PhD scholarship: Sustainable Energy Transitions in Developing Countries

The Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development, part of the UNEP DTU Partnership, invites applications for a PhD research project focused on development implications of sustainable energy transitions in Sub Saharan Africa.

Over the past 25 years, the Centre on Climate, Energy and Sustainable development of the UNEP DTU Partnership ( has become a leading international research and advisory hub on energy, climate and sustainable Development. The Partnership is an integrated part of the Department of Management Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The Centre works in close partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and has project activities in more than 50 developing countries. The Centre collaborates with a large number of national and international government and research institutions, especially in developing countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is currently witnessing a rapid increase in private investments in energy infrastructure, such as large-scale grid connected solar and wind energy, privately operated mini-grids and individual solutions in terms of solar lanterns and solar home systems. This opens opportunities for locally based companies to engage in all levels of the value chain, including local assembly and local co-production potentially leading to job creation and local industrial development. There is, however, very limited empirical knowledge on how, and to which what extent lower and medium income countries in SSA will be able to reap these development benefits from a green energy transition, and what specific energy, industrial and other policies would sustain such a development.

Project aims
The PhD project will investigate sustainable energy transitions in developing countries with a specific focus on the role and influence of government, the private sector and donor agencies, in ensuring local development benefits of this transition. This will lead to a broader aim of improving the understanding of the interface between the development states, markets and donors as they relate to the innovation, production and diffusion of low-carbon energy technologies.

Research methodology
The project will pursue an interdisciplinary analytical framework combining different theoretical perspectives as well as methodological approaches. Options would be to situate this research at the intersection between innovation and development studies, including the literatures on innovation systems, global value chains, infant industry development and catching-up.

Research methods should preferably be in the form of qualitative (primary) data collection and analysis, as a complement to desk-based literature reviews and quantitative (secondary) data collection. The research should be solidly grounded in a prolonged period of in-depth, empirical field research. The final thesis will be structured and presented as four academic articles, in addition to an analytical overview/synthesis explaining the theoretical framework and research methods.

Candidates should have a Master’s degree in a relevant social science discipline (for example development studies, human geography, international business and management, political science, innovation studies), ideally with a focus or component on sustainable energy and climate change mitigation and/or business and innovation studies. Strong oral and written English communication skills are essential. Knowledge of another major European language is desirable but not necessary, as is prior experience with working in a developing country.

Candidates will be expected to demonstrate the ability to work independently, to plan and carry out independent research, including field work in developing countries. Candidates are expected to have a high degree of self-motivation, leading their research project with the support of two co-supervisors.

Project environment and research Group
The successful candidate will join an international team of about 65 professionals in an interdisciplinary work environment, with a broad portfolio of activities and an extensive network of professional contacts to research and government institutions in developing countries as well as the UN system. The candidate will be placed in the Cleaner Energy Development programme and be part of a research cluster on sustainability transitions.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarships for the PhD degree are subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes of DTU. For information about the general requirements for enrolment and the general planning of the scholarship studies, please see the DTU PhD Guide.

The PhD student will be selected through a competitive application process. Online applications, including a research proposal of max. 6 pages incl. references will be screened against a set of criteria and a shortlist of candidates will be invited to an interview and to present their project proposals (via skype if based abroad).

Salary and appointment terms
The salary and appointment terms are consistent with the current rules for PhD degree students. The period of employment is 3 years. The place of employment is the Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development of the UNEP DTU Partnership, located at the UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Further information
PhD supervisors will be Ivan Nygaard and Subash Dhar. Ivan Nygaard (ivny [at] dtu [dot] dk) can be contacted directly to answer any specific questions.

Application Please submit your online application no later than 7 October 2017. Applications must be submitted as one pdf file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link „Apply online,“ fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one pdf file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and excel spreadsheet here)
  • Project proposal, including background, rationale, methodological approach, case study ideas (max 6 pages)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master’s degree, but cannot begin before having received it. The candidate should be available to start the employment by 1 December 2017.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 5,800 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society; and our 11,000 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government, and public agencies.