Postdoc position: Governance of urban heating transformations (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Faculty of Geosciences
Application deadline: 

Job description

Within Utrecht University’s strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability an interdisciplinary team of Researchers has developed the challenging research programme ‘Transforming Cities through Infrastructures’. In this “research hub”, faculty members from different disciplines, together with local, national and international stakeholders have developed a platform for new transdisciplinary collaborations on urban sustainability transitions. One of the key mediators of these transitions are technical infrastructures - socio-technical systems in the provision of energy, water, wastewater, waste, mobility and information and communication services. However, changing urban infrastructures towards sustainability imposes exceptionally high requirements in terms of the transformation knowledge and transformative practices on decision makers.

Within the research hub, we currently invite applications for one position as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the field of “Governance of urban transformations toward low-carbon heating and cooling systems” (2 years, 1.0 FTE). Within the new H2020 project “Decarb City Pipes 2050 - Transition roadmaps to energy efficient, zero-carbon urban heating and cooling”, the Postdoctoral Researcher will conduct empirical research in the cities of Bilbao, Bratislava, Dublin, Munich, Rotterdam, Vienna and Winterthur and supervise Master student research in those cities. At the same time, the Postdoctoral Researcher will strongly engage with the local consortium partners (mostly city governments) and other local stakeholders to explore pathways to decarbonizing heating and cooling systems and thus facilitate a process of horizontal learning. The particular interest is in exploring the transformative capacity of urban energy governance and how specific transformative practices - visioning, experimentation, the design of contracts, sustainability assessment tools - could be integrated in strategic governance approaches that sustain and accelerate the transformation to zero-carbon urban futures.

The appointee will supervise six Master students who complete an internship at the local partner municipalities and conduct their thesis research on low-carbon transformations. Supported by those students and together with local consortium partners in the respective municipal governments the appointee will empirically analyze and compare transformation pathways of local heating/cooling systems, co-organize workshops with local stakeholders and develop recommendations on strategic governance approaches for the decarbonization of urban heating/cooling systems. Close collaboration with the consortium partners but also with the other Postdoctoral Researchers in the hub, is envisioned for achieving the overall project objectives.

For the position, expertise on urban energy/infrastructure systems and their governance, in empirical-analytical research and in transdisciplinary collaboration, strong methodological skills and experience in working across urban contexts is required. Apart from this research, the candidate will also have some teaching tasks in the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning. This will include the supervision of Master's theses in the context of the research project.


We seek a highly motivated candidate who holds a recent PhD in a relevant social science discipline such as urban planning, human geography, sustainability transitions, innovation studies or political science, who shows leadership and has excellent project management skills. 

If you:

  • have a proven record of research in the fields of urban energy and/or infrastructure research, socio-technical innovation and/or urban energy/climate governance, leading to high-quality publications; 
  • know how to facilitate stakeholder workshops and spark processes of social learning and see added value in collaborating in inter- and transdisciplinary research projects;
  • have excellent project management skills;
  • are able to acquire external research funding in competition;
  • are willing and confident to teach beyond your niche of expertise and to supervise Master students;
  • are proficient in both written and spoken English;
  • are a team player and are looking forward to contributing to, and collaborating in an interdisciplinary academic environment,

we encourage you to apply.


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE) for a period of two years. In case of a good performance and sufficient budget, extending the employment for three months is a possibility. The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience  - ranges between €2,790 and €3,619 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning has its focus on the enhancement of long-term economic developments of cities, how to cope with social inequalities, and how to accelerate sustainability transitions of cities and infrastructures. Research on these topics takes place within our research program “Urban Futures: Transitions Towards Economic and Social Sustainability for Cities”.

Our research programme is the basis for our Research Master's Human Geography and Geographical Information Management and Applications and Professional Master's in Spatial Planning, Human Geography and International Development Studies. The Department also runs a large and highly appreciated Bachelor's programme and is part of the Netherlands Graduate School of Urban and Regional Research for PhD candidates. Unique characteristics of the Department are a special team focusing on innovations within teaching methods, its strong involvement in the transdisciplinary sustainability research theme and professional consultancy for public partners. 

Additional information

For more information on the research approach and the position, please contact Prof Jochen Monstadt, via or Dr Peter Pelzer ,via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To apply, please send the following documentation via the 'apply' button below: 

  • a letter of application which describes your motivation and qualifications and specifies your interest in the position;
  • a one-page document stating how your academic expertise and ideas, but also your previous experience in inter-/transdisciplinary research could contribute to the success of the research;
  • your curriculum vitae and a list of publications;
  • a one-page document listing your teaching expertise;
  • the names and addresses of two referees.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews may be subject to change.

The application deadline is 7 August 2020.