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PhD Position - Innovation strategies and policy approaches to support the transition to a clean energy system (RESPONSE DP, ESR 28)

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

Within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585, ETH Zurich is offering a 36-month PhD position for an early-stage researcher (ESR) in the area of sustainable energy systems.

Job description

The acceleration of technological innovation is key for the decarbonisation of the energy system. Especially reaching net-zero emissions, a target that many countries want to achieve by the mid of this century, requires both the rapid development of new and the further diffusion of existing technologies. This, however, does no longer only involve the energy sector. New technologies such as electric vehicles or power-to-hydrogen increasingly couple the energy sector with others, and technological innovation (have to) cut across several sectors’ value chains.

We are looking for a PhD student to analyse technological innovation that support the transition to a clean energy system in the context of sector coupling. More specifically, the student will investigate how innovation can support and accelerate a smooth integration of value chains across sectors, and identify technical, economic and social barriers as well as potential business opportunities. The student will apply qualitative and quantitative methods such as interviews, techno-economic modelling, and patent data analysis.

A planned secondment of three months at the RWE Renewables GmbH in Essen (Germany) is part of this project. During this secondment, the student will have the opportunity to gain practical work experience, and apply the developed methods to a market relevant for RWE Renewables. To achieve this, the student will be working closely with the project partner RWE Renewables during the entire project duration.

The anticipated outcomes of this project are a better understanding of the mechanisms, drivers and barriers that influence whether and how innovations within and across the value chains in the context of sector coupling unfold. The findings will be communicated in several academic papers and practitioner articles, and shared via social media (e.g., through blog posts).


We are offering an interesting position at the interface of science and policy. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at ETH Zurich, the ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Volker Hoffmann and Dr. Annegret Stephan from the Group for Sustainability and Technology (SusTec, at ETH Zurich and the RWE Renewables GmbH. 

The complete 36 months will be under a 100% working contract.

The PhD salary follows the regulations of ETH Zurich and will be according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. The monthly gross salary will not be lower than CHF 3920.

The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at ETH Zurich. He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondment will take place in Essen (Germany).

Expected starting date of the working contract: 01.10.2021.

Your profile

We are looking for candidates with a background in energy science, industrial engineering, energy economics or similar. In addition, you should have very good analytical skills and a strong interest in and a good understanding of (energy) technologies, as well as in interdisciplinary approaches and topics such as management and policy. Good writing and communication skills are also essential.

Eligibility: Early stage researcher in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.

At the time of recruitment (for call 4 = July 1, 2021) by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

Language requirement: Proficient oral and written English skills are expected. German is desirable.

Main Research Field: Energy science (interdisciplinary with a focus on innovation studies and energy technology analysis)

Sub Research Field: Clean energy technology innovation

RESPONSE is open to applicants of any nationality.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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For submitting your online application: (select PhD Program Science and Policy). The online application should contain all information as indicated by the application portal. Moreover, the following documents have to be uploaded under “further documents”: 1) a letter of motivation to join a) the RESPONSE doctoral programme and b) to apply for this specific position (ESR 28), 2) a comprehensive tabular CV, and 3) transcripts of records. If you apply for more than one RESPONSE position, please refer to them in your letter of motivation. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. The deadline is July 1, 2021.

For questions and further information on the position, please contact Dr. Annegret Stephan (, no applications.

Further information

RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP): «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The successful candidate will be integrated in the research network and infrastructure of the internationally renowned competence center Energy Science Center.

All RESPONSE ESRs will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, ESRs will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.

For project, programme and application details:

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes (COFUND)

“This program receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585”.

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