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PhD research on Secure and sustainable supply of raw materials for strategic value chains

The research center MOBI at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB, Brussels, Belgium), and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission (Ispra site, Italy), are calling for applications for one full-time doctoral researcher on the topic of the ‘Secure and sustainable supply of raw materials for strategic value chains: the example of energy storage systems’. Prospective PhD candidates are hereby invited to declare interest and submit project proposals on the themes described below. The deadline for submitting applications is the 1st of September 2022.

Objective and research questions

Secure and sustainable supply of non-fuel and non-agricultural raw materials is a necessary condition to the delivery of several key ambitions of the European Union, including a low carbon and circular economy (“A European Green Deal”), digitalisation (“A Europe fit for the digital age) and technological sovereignty (“A stronger Europe in the world”). In recent years, the JRC has supported the European raw materials policy with novel methods, data, indicators, scoreboards, information systems and analysis. Future support to EU policy in the area will require additional ambitious research works. VUB has an extensive track record in research on sustainability evaluation and ecodesign of electric vehicles, batteries and multi-energy-systems. The joint research activities will therefore focus on the security of supply and sustainable sourcing of raw materials, both primary and secondary, applied to the energy storage systems value chain for the EU. The research work may address: modelling materials flows and stocks in the economy, building medium and long-term scenarios, data analytics for raw materials, methods, indicators and data for criticality assessments, assessment tools for sustainable supply of raw materials, analysis of the potentials of circular economy , novel indicators to monitor the progresses of the raw materials sector and towards circular economy; development of a framework to better link raw materials value chain with Sustainable Development Goals.

The proposed PhD focusses on the role of raw materials and the risk of their supply in sustaining a decarbonized European energy systems and mobility system by 2050. The scope of the work concerns Europe for the period 2025-2050. The PhD focuses specifically on how rechargeable energy storage systems (RESS), including batteries, play a role in the low carbon transition and how their material compositions and associated supply chain risks might hamper their full adoption.


The successful candidate is required to:

  • Hold a Master’s degree in engineering, science and technology studies – with excellent study results.
  • Have experience or interest in working within interdisciplinary teams and taking part in community initiatives. Having an interdisciplinary background or experience is a plus.
  • Know and understand the relevant academic literature.
  • Have research skills and good knowledge of research methodologies in social science and/or computer science. Experience in / understanding of design of algorithms or screen-based applications are an asset.
  • Have strong interest in the European project;
  • Be flexible, self-motivated and perseverant.
  • Be able to work independently, with good self-management and planning skills.
  • Think analytically and have good academic writing skills.
  • Be fluent and have excellent communications skills in English. Knowledge of additional languages is an asset.
  • Have the ability to communicate with stakeholders, among others high-level officials.


The selected candidate will be employed as a full-time doctoral researcher.

The researcher will have two contracts (and work places) throughout his/her doctoral project, one with VUB (Brussels, Belgium) and one with JRC (Ispra, Italy).

The PhD degree is a joint degree between VUB and JRC.

The selected candidate will be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities after 12 months).

At VUB you’ll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.

IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.

At VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.

As well as this, you’ll enjoy various benefits:

  • Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, or compensation if you come by bike;

  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance;

  • The space to form your job content and continuously learn;

  • Excellent facilities for sport and exercise;

  • Ecocheques;

  • Delicious meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants;

  • An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract). 

In addition, the selected candidate will spend part of her/his PhD at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.

The candidate will join the Sustainable Resources Dirctorate team, located at the JRC site in Ispra, Italy. For more information about the JRC, please consult ; ; .


• Cultivates a workplace based on respect for other people and the environment.

• Embraces non-discriminatory practices and equality of opportunity. In case of equal merit, preference will be given to the gender in minority.

The successful candidate is expected to split his/her time between VUB and JRC. In practice, the researcher will work for two years with the VUB in Brussels, Belgium and two years with the JRC team in Ispra, Italy.

Office space and equipment will be provided along with a budget for travelling and other research-related expenses. Depending on the circumstances of the global health crisis, you may be expected to work from home.

How to apply

The PhD candidate will be selected on the basis of the quality of the project proposal, her/his expertise, work experience and qualifications. The following application documents are to be consolidated into a single PDF file sent by email to (subject heading: ‘Secure and sustainable supply of raw materials for strategic value chains’).

  • A one-page motivation letter explaining the candidate’s interest in pursuing a PhD on the research topic

  • A curriculum vitae listing all academic qualifications, relevant research experience and previous publications (if any)

  • A copy of the highest obtained diploma and transcript of academic grades

  • A copy of a publication (master thesis, academic report or a paper of a university class)

  • Candidates must also provide the names and contact details of two referees willing to provide reference letters upon our request.

The deadline for applications is 1st of September 2022. Interviews will be organised online or in-person as travel and sanitary conditions permit. The successful candidate can start as soon as possible thereafter. Selection will be jointly made by VUB and JRC.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates cannot have performed any works in the execution of a mandate as an assistant at VUB, paid from operating resources, over a total (cumulated) period of more than 12 months.

Candidates should, prior to the start of the employment contract with the JRC: 

  • have the nationality of a Member State of the EU or a country associated to the Research Framework Programmes or being resident in a EU Member State since at least five years and
  • be enrolled in a PhD programme with the HEI.

Candidates who are already enrolled in the doctoral study program with the HEI for fewer than 12 months can also be considered eligible. 

Further information ; .

For further inquiries, please contact: (VUB MOBI center, head research group EVERGi) (JRC, Sustainable Resource Directorate)

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the European Commission are committed to creating and supporting a diverse work environment and are equal opportunity employers.