Monday 20

Postdoctoral Researcher in Responsible Innovation and Circular Economy at Wageningen UR

Posted by Vincent Blok on 20 Mar 2017

Post:                                 Postdoctoral Researcher in Responsible Innovation and Circular Economy
 
Project name:                   Responsible Innovation Practices of Sustainable Entrepreneurs in Making the Transition towards sustainable agricultural, water and energy systems 
 
We offer you an employment contract for 0.9 FTE (34,2 hours a week) for 12 months. The maximum gross salary is € 3,427.00 per month (based on fulltime employment), (scale 11.0 Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities). In addition, we offer a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary.
The post is available to start on May 1st 2017.
 
Short JOB DESCRIPTION

MVI entrepreneurship is a NWO funded project that aims to explore how dimensions of responsible innovation (RI) are applied by new technology based firm (NTBFs) start-ups developing climate change innovations in the field of climate-smart agriculture, how sustainable entrepreneurs can benefit from RI, and how the innovation systems NTBFs operate in can be conductive to RI. While Post-doc one, who is already employed, focusses on the actor level of NTBFs involved in climate-smart agriculture, water, and energy systems, we are looking for a second postdoc who will focus on the systems level. 

Post-doc one has already started to explore how sustainable entrepreneurs manage socio-ethical factors at the actor level, and has identified barriers for the application of RI by NTBFs, such as the need to balance economic and sustainability (societal) objectives, customer reluctance to pay a premium and an industry with vested interests.  In post-doc two, we explore how the management of socio-ethical issues by NTBFs is impacted by the innovation system that sustainable entrepreneurs operate in. This includes the system responsible for the development of innovations (i.e. technological innovation system), but also the wider system and set of actors that influence the start-up and entrepreneurial process, such as supply chain actors, inter-firm linkages, investors, facilitating agents such as government, as well as societal actors and consumers. The research question of post-doc two is: How do innovation system dynamics interact with the implementation of RI by sustainable entrepreneurs, and what are the implications for sustainable entrepreneurship and RI?
This work will have an interdisciplinary nature, drawing on disciplines such as innovation system approaches, transitions management, sustainable entrepreneurship, responsible innovation, and potentially wider management science and science and technology studies approaches. An affinity with understanding and dealing with socio-economic and socio-ethical issues will be needed/an advantage.
 
Extended Job Description

Climate change requires new green technologies and transitions in socio-technical systems. A key leverage points for this transition is found in sustainable entrepreneurs (Gibbs 2006), who establish New Technology Based Firms (NTBF’s) providing innovative solutions (Leach et al. 2012). Sustainable innovations are developed and diffused into society through sustainable entrepreneurship (Schaltegger and Wagner 2011). The sustainable innovations provided by NTBFs can be considered responsible innovations (RI), since they address so-called ‘grand challenges’ of our time, such as climate change (European Commission 2013), but they are also associated with a range of socio-ethical issues. In this research project, two post-docs explore how dimensions of RI are applied by NTBFs start-ups developing climate change innovations in the field of climate-smart agriculture, how sustainable entrepreneurs can benefit from RI, and how the innovation systems that NTBFs operate in can be conductive to RI. Post-doc one will focus on the actor level of NTBFs involved in climate-smart agriculture, water, and energy systems, whilst postdoc two will focus on the systems level. 

Post-doc one already started to explore how sustainable entrepreneurs manage socio-ethical factors at the actor level, and identified barriers for the application of RI by NTBFs, such as the need to balance economic and sustainability (societal) objectives, customer reluctance to pay a premium and an industry with vested interests. In post-doc two, we explore how the management of socio-ethical issues by NTBFs is impacted by the innovation system that sustainable entrepreneurs operate in. This includes the system responsible for the development of innovations (i.e. technological innovation system), but also the wider system and set of actors that influence the start-up and entrepreneurial process, such as supply chain actors, inter-firm linkages, investors, facilitating agents such as government, as well as societal actors and consumers. The research question of post-doc two is: How do innovation system dynamics interact with the implementation of RI by sustainable entrepreneurs, and what are the implications for sustainable entrepreneurship and RI? 

