PhD position in sustainable governance of major steel infrastructure

Fancy how the Erasmus bridge, wind turbines, or major steel infrastructures in general are (re-)built, used, and governed? Come and find out how they can be sustainable and circular designed and used!

Job description

We are looking for a four-year full-time PhD candidate. Your PhD research project will be an integral part of the NWO Key Technologies programme named Sustainable and Reliable Macro steel infra-structures. SUBLIME brings together a huge ambitious consortium, consisting of four Dutch universities, municipalities and provinces, port authorities, engineering firms, and national and multinational firms. Large steel infrastructures (bridges, sheet piles, lock doors) degrade in time through corrosion and fatigue. The goals of the project are to increase the sustainability and circularity of these infrastructures and to develop governance recommendations that operationalize the technical knowledge. To achieve this, SUBLIME takes a comprehensive approach by considering technical, socioeconomic, environmental, political, and governance aspects. In the project, predictive digital twins will be developed that integrate structural health monitoring and prediction models. This enables a much longer – but safe – use of these infrastructures. The consequent socioeconomic and environmental benefits will be assessed as well. This unique combination of transdisciplinary fields will result in specific technical and governance recommendations to achieve sustainable and reliable steel infrastructures, recommendations of high societal need.

In your PhD research, you will help to develop a governance framework and strategies for reliable and circular steel infrastructures, the overall goal of Work Package (WP) 3 in SUBLIME. The main problem WP3 wants to solve is to overcome the issue that important technical and socioeconomic knowledge is not translated into achievable change, an issue that is not uncommon in research. Therefore, we seek someone who is able to enact a dialogue between on the one hand the more technical researchers in the project, wherein the digital twin and the different technologies will be developed, and on the other hand the public and private stakeholders, with which together (policy) recommendations will be formulated.

Your tasks will be twofold. First you will need to understand and analyse the network wherein the different steel structures (two case studies) are part of. This involves understanding where materials and products come from / or go back to, how they are transported, where they are stored, but also what is the use of the infrastructure (e.g. the geographical economic relevance). For this you will closely work with the other PhD in WP3, who will be based at the CML in University of Leiden. Next, this first task also considers the actor-network of the bridge, from a more abstract perspective: who owns the technologies, who owns the (critical) materials, who makes or maintains (parts of) these major steel infrastructures, what skills are needed, who are the shareholders, what are relevant regulations, etc. The second task is more proactive. Here all the gained knowledge from your research and new insights from the other WPs need to be translated in action and policy recommendations. What is specifically needed to achieve sustainable and circular designed and used major steel infrastructures in The Netherlands? In this task, you will interact more and more with relevant stakeholders, take part in workshops, be part of expert sessions, in general thus go into the field and co-create change.


It is expected that you will:

  • Execute a thorough literature study as well as performing initial interviews with all relevant research, private, and public consortium partners to start to understand the different perspectives, challenges, and problems of steel infrastructures.
  • Map, visualise (e.g. Illustrator, GIS), and analyse the flows and stocks of materials, where stakeholders are located, what institutional structures are relevant, etc.
  • Develop policy recommendations that are relevant for all consortium members, cf. recommendations regarding education, regulation, investments, R&D.
  • Efficiently communicate, verbally and in writing, the scientific results with your supervisors and with the consortium members during regular progress meetings, as well as to publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The following qualifications are a plus:

  • MSc. in spatial or social sciences, such as geography, spatial planning, (economic and/or sustainability) governance, spatial management, or urbanism. But enthusiasm weights more!
  • Experience with working with economic and/or spatial data, such as visualisation or database-construction.
  • Eager to conduct a multidisciplinary project.
  • Have a proven level in writing and speaking English.
  • An enthusiast team player who can also work independently.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Architecture & the Built Environment

The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has a leading role in education and research worldwide. The driving force behind the faculty’s success is its robust research profile combined with the energy and creativity of its student body and academic community. It is buzzing with energy from early in the morning until late at night, with four thousand people studying, working, designing, conducting research and acquiring and disseminating knowledge. Our faculty has a strong focus on ‘design-oriented research’, which has given it a top position in world rankings.

Staff and students are working to improve the built environment with the help of a broad set of disciplines, including architectural design, urban planning, building technology, social sciences, process management, and geo-information science. The faculty works closely with other faculties, universities, private parties, and the public sector, and has an extensive network in the Netherlands as well as internationally.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built.

The project will be executed at the Delft University of Technology within the Department of Management in the Built Environment, in the Urban Development Management section. You will be supervised and work closely with Dr. Karel Van den Berghe, the lead of WP3, and also work closely with the other PhD’s, in particular with the PhD student working at the CML. You will be co-supervised by Professor Ellen van Bueren. You also will work together with the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment’s ‘Circular Built Environment Hub’, bringing together around 80 researchers working on the circular economy and sustainability from various perspectives.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Karel Van den Berghe,
e-mail: or go to

For information about the application procedure, please contact Paulien Stastra, HR advisor,

The position will remain open until May 2, 2023 (local Dutch time + 2 hrs). You must apply via the “Apply now” button. Applications via e-mail will not be processed.

Application procedure

Are you interest in this vacancy? Please upload the following mandatory documents:

  • Detailed CV with contact information for 2 referees.
  • Detailed transcripts of university grades.
  • Motivation letter (1-2 pages) that should address your vision of the project and how you would fit for the advertised position.

Please note:

  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.