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iCircular3 Doctoral Network

Marie Curie Doctoral Network PhD scholarships: Digital Transition of Circular Economy

The iCircular3 (Intelligent circular lifecycles of industrial robots, outdoor power products, and electric vehicle)project involves a consortium of seven partners, four industry partners (KUKA Robotics, Ireland; IOTA Stiftung, Germany; Future Mobility Campus, Ireland and Husqvarna, Sweden) and three academic partners (University College Dublin, Ireland; Imperial College London, UK; Jönköping University, Sweden), who together, will host 9 PhDs. iCircular3 will recruit and train 9 Researchers to conduct sector-specific projects related to circular lifecycle perspectives; combined, the projects will contribute to the development of new guidelines and digital tools for the integration of circularity in industry, as well as the identification of cross-sector commonalities. The strong academic/industry interaction in iCircular3 will ensure the relevance of each research project. Researchers will receive high-level industry-led research training and professional development courses, with a view to opening their career perspectives. Funding for these projects has been provided by the EU under their competitive HORIZON-MSCA-2021-DN-01 (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Networks) programme under Grant Agreement No. 101073508.

The consortium is now inviting applications for up to 9 highly motivated and talented PhD candidates (Researchers) for these fully-funded positions, as summarised below. Recruitment will remain open until all positions are filled in and as soon as possible. The target start dates for the positions will be in May-June 2023 or sooner. Researchers will be employed on a full-time basis and based at one of six particular host institutions. They will also spend up to 6 months on secondment at either beneficiaries or associated partners, thereby ensuring that all Researchers will spend time in both academia and industry, and in at least two different countries.

Please read the details of each project description and further instructions on 'How to Apply' for these PhD positions toward the end of this page.

Host/employer:IOTA Foundation, Germany

Supervisors: Prof Nikolaos Papakostas & Dr Pezhman Ghadimi (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/)

Industry Advisor: Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA) and Mr Brian Cooney (KUKA Ireland)

Secondments: 6 months in Ireland (Industry and Academia)

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

Digital production and automation using industrial robots have increased during the past decade. This makes the EoL of industrial robots a critical problem that has not been addressed properly. The primary objective of this project is to apply advanced blockchain and CE principles to robotic applications. R1 will examine the application of IOTA’s Digital Ledger Technology, a platform based on Direct Acyclic Graphs principles, for storing information, while tracking the operation of robots in assembly tasks so that disassembly process plans be generated with the support and extending the advanced digital manufacturing and simulation tools previously developed at UCD, automated CAD-integrated disassembly sequence generation (CADSG) algorithm and platform. In this way, disassembly and recycling process plans will be provided in an automatic way to recycling companies after the EoL of a product. R1 will develop a novel digital tool that will allow for automated data exchange among stakeholders in diverse product life cycle stages towards reducing the time needed for designing dismantling and recycling processes.

Host/employer: KUKA Robotics, Ireland

Supervisors:Prof Nikolaos Papakostas & Dr Pezhman Ghadimi (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/)

Industry Advisor: Mr Brian Cooney (KUKA Ireland) and Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA) 

Secondments: 3 months in Ireland and 3 months in Germany

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

R2 will take advantage of novel digital technologies towards allowing the remote monitoring of the operation of robots. It is expected that new applications will emerge that allow for the provision of on-condition maintenance services to manufacturers. The analysis of the robot motion using advanced machine learning approaches and the comparison against nominal process plans will lead to the identification of the correct maintenance activities that need to be carried out with minimal impact on the robot availability. This IRP will lead to the minimisation of downtimes and the increase of product quality since deviations from nominal specifications will be detected early. At the same time, novel business models will be tested allowing for the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to provide robotic equipment as a service, which would then be compensated based on the number of tasks. This will address the reuse and lifecycle extension strategies of the robots, aligned with the CE principles. Building on the analytical expertise at UCD as primary academic supervisor, R2’s technical outcomes will comprise a detailed techno-economic model, a data collection and analysis system and finally an on-condition decision support system. R2 will work closely with R1 in the development of the techno-economic model.

Host/employer: Tekniska Högskolan i Jönköping (JTH), Sweden

Supervisors: Dr Vanajah Siva (JTH) ((opens in a new window)https://ju.se/personinfo.html?sign=sivvan&lang=en) & Dr Pezhman Ghadimi and Prof Vincent Hargaden (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