To this end, post-doc two will examine the existing innovation system involved in sustainable agricultural, water, and energy systems in the Netherlands, and compare it with the emerging innovation system associated with the circular economy (CE). The creation of a CE requires a shift from a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy, to one that circulates materials in closed loops, reducing resource use and minimising waste. The economy within the EU is still largely based on a linear model, meaning 95% of material and energy value is lost; this includes for example the wasting of 1/3rd of food along the food chain (Mckinsey & Co. 2015). Adjusting to a CE could save business 8% of turnover and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4% (European Commission 2015). Achieving the transition to CE requires cross-firm integration and coordination, meaning careful design, heightened awareness, and consensus-building between a range of different stakeholders (Zhu, Kraemer, and Xu 2006; Aravendan and Panneerselvam 2014). We expect that the circular economy may provide an alternative innovation system in which the barriers of the application of RI by NTBFs are mitigated because of its strong normative focus, focus on inter-firm and chain collaboration, and the acknowledgement of the carrying capacity of the eco-systems of planet Earth.
In the context of a CE system, which constitutes a radical and transformative change, socio-ethical issues and their management can be expected to be quite prominent. The management of socio-ethical factors by sustainable entrepreneurs is likely to be impacted by supply chain dynamics for example – developing innovations for CE requires an understanding of the whole system, and collaboration with a wide range of actors. Ensuring that products have longer life cycles, means that they are often more expensive (due to the internalisation of externalities). This raises public good issues, as the costs are private, but the benefits public. In this respect, the institutions governing the design of the CE could provide support for the application of RI practices by NBTFs. 

Equally, RI by NTBFs could offer an opportunity to better manage the development of CE. CE require radical and transformative innovations, likely to impact large numbers of actors (which could result in socio-ethical barriers). Managing these different stakeholders, their differing expectations and interests is challenging. These challenges could be eased by following a RI process. Stakeholder engagement for RI can help prevent rebound or rejection.

Key questions include how the relationship dynamics/inter-firm linkages between different actors involved in the RI delivery ecosystem impact the management of socio-ethical factors by NTBFs, whether these processes represent a driver or barrier to RI in NTBFs, and whether RI can be seen as a supportive factor in the transition to CE. In order to answer these questions, postdoc two: 
1.    Will initially conduct a desk based review of relevant literature. It is expected that relevant concepts will/could be drawn from innovation system theories, circular economy/industrial ecology (cf. Graedel and Allenby 2010; Murray, Skene, and Haynes 2017), transitions management, sustainable entrepreneurship, and responsible innovation literature to identify key concepts and constructs. These will then be developed into initial frameworks and interview schedules. 
2.    Will map the innovation system in the Netherlands and the emerging CE innovation system. This task will involve the identification of the key system agents, such as relevant research and development organizations, public sector actors, policy schemes, financial actors and key industry organizations.  The character and nature of the linkages between these agents, and their motivations/interests will also be explored. This process will utilize both desk-based research as well as the conducting of 30 interviews with system agents. By collecting this information, an examination of how the system operates and what the roles of the different actors are, will be possible. In turn, this will provide information on key systems drivers or barriers to RI, as well as how RI could play a role in the development of CE.
3.    Will use these results in order a) to identify key system drivers and barriers for the management of socio-ethical factors in the innovation and start-up process (RI), and (b) provide insight of how and to what extent RI could play a positive role in facilitating the transition towards CE, such as enhancing societal embeddedness of innovations.  
Till now little is known about the driving and blocking factors that determine the development process from a linear towards a circular production model, nor the type of innovation system required. Conceptually, CE lacks consideration of social and ethical dimensions, meaning there is little understanding of how these factors impact system transition (Murray, Skene, and Haynes 2017). Finally, the potential advantages of CE for the further development and implementation of RI is not researched yet, neither is the role RI could play in the transition toward a CE. This research project therefore has potential high scientific and societal impact.  
 
Requirements

For this research project, which is funded by NWO-MVI, we are looking for a post-doc researcher in the field of sustainable entrepreneurship, responsible innovation (RI), systems change and/or circular economy. You are an ambitious scientist and a team player, devoted to research and education. Ideally, you have completed your PhD in the field of business administration, Responsible Innovation or science and technology studies, with a clear focus on one or more of the following fields: innovation system approaches, transitions management, sustainable entrepreneurship, responsible innovation, and potentially wider management science and science and technology studies approaches. An affinity with understanding and dealing with socio-economic and socio-ethical issues will be needed/an advantage.

You are interested in research in combination with hands-on consultancy and advice, and have preferably experience with business modelling in practice.

Furthermore, you have built a strong international research network or you are in the process of building one. You have the ability to acquire externally financed projects and like to work in an interdisciplinary context. You are fluent in English and have published in international refereed scientific journals. Women are strongly encouraged to apply.
 
