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Postdoc: Pathways and Material Choices for the Responsible Electrification of Chemical and Fuel Production

Job description

Are you keen to explore socio-technical pathways towards sustainable chemicals that are based on electricity from renewables and to contribute in an enthusiast and interdisciplinary team to the responsible development of new technologies? Then this position could be something for you!


New types of electrochemical processes and electrolysis are expected to enable a transition towards the sustainable production of ‘green’ chemicals based on electricity from renewables. This project will explore possible socio-technical configurations and pathways for selected applications of new electrochemical processes (such as bio-oil upgrading, synthesis of common chemical compounds, wastewater recycling). Furthermore, it will assess the environmental and societal implications of the choice of materials involved, such as electro-catalysts, electrolyser materials and produced compounds, that will be developed in a closely linked project. The project takes a long-term perspective by not only scrutinizing present application scenarios and anticipating potential future pathways, but also extending our perspective into the recent past, learning from challenges and failures in preceding innovation trajectories. Further points of attention will be challenges and opportunities for the embedding of the envisaged applications in neighboring sectors, such as the chemical industry, energy generation or wastewater treatment, multi-sector settings and directions for more decentralized processes.

The project aims to develop societally viable and responsible electrochemical processes and applications that can contribute to ‘greening’ the chemical industry in the Netherlands and beyond. For this, the project connects approaches from constructive technology assessment and lifecycle thinking. Moreover, it will be interlinked with ongoing electrochemical research, mutually adjusting research agendas and reflecting on implications for design.

This ‘responsible research and innovation’ project is funded by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) and closely linked to a project aimed at developing new materials and processes for electrolysis powered by renewable electricity (https://www.utwente.nl/en/tnw/pcs/research/Nanostructured photo- and electro-catalysts by SOLID STATE METAL DEWETTING/). Both projects are part of a broader Dutch research programme on ‘Electrochemical Conversion & Materials (ECCM) - Towards a CO2-neutral energy supply in 2050”. For more information see https://www.co2neutraalin2050.nl/

Your profile

  • A completed PhD in Science and Technology Studies, Innovation Studies, History, or related field;
  • Knowledge in environmental science, lifecycle assessment methodology, (history of) chemistry, the energy sector, responsible research and innovation is an asset;
  • Methodological experience in qualitative and quantitative research methods;
  • Experience with organizing workshops and engaging with partners;
  • Experience with and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration;
  • Excellent written and spoken command of English, as demonstrated by academic publications and presentations at international conferences;
  • Good command of Dutch language is an asset;
  • Good skills in managing your time and your research activities.


You will:

  • explore socio-technical implications and conditions for the electrified production of chemicals and fuels and specific application scenarios from a science, technology, and innovation studies perspective;
  • study mutual relations with changes in related sectors;
  • organize partner workshops and conduct professional interviews;
  • integrate insights from an environmental and social lifecycle perspective in the assessment of design choices, application perspectives and scenarios;
  • critically analyze past and present visions related to an electrification of the chemical industry;
  • develop socio-technical scenarios;
  • collaborate closely in an interdisciplinary team of researchers from science, and technology studies, history of science, environmental science, and nanotechnology;
  • coordinate parts of the project work;
  • (co-)author academic publications and contributions to conferences.

Our offer

You will be appointed for 3 years (with outlook on a tenured position), within a very stimulating scientific environment. 

  • You will receive a salary between €3408,- and €4474,- gross per month, depending on your work experience;
  • Excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3% and a solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs.

Salary and conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO- NU).

Information and application

You can apply for this position before October 24, 2021 by clicking the ‘apply now’ button below. Please include a cover letter, CV, and contact information for at least 2 academic references.

For questions, please contact Kornelia Konrad (k.e.konrad@utwente.nl) or Marco Altomare (m.altomare@utwente.nl).

About the department

The STePS group focuses on science, technology and innovation studies and is part of the department of Technology, Policy, Society (TPS), which includes groups in the philosophy of science and technology, environmental and energy systems, higher education studies, health technology and care. We assess the role of science and technology in social change, studying the past and anticipating the future. We work towards better governance of knowledge and innovation, addressing major societal challenges. 

We seek researchers that further strengthen our committed team with new ideas and methodologies, that improve our project performance and visibility in our academic and policy communities!

About the organization

The Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a pivotal role in understanding, co-engineering and evaluating innovation in society. Innovation is driven by advances in technology. By means of 'social engineering', we are here to integrate these advances in society. As a people-first tech university, we align these advances with the needs and behaviour of humans. We ensure proper public and private management as well as robust, inclusive and fair organisational structures. The faculty of BMS does this by developing, transferring and applying high-quality knowledge of Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Science, Philosophy, Educational Science, and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines is challenge-based. The BMS research programmes are directly linked to our research institutes: Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, the TechMed Centre and the Digital Society Institute.

University of Twente (UT)

University of Twente (UT) has entered the new decade with an ambitious, new vision, mission and strategy. As ‘the ultimate people-first university of technology' we are rapidly expanding on our High Tech Human Touch philosophy and the unique role it affords us in society. Everything we do is aimed at maximum impact on people, society and connections through the sustainable utilisation of science and technology. We want to contribute to the development of a fair, digital and sustainable society through our open, inclusive and entrepreneurial attitude. This attitude permeates everything we do and is present in every one of UT's departments and faculties. Building on our rich legacy in merging technical and social sciences, we focus on five distinguishing research domains: Improving healthcare by personalised technologies; Creating intelligent manufacturing systems; Shaping our world with smart materials; Engineering our digital society; and Engineering for a resilient world.

As an employer, University of Twente offers jobs that matter. We equip you as a staff member to shape new opportunities both for yourself and for our society. With us, you will be part of a leading tech university that is changing our world for the better. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial climate, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example, with our flexible, customisable conditions.

Postdoc: Pathways and Material Choices for the Responsible Electrification of Chemical and Fuel Production
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