Imperial College London

Professor Colin Thirtle

Faculty of Natural SciencesCentre for Environmental Policy

Emeritus Professor



+44 (0)20 7594 9337c.thirtle




323City and Guilds BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





My research has concentrated on the inter-related issues of agricultural R&D, technological change, efficiency and productivity growth, in developed countries, such as the USA the UK and the EU, in developing countries, including Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Nepal, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa and in transitional economies (Slovenia and Hungary).  The work on R&D includes studying research systems, research resource allocation, privatisation the role of the private sector in R&D and the returns to agricultural R&D expenditures.  The work on technological change covers the efficiency of new varieties, from the green revolution to GM crops, biodiversity, the economics of the terminator gene and induced innovation.  Other work on efficiency has considered nitrate pollution in the UK, energy substitution in Hungary, land reform in Zimbabwe and the structural transformation in the transitional economies. Measures of total factor productivity growth were first developed for the UK, South Africa, Botswana and South Africa, Slovenia and Hungary. These have now been extended to cover all of Africa and Asia and have been applied to study convergence.  The latest work for DFID covers the whole range, from R&D to productivity growth and then shows the effects on poverty alleviation.  Current work on GM crops is focused on Bt cotton and both Bt and herbicide tolerant white maize in KwaZulu Natal.

Current Projects

ESRC/DfID Factor Endowments, Biased Technological Change, Wages and Poverty Reduction: Can Genetically Modified Crops Bring a Green Revolutio to Africa?

National Agricultural Marketing Council, Pretoria  The Impact of Deregulation on Agricultural Productivity and Efficiency

Recent Projects

Have been funded by the ESRC, DfID, DEFRA, the Rockerfeller Foundation and Monsanto


Dr David Hadley, University of East Anglia, Farm level efficiency in the UK

Dr Beatrice Conradie, University of Cape Town, Labour and grape production in the Western Cape

Thulasizwe Mkhabela, University of Stellenbosch, Plollution from dairying in KwaZulu Natal

Professor Johann Kirsten, University of Pretoria, GM crops in South Africa

Marnus Gouse, University of Pretoria, GM crops in South Africa

Professor Nick Vink, University of Stellenbosch, Dairying in KwaZulu Natal

Professor Jenifer Piesse, King's College London, The Impact of Research Led Agricultural Productivity Growth on Poverty Reduction in Africa, Asia and

Dr C S Srinivasan, University of Reading, Intellectual Property Rights in Agriculture

Professor Nigel Bell, Imperail College London, Impact of low level ozone pollution on UK field crops

Dr David Schimmelpfennig, United States Department of Agriculture, Panel data analysis of US field crops

Professor Stephen Glaister, Imperial College, Road accidents and deprived areas

Dr Eldon Ball, USDA, International agricultural competitiveness

Research Staff


Research Student Supervision

Cookson,G, An Economic Analysis of Road Transport Congestion and Policy Solutions

Kaliakatsou,E, Impact of Ozone Pollution on UK Crop Yields

Koc,V, An Economic Analysis of Clean Energy

Saraiva,J, Implications of Water Environmental Policy for Irrigated Agriculture in Portugal