Senior Researcher

Academic Profile

Patrick Thomson is Lead Researcher for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment's Water Programme. Patrick's research focuses on the use of technology and improved data to enable institutional change and improve health outcomes in the rural water sector.

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. An engineer by background, Patrick started the Smart Water Systems group's collaboration with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering; this inter-departmental collaboration has built the technical capability of the team, leading to additional grant funding from DFID, NERC and UNICEF and provided the basis for two engineering DPhils. Along with colleagues in the IBME, Patrick holds a patent for using the Smart Handpumps technology for aquifer depth estimation and pump failure prediction.

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.

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.

Current Research

  • Gro for GooD: Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development - NERC/ESRC/DFID (2015-19)
  • Insuring against rural water risk in Africa - ESRC/DFID (2013-15)
  • Groundwater Risks and Institutional Responses for Poverty Reduction in Africa - NERC/ESRC/DFID (2013-14)
  • Does Intermittent Quality of Water Supply due to Broken Handpumps influence Diarrhoeal Disease Incidence in Rural Kenya? - Skoll Foundation (2013-15)
  • New Mobile Citizens and Waterpoint Sustainability in Rural Africa - ESRC (2012-15)
  • Pump-priming Mobile Water Science for Global Development Impacts - John Fell Fund (2012-14)
  • Smart Water Systems - DFID (2010-13)

Selected Publications

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