Realising the Transition to the Circular Economy: Models, Methods and Applications

Call for Applicants - Early Stage Researcher (PhD) Positions available within the H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018 project "Realising the Transition to the Circular Economy (ReTraCE)"

Deadline: 15th January 2019

Applications are invited for two Early Stage Researcher (ESR) positions to be funded by the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network "ReTraCE" - Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission. The ESRs will be based in Naples (Italy), will be hired for 36 months according to the salary provisions of the H2020 MSCA program and will be offered a PhD candidate position within the University of Naples Parthenope (UNP). UNP gives the opportunity to qualified students to enroll in the 3-years International PhD Programme in "Environment, Resources and Sustainable Development". Moreover, the ESRs will be exposed to diverse research environments (through at least 2 secondments to academic beneficiaries/partners) as well as various industrial environments (through at least 2 secondments to industrial beneficiaries/partners).

The ReTrace Consortium globally offers 15 ESR positions in Partner European Universities. The complete list is available at Applications to more than one position are allowed.

1. The ReTraCE project: Realising the Transition towards the Circular Economy

The ReTraCE project network brings together an exceptionally strong team of world-leading experts from a wide set of beneficiaries and partners in order to achieve breakthroughs in understanding how the transition towards a Circular Economy (CE) can be realised in a successful way in the European context, both within existing organisations and industries as well as through innovative and sustainable business models. The proposed approach is inherently multi-disciplinary, drawing upon research that will advance significantly the state-of-the-art in terms of the current understanding of the applicability of the CE paradigm from Economic, Environmental and Social points of view, providing policy insights and implications for practice. The consortium of 10 beneficiaries (including 7 academic and 3 non-academic groups from the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Greece and Germany) will design and deliver world class multidisciplinary training to 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), offering them an extended and valuable program of international exchanges and secondments through the wide network of partner organisations (from public, private and third sector) involved in the proposal.

The network builds on the success of previous projects in which beneficiaries have successfully delivered high impact research and knowledge exchange. ReTraCE is specifically designed to train a cohort of new thought leaders capable of driving the transition towards a more sustainable mode of production and consumption in Europe in the next decades, who will directly facilitate the implementation of the recently adopted ambitious Circular Economy strategy of the European Commission, which is closely linked to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, it is envisaged that ESRs will be employable not only by research institutions, but also by public sector bodies and within a wide range of manufacturing and service industries which will require new professional profiles for realising the transition towards the CE.

2. Entry Requirements

Students applying for the programme must have an excellent academic record (preferably Degrees with Distinction) and should possess a Master's Degree. In addition, potential work experience, research training and publications play an important role.

  • A relevant first Degree (preferably with Distinction)
  • A Master's Degree (preferably with Distinction)
  • Proof of English Language Qualifications

On top of the above, the candidates shall comply with the following MSCA requirements:

- Early Stage Researchers (ESR): ESRs are those who are, at the time of recruitment by the host, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and do not hold a doctorate. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate was envisaged.

- Conditions of international mobility of researchers: ESRs can be of any nationality. They are required to undertake physical, transnational mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up their appointment. At the time of selection by UNP, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.

- English language: Network fellows (ESRs) must demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the network training.

3. Benefits and salary

The successful candidates will receive an attractive salary in accordance with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) regulations for early stage researchers. The exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment and is dependent on the country correction factor (to allow for the difference in cost of living in different EU Member States)

Basic gross rates include a living allowance (€3270 per month), a mobility allowance (€600 per month) and a family allowance (€500, if applicable). ESRs will also get access to funds covering Research, Networking and Training costs. ESRs will also be enrolled for PhD studies at institutions which are part of the consortium. Funding will cover the entire 36-month period.

In addition to individual scientific projects, all fellows will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses and active participation in workshops and conferences.

4. Main Duties and Responsibilities

Applicants are expected to have an outstanding education record, be highly motivated and proactive, have excellent organisation and communication skills, be able to work independently as well as in a team, and be eager to disseminate research results through publications and presentations at international conferences and seminars. Fluency in English is a prerequisite. Women are especially encouraged to apply. In general, all ESR positions will be dealing with the following main duties:

- Conduct research into the design and development of novel research in each related theme in collaboration with researchers from the host institution as well as with those from the entire ReTraCE network.

  • Undertake reporting requirements for the project, present results to collaborators, to members of the research group and to external audiences.
  • Read academic papers, journals and textbooks and attend conferences to keep abreast of developments.
  • Prepare journal papers and presentations either in-house or at national/international conferences or seminars to disseminate research findings.
  • Write supporting documents to contribute to and support the work of the research group, e.g. reports, interim reports and grant applications.
  • Carry out administrative roles as required; arranging project progress meetings, etc.

Other duties, commensurate with the post and H2020-MSCA-ITN regulations:

  • Plan for specific aspects of research programmes. Timescales range from 1-6 months in advance.
  • If given a particular problem/hypothesis to examine, plan for own contribution up to 3 months ahead, incorporating issues such as the availability of resources, deadlines, project milestones and overall research aims. Design individual experiments weekly.
  • Coordinate and liaise with other members of the research group over work progress. Supervise research team/activities if required.
  • Continuously monitor and check results. The unpredictability of research means that daily planning needs to accommodate new developments.
  • Plan several months in advance to meet deadlines for journal publications and to prepare presentations and papers for conferences.

