing technical evolution and operational implementation of the Smart Handpumps research within the Smart Water Systems group. Originally trained as an engineer, Patrick started the Smart Water Systems group's collaboration with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which has built the technical capability of the team through the IBME’s expertise in machine learning and data analytics.

Within the SSEE, Patrick is part of the team that developed the FundiFix model for rural water service delivery, which has spawned two small enterprises in Kenya, and designed the structure for the Water Services Maintenance Trust Funds, that have since been registered in Kenya to support rural water services. His research has been featured in the UK and international media including the BBC, The Economist and The Guardian. Smart Handpumps was one of 13 projects chosen by the seven UK Research Councils to be highlighted as ground-breaking and innovative research at the RCUK's first “Research, Innovate, Grow” showcase event in 2015, and was the overall winner of the inaugural Vice-Chancellor's Innovations Award in 2018. Since 2010 this work has been funded by the UK research councils, DFID, UNICEF, the John Fell Fund, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, and the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators.

Patrick is a Faculty Affiliate at the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering at the CU Boulder, and a member of the HWISE (Household Water Insecurity Experience) Research Collaboration Network, led by Texas A&M, Arizona State and Northwestern Universities.

Prior to studying for an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford in 2010, Patrick worked in international development for over five years, living variously in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Caucasus region. Patrick is currently undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of Reading, investigating whether improved rural water services lead to measurable health improvements. He is a Chartered Engineer with an MEng from the University of Oxford, and is a founder and director of OxWater Ltd. Patrick has been awarded two patents.

Current Research

  • Smart Handpumps (GCRF, 2019-2020)
  • Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (USAID, 2017-2021)
  • REACH: Improving water security for the poor (DFID, 2015-2022)
  • Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development (NERC/ESRC/DFID, 2015-2019)

Selected Publications

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