ABOUT THE PROJECT TEAM

Wageningen University is part of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), which is a leading international knowledge institute in the fields of nutritional health, sustainable agricultural systems, and environmental quality. WUR consists of Wageningen University, eight research institutes, two applied research institutes and a training and advisory centre. WUR has 6,500 employees and over 4,500 students. The research institutes carry out strategic, applied and practical research for businesses, governments, and stakeholder groups. The research institutes and university work together closely in five areas of expertise: Social-, Plant-, Environmental-, Animal- and Agrotechnology & Food Sciences.

The Social Sciences Group (SSG) of WUR consists of the Department of Social Sciences which consists of 22 Chair Groups, the Agricultural Economics Institute (LEI) and the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) and has approximately 750 employees. The Social Sciences Group combines the strengths of scientific research and education in the field of people and society and is extremely qualified to support governments, companies, and civil-society organisations in the choices they have to make. SSG is involved in various national and international projects. 

The management studies group (MST) conducts leading research in the field of chain and network science, with a special focus on stakeholder engagement, (responsible) innovation and internationalization. MST offers and contributes to a broad range of different educational programs for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Central in MST’s research program is the quest for understanding and managing the rapidly developing international chains and networks, with a special focus on stakeholder engagement, societal- and ethical dimensions of innovation processes, innovation management, technology adoption, transparency and sustainability. 

The research project will be embedded in the management science chair group. Dr Vincent Blok is working at the management science chair group as associate professor. He is expert in the field of RI, sustainable entrepreneurship and business ethics and currently supervises 10 PhD’s and 1 Post-doc in these fields. Next to the Management Science chair group, the knowledge, technology, and innovation chair group is involved in this project. Prof Phil MacNaghten has extensive expertise in the governance of science and technology and in the development of frameworks of responsible (research and) innovation. 
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON INTERVIEWS
The starting date of this position is May 1 2017. Interviews are planned for 12th April.
 
HOW TO APPLY
1.    A letter of application detailing why you are applying for the job and how the project will benefit from your participation.
2.    A full cv.
3.    A two-page document setting out how you would approach this research project (appropriate theories to be used, research design and data collection approach).
 
The deadline for applications is April 9, 2017, 2017. Please do not email your application, but use the website to upload your application: http://www.wur.nl/en/Respond-to-vacancy-page.htm?vacancyurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.connexys.nl%2Fwageningenurpublic%2Frun%2Fregister%24.startup%3Fz_f_taal%3D2%26z_kan_advertentie_id%3D38404 .
 
INFORMAL INQUIRIES

Before submitting an application, you may wish to discuss the post further by contacting Vincent Blok on vincent.blok@wur.nl (06-41667469)
 
Reference list: 

  • Aravendan, Muthusamy, and Ramasamy Panneerselvam. 2014. "An Integrated Multi-Echelon Model for a Sustainable Closed Loop Supply Chain Network Design."  Intelligent Information Management 6 (06):257.
  • European Commission. 2013. "Options for Strengthening Responsible Research and Innovation." In, edited by Expert Group on the State of Art in Europe on Responsible Research and Innovation. Brussels: European Commission 
  • European Commission. 2015. "Circular Economy Package." In European Commission - Fact Sheet. Brussels European Commission 
  • Gibbs, David. 2006. "Sustainability Entrepreneurs, Ecopreneurs and the Development of a Sustainable Economy."  Greener Management International 2006 (55):63-78. doi: 10.9774/GLEAF.3062.2006.au.00007.
  • Graedel, T. E., and B.R.  Allenby. 2010. Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Engineering Pearson.
  • Leach, Melissa, Johan Rockström, Paul Raskin, Ian Scoones, Andy C. Stirling, Adrian Smith, John Thompson, et al. 2012. "Transforming Innovation for Sustainability."  Ecology and Society 17 (2). doi: 10.5751/ES-04933-170211.
  • Mckinsey & Co. 2015. "Europe’s circular-economy opportunity." In. USA: McKinsey & Company 
  • Murray, Alan, Keith Skene, and Kathryn Haynes. 2017. "The Circular Economy: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Concept and Application in a Global Context."  Journal of Business Ethics 140 (3):369-80. doi: 10.1007/s10551-015-2693-2.
  • Schaltegger, Stefan, and Marcus Wagner. 2011. "Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions."  Business Strategy and the Environment 20 (4):222-37. doi: 10.1002/bse.682.
  • Zhu, K. , K.L.  Kraemer, and S.  Xu. 2006. "The Process of Innovation Assimilation by Firms in Different Countries: A Technology Diffusion Perspective in E-Business."  Management Science 52 (10).


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