RESPONSE – A new Doctoral Programme

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The RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel - and the three internationally renowned competence centers Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (PSC), the World Food System Center and Energy Science Center. RESPONSE DP is centrally managed by the PSC. It will start in February 2020.

Call 2 for PhD candidate applications closed.

Currently, RESPONSE DP is offering 7 early-stage researcher’s positions (see table below) for 36 months (100%) at the interface of science and policy, as well as science and innovation at one of the three world-leading academic host organization - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich or University of Basel. RESPONSE DP will train ESRs to reflect on their role as scientists in society, contributing with evidence to policymaking and to build capacities to address global challenges in the areas of sustainable food systems, sustainable energy systems and sustainable land use decisions.

While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment in the natural, life and engineering sciences at one of the three host organization, the ESRs will be co-supervised by renowned Partner Organizations, for example from industry, public and civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations or governmental organizations to transfer research results into policy or society.

A mandatory secondment (= internship) of 3 to 12 months at selected partner organizations such as Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL (CH), mi2-factory GmbH (DE), Swiss Fruit Union (CH), DLF Seeds A/S (DK), Swiss Federal Office of Energy (CH), Epibreed AG (CH), and PSI (Photon Systems Instruments, CZ) is part of each project. The specific time and duration of the secondment is indicated in the individual position announcement (see table below).

Successful candidates will be matriculated at either ETH Zurich, University of Zurich or University of Basel based on the academic supervisor’s location with a PhD awarded after successful completion of a PhD thesis. All successful applicants will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, PhD fellows will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.

Currently Open Projects and Positions

Project title (Number)

Research field

Host Org.

Secondment partner

Engineering the Policy-Enabled Transition to Sustainable Multi-Energy Microgrids (ESR05) (PDF, 278 KB)

Energy systems, 

Energy economics and policy


Swiss Federal Office of Energy, Switzerland

ROSE: Role of Bioenergy in Sustainable Energy Systems (ESR09) (PDF, 277 KB)

Energy systems modelling,

Food systems modelling


Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland

Quality-enhanced power semiconductor devices for reliable energy conversion (QEPSREC) (ESR10) (PDF, 279 KB)

Semiconductor physics,

Wide-bandgap electronics


mi2-factory GmbH, (Germany)

Developing climate ready apple production systems in Switzerland (ESR11) (PDF, 279 KB)

Environmental science,

Plant biology;



Swiss Fruit Association, Switzerland

Exploitation of genomic resources to spike forage breeding programs (ESR12) (PDF, 661 KB)

Plant genomics

Forage grass genomics, bioinformatics


DLF, Denmark

Towards improved crop resilience – discovering essential factors that control chloroplast development (ESR13) (PDF, 666 KB)

Plant Science

Cell biology, organelle development, fluorescence and electron microscopy, image processing


PSI (Photon Systems Instruments), Czech Republic

ChromoBreed - From Chromatin to Plant Breeding (ESR14) (PDF, 333 KB)

Chromatin Biology, Epigenetics, Transposable elements, Plant breeding


Epibreed AG, Switzerland

For details about the individual projects, please download the project and job descriptions.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Only early stage researcher (ESR) can benefit from the RESPONSE DP. ESRs are researchers in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree, which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.
  • The applicant must not have a doctoral degree yet.
  • They must hold a Master's degree or equivalent. It is possible to apply when the master's degree is received until the starting date of the fellowship.
  • At the application deadline (= Call 2, July 1, 2020), applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

Application and Recruitment

RESPONSE DP guarantees fair recruitment criteria and procedures on the basis of open competition and selection of candidates that show scientific excellence in their CV.

Applications shall include:

  • a CV (tabular)
  • a personal motivation letter to be uploaded under ‘Further documents’ in the online application portal
  • 2-3 reference letters
  • diploma(s) and additional supporting information (e.g. proof of competence in English).
  • Within the letter of motivation, the applicant shall:
    • refer to his/her preferred individual research project(s) (i.e. indicate project number(s) ESR xxx)
    • describe his/her motivation to join RESPONSE DP.
  • The applicant can start the position earliest September 2020 and shall be available for the position latest in November 2020.

Application needs to be submitted via the online application portal: (► Select the PhD program Science and Policy)

Benefits and Working Conditions

Each RESPONSE position offers an interesting opportunity to work at the interface of science and innovation. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at University of Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel (see table above), the ESR will be jointly co-supervised an academic Professional Investigator and the non-academic partner.

The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at either University of Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel (see table above). He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondment will take place in Switzerland or abroad (see table above).

This program offers a three-year (36-month) full-time position (100%) according to the PhD salary regulations of the University Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel and according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. The gross salary will not be lower than CHF 3920.


The RESPONSE research and training programme is unique. PhD students will collaborate with a non-recruiting partner organisation at the science-policy-society interface or with a private organisation (enterprise) and will spend a mandatory secondment of 3-12 months.

Together with their partner organisation and stakeholders PhD students will co-create societally relevant and desirable research and innovation outcomes. Each PhD student will contribute to one Stakeholder Meeting and one Citizen Consensus Conference.

PhD students will be enrolled in the PSC Doctoral Programme Science and Policy. They will be trained in different fields such as:

  • Communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public;
  • Involvement of different stake-holder groups in a participative process to co-produce knowledge;
  • Policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global level;
  • Establishing contacts to policy-implementing organisations, industry, national and international NGOs, GOs and IGOs; and
  • Development of a high standard of scientific responsibility and responsiveness towards the needs of the public.

RESPONSE DP aims to become a flagship example of inter-sectoral research, underpinned with a dedicated training curriculum to foster awareness, expertise and competence in Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Research Topics

RESPONSE DP addresses challenges in the fields of sustainable food system, sustainable transitions in the energy sector and sustainable land use decisions. Approved projects (Call 1 and 2).