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Patrick Thomson

Patrick Thomson

Senior Researcher - Oxford University Centre for the Environment, United Kingdom

Patrick Thomson is Lead Researcher for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment’s Water Programme and Oxford University’s Centre for the Environment. 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 Oxford’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which has brought additional technical expertise in machine learning and data analytics into the Smart Handpumps research. This work has been funded by Research and Innovation UK, the UK’s Department for International Development, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, and UNICEF.

Patrick has led the spinning out of two UK-based enterprises, formed to make the transition from research to impact. He was also part of the team at Oxford 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 formed in Kenya to support rural water services.

Patrick is a Faculty Affiliate at the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a member of the HWISE (Household Water Insecurity Experience) Research Collaboration Network, led by Texas A&M, Arizona State and Northwestern Universities. His research has been featured in the UK and international web and print media, and he had been interviewed on BBC TV and radio.

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. He is a Chartered Engineer with an MEng from the University of Oxford. Patrick has been awarded two patents.