5. Submission process

All applications for the topics mentioned in Section 6 of this document must be uploaded by 15th January 2019 and must consist of a single .pdf file including:

  • a letter of interest
  • an updated CV
  • all the documentation the candidate will consider useful (including any document providing proof of knowledge of English language)
  • a research proposal

The candidate will receive an e-mail attesting the submission of his/her application and indicating a protocol number, that must be saved as identifier for the following steps.

The applicants will be shortlisted by local ReTraCE Recruitment Committees. The selection process will involve one or more interviews (to be contacted via skype and/or at UNP in Naples, Italy) with the proposed supervisors. The shortlisted candidates will be expected to deliver a 20-minute presentation about their proposed research project within the framework of the ESR general objective described above. The selected ESRs are to start their research as quickly as possible (target: May 2019). Note that all candidates who will be selected for the interview phase will be asked to provide official documentation proving their CV claims (education, past employment etc).

The research proposal should be typed, the length should be up to maximum 2,000 words and should include the following:

  1. Title of the proposed thesis
  2. Reference to one of the Specific Research Topics (Section 6)
  3. Background to research topic (this section needs to introduce the topic before discussing it in relation to wider academic debates. The section might seek to situate the topic and highlight why the issue being addressed is important - this should be identified and justified as an important/interesting academic issue not simply in terms of current media/political/popular interest).
  4. Specific problem(s) to be examined (in this section, the discussion of the topic needs to be more specific. The focus should include reference to the framework or conceptual approach that the research might seek to draw on. Also the discussion is likely to highlight and make reference to parallel, comparable and complimentary research. The aim of this section is essentially to set up the area of research specifically. The challenge is to ensure that the proposed research has a substantive empirical and conceptual focus, both of which are suitably grounded in contemporary academic debate with appropriate citations to relevant literature. By the end of the section a gap in existing knowledge needs to be highlighted and the research questions(s) that the thesis will address be stated).
  5. Methods of research proposal, plan and timetable of work (the research methods section needs to highlight what methods will be used and how, with an appropriate level of detail. In the case of quantitative research, the data set to be accessed and used should be identified and the nature if proposed statistical analysis detailed. In the case of more qualitative research, again the methods should be elaborated and proposed stakeholders/populations to be interviewed/surveyed should be detailed. Due consideration should be given to accessing relevant data/interviewees. Proposals should also highlight ethical issues and potential limitations).
  6. Any other information in support of your proposal, including recent literature citations and a brief bibliography

6. Research topics

The ESRs will contribute to the ITN joint research by focusing on the following topics:

Fellow Host Institution
Research Topic 1 - ESR5 UNP - University of Naples Parthenope (Italy)
Assessment of environmental costs and benefits of product reuse/recycling (WP2) Objectives: (i) To develop integrated biophysical assessment tools (based on the integration of LCA and Emergy Accounting) for monitoring and measuring costs & benefits, environmental impacts, progresses and bottlenecks of production systems in their pathway towards increased circularity (at micro and meso levels); (ii) To design a set of performance indicators to describe the environmental impact of recovery and disposal processes; (iii) To identify regulatory, organisational and technical solutions that are capable to remove barriers and promote increased circularity in the field of manufacturing industries; (iv) To test the tool applicability to the a selection of real-world case studies (e.g.: construction materials, road materials, metals).
Research Topic 2 - ESR6 UNP - University of Naples Parthenope (Italy)
Recovery of energy and materials from collection and treatment of organic residues (WP2) Objectives: (i) To evaluate circular patterns for treatment/recovery/disposal of urban waste organic residues, agricultural residues, industrial residues towards bioenergy and platform chemicals production via biological conversion (specific case studies: waste cooking oil, slaughterhouse waste, wastewater sludge and fermentation digestate); (ii) To identify the benefits related to the implementation of industrial eco-parks in terms of industrial organic waste and wastewater treatment, exchange of still usable resource flows, and agro-industrial integration (composting, fertirrigation, bioconversion); (iii) To evaluate to what extent the demand for energy, biomaterials, chemicals and fertilizers of the Campania Region (Italy) can be met by creating appropriate loops of resources and what are the needed processes and infrastructures.

Required Background and Skills: MSc in Environmental Science, Biological Science, Chemical Science, Environmental Engineering or related topics. Qualitative and/ or quantitative research methods, in particular Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Accounting.


Prof. Sergio Ulgiati, expertise in Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Accounting

Prof. Stefano Dumontet, expertise in Microbiology and Biorefineries, Coordinator of the international PhD course "Environment, Resources and Sustainable Development"

Prof. Renato Passaro, expertise in Management and Business Economics, Reverse Logistics, Supply Chain Management

Prof. Pier Paolo Franzese, expertise in systems ecology, GIS, Emergy Accounting

Dr. Roberto Cerchione, expertise in sustainable supply chain, knowledge management

Dr. Gabriella Fiorentino, expertise in green chemistry, biomass conversion processes, biorefineries and LCA of products and processes

Dr. Amalia Zucaro, expertise in environmental assessment, Life Cycle Assessment, GIS.

Main contact

Dr. Gabriella Fiorentino,