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Egenis · People

Mr. Pietro Berti

Egenis Research Student


01392 725142


01392 724676






Byrne House


In October 2009, I started my PhD at the University of Exeter under the supervision of and Professor Brian Rappert. The title of my PhD project is . It focuses on the policy debates on sustainable road transport and liquid biofuels in the United Kingdom, and is funded by a three-year full studentship of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter.

My interests in energy policy and biomass technologies developed during my MA in Economics at the University of Bologna (Italy). Through a scholarship, I also managed to spend six months as a visiting student at the Copernicus Institute at the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands). The resulting MA dissertation, written under the supervision of Professor Alberto Clò (University of Bologna) and co-supervision of Assistant Professor Simona Negro (Copernicus Institute), analysed the evolution of the Italian policies in the waste-to energy sector.


Berti, P. and Levidow, L., 'A policy-promise lock-in of UK biofuel policy', submitted July 2012, currently in peer review.


'A Sociological Analysis of UK Governmental Consultations on Emerging Technology: The Biofuels Debate', ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), University of Exeter, 9 September 2010.

'Statements of Technological Expectations as Advertisement: Biofuels in the UK', Annual Postgraduate Conference of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter, 18 May 2011.

'Fuelling Expectations: Promoting biofuels in the UK', International Conference: Governing Futures: imagining, negotiating and taming emerging technosciences – University of Vienna, Austria, 22-24 September 2011.

'Fuelling Expectations: The evolution of the UK government’s position in the biofuels debate', Eu-SPRI PhD Spring School: Anticipation in the Governance of Innovation. Expectations, Foresight and Technology Assessment - University of Vienna, Austria, 15-17 March 2012.

'Fuelling Expectations: UK public authorities debating on biofuels', 4S/EASST Joint Conference 2012: Design and displacement – social studies of science and technology, Society for Social Studies of Science (4S); European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, 17-20 October 2012.

'A policy-promise lock-in of UK biofuels policy', International Conference on Governing Sustainable Biofuels: Markets, certification and technology – organised by Copenhagen Biofuels Research Network (COBREN), Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School and the Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark, 19-20 November 2012.

Research Interests

My research is based on a multidisciplinary approach that includes the sociology of expectations and, more in general, science and technology studies; informational economics; and energy policy. My PhD project entails the analysis of the UK policies on liquid biofuels technologies. Liquid biofuels are technologies that convert a wide range of organic material into liquid fuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol and biodiesel can be used as substitutes of respectively petrol and diesel in cars and are currently supported by the UK Government as sustainable solutions to mitigate climate change in the transport sector. I decided to get involved in this project because I consider this research on liquid biofuels as a natural follow up of my previous experience in biomass technologies. Furthermore, I consider the UK biofuels policies an excellent case study. One reason for that is because of the UK leadership position in integrating a system of sustainability standards into biofuels supporting policies (Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation – RTFO).

In my research, I attempt to examine how choices about the adoption and regulation of technologies are made where there is uncertainty and disagreement. More specifically, I investigate how public authorities come up with yes-or-no decisions about the support of emerging technologies when stakeholders disagree on the selection criteria to consider and on the attributes and performances of the technologies with respect to those criteria.

The analysis of biofuels policies in the UK implies considering the social, political, and economical aspects related to policymaking on emerging technologies in the energy sector. The main concerns herein are to examine how claims about the acceptability of a technology are justified and, more specifically, how notions of what constitutes the sustainability of a technology are negotiated. Analysing how public authorities attempt to justify contentions on the acceptability of technologies moves the focus on more theoretical considerations on the basis of knowledge claims and the politics of representation.

I am investigating how the different typologies of actors involved in the UK biofuels case have contributed to the circulation of expectations on biofuels technologies and their policies. I am interested on how this information coming from different sources with different stakes in the technologies is finally simplified and synthesised into the official documents of the UK Government. More information can be found on the .