Are you willing to contribute to transitioning towards sustainability by investigating new business opportunities to invest in soil health? We are looking for an ambitious and highly motivated PhD candidate interested in designing innovative sustainable business models for soil health.

In order to invest in conservation, recovery and resilience of soil health to climate change,  a new pan-European project on Soil Health will co-create a framework for developing innovative business models and incentive tools based on the economic valuation of the ecosystem services delivered by soil. Building on living labs and lighthouses as outdoor laboratories, the project will provide data, evidence, tools and models to assess how investment in soil health can contribute to the transition to a long-term resilient and sustainable use of soil.

We are looking for a PhD candidate that will scientifically contribute to the development of the framework for investing in soil health, with a focus on designing new sustainable business models. The ideal candidate will identify (business innovation) pathways to transition into more soil-health friendly agricultural systems, but also forestry, urban and industrial systems.

Specific tasks will be:

  • set up a protocol for designing sustainable business models for soil health considering different geographical contexts and uses of soil;
  • explore the potential of socio-ecological and technological innovation pathways to support adoption and diffusion of sustainable business models and strategies for enhancing soil health;
  • co-design together with different stakeholders new sustainable business models that capture greater economic, environmental and social value from investment in soil health.

The selected candidate will join the Business Management and Organisation group (BMO, Social Science) of Wageningen University team and will:   

  • Be part of a pan-European research project and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of soil scientists, agronomists, applied economists, business experts, enterprises, farmers, public agencies among the others from ten different countries; 
  • Identify new business opportunities in soil health based on the economic valuation of the ecosystem services provided by soil;    
  • Co-design innovative business models together with stakeholders to create greater value for investment in soil health; 
  • Develop and validate a portfolio of innovative business models; 
  • Participate and present research findings at international conferences, and publish articles in academic journals;
  • Provide relevant information for decision support to stakeholders and policymakers by translating research findings into practical recommendations.

We ask

  • A university degree (MSc or MA) in a discipline relevant to the PhD project, with preference for but not limited to: sustainable business management, agricultural economics, agri-business, business economics, food supply chain, food governance, soil and/or crop science with a proven interest in business and economics.   
  • Interest, knowledge and experience with qualitative methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups, co-creation design, design science, literature review and qualitative content analysis). Experience with quantitative methods is also valued.  
  • Academic writing skills and English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level, expected C1). Knowledge of the Dutch language is a plus; 
  • Ability to work independently, as well as in an international interdisciplinary team; 
  • Good organisational and project management skills; 
  • Experience with academic journal publication is a strong plus. 

The preferred starting date is 1 February 2023 

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere. 

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the “30% rule”, certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Valentina C. Materia, BMO group, Wageningen University, project leader.

For more information about the procedure, please contact Jeanine van ‘t Veer Recruiter  via email

Do you want to apply? 
You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.  

This vacancy will be listed up to and including  22nd of December 2022. Your application will be reviewed in the meantime, and in case of potential suitability an introductory interview will be scheduled with you. Once a suitable candidate has been found, the vacancy will be closed. So do not wait to apply. Start date is as soon as possible.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR.

We are

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

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