Phd Position Implementation Of Circular Business Models: Lessons From Practice (1.0 Fte)

Utrecht University
May 31, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD position Implementation of Circular Business Models: lessons from

practice (1.0 FTE)

Job description

While the theoretical body of knowledge on Circular Business Model Innovation (CBMI) is growing, there is a need for more empirical insights, and a translation of these insights into recommendations and guidelines for strategic and operational business decisions. What firms need to know to make a successful transition is not “what is circularity about?”, but rather “how do we get there?”.

This PhD position focuses on empirical work, making use of relevant academic concepts and theories. At the core of the PhD is the building of a large-scale European database on circular business model implementation across a wide variety of industrial sectors. This will entail the design and roll-out of a large-scale survey, data collection and processing, statistical analysis, as well as qualitative empirical research such as interviews, focus groups, etc. Underpinning literature research will be instrumental to assure scientific sound empirical work. The geographical scope of your empirical work will focus on Belgium and the Netherlands, but also other European countries can be addressed depending on your own interests and contacts. Based on your interests or former experience, you will further scope research questions and subtopics to focus on (e.g. change management, governance, capabilities, value chain collaboration, etc).

This PhD position is granted within the collaboration between VITO (B) and the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University (NL). You will be mainly stationed at VITO (Mol, Belgium), where you will be embedded in an application-oriented circular economy research team under supervision of Wim Van Opstal and Saskia Manshoven. Your academic supervision is located at Utrecht University, where you will be able to follow courses, seminars, and enjoy network opportunities with other researchers on circular business models. The academic supervisory team includes prof. dr. Marko Hekkert, dr. Julian Kirchherr, and dr. Christina Bidmon. Both institutions are output-oriented, with a strong focus on applicable knowledge development.


  • You hold (or are about to obtain) a master degree relevant to the position (e.g. (applied) economics, commercial engineering, innovation studies, (bio)-engineering with postgraduate studies in (applied) economics, …), for which you obtained a high GPA (a cum laude level is a prerequisite).
  • You have a goal- and output-oriented mindset and an entrepreneurial attitude. You are eager to take initiative, not afraid to pursue innovative ideas and you are able to work autonomously as a driver of your research.
  • You have strong communication skills and are eager to engage with practitioners and entrepreneurs, e.g. through networking, interviews, and surveys.
  • You are strong in stakeholder management, being able to translate multiple visions and feedback into feasible plans that work.
  • You are passionate about academic writing and translating practical knowledge into scientifically sound research.
  • You have strong reading, writing and conversation skills in English and Dutch (C1 proficiency level), other languages (e.g. French) are considered as a plus.
  • Relevant professional experience is considered as a plus.
  • You are willing to work in Mol (B) with regular visits to Utrecht (NL). Residential facilities for PhD students are available close to VITO premises, for more information click here.
  • Preferably, you have a driver's license (B).
  • Offer

  • A research position in a stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment on the nexus of academia (Utrecht University) and applied research (VITO), with access to a solid industrial network.
  • Support in publishing in high-ranked international scientific journals.
  • The opportunity to work towards obtaining a PhD degree within four years, in an international network of both academia and industry.
  • A strong delivery-oriented environment where you can see the results of your work at early stages in your PhD trajectory.
  • Frequent interactions with a joint supervisory team from Utrecht University and VITO, that will support you in achieving your research milestones and outputs in an efficient and impactful way. For more information about our approach, we can refer to Kirchherr, J. (2018). The lean PhD: Radically improve the efficiency, quality and impact of your research. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • The unique opportunity to create, analyze, and present the first large scale survey-based database on circular business models in Europe.
  • After your acceptance as PhD student at the university, you will be employed at VITO on a fulltime basis during your PhD (duration 4 years). Remuneration is in line with the standardized PhD salary paid at the Flemish universities.
  • About the organization

    UU-VITO collaboration

    This exciting PhD project joins the research capabilities and networks of Utrecht University and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, VITO. VITO's mission is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world, de- risking technological innovation for businesses, and transferring critical knowledge across the world. It works across themes such as sustainable chemicals, health, energy, as well as sustainable materials. From the side of Utrecht University, the project is embedded at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, in the Innovation Studies group. The Copernicus Institute is part of the Faculty of Geosciences. At the Copernicus Institute, our goal is to have a positive impact on the transition towards a sustainable future. The Copernicus Institute has had an excellent research evaluation in 2021 and the institute takes pride in maintaining its leading position in national and international sustainability research, and by developing new, internationally oriented teaching programmes.

    Additional information For more information about this position, do not hesitate to contact Wim van Opstal via [email protected] or Saskia Manshoven via [email protected]. Please submit your application, registration deadline 31/05/2023, through the VITO application portal by uploading your CV, letter of motivation, and bachelors and master degree transcripts. The selection procedure will start as soon as we receive your CV.

    The application deadline is 31/05/2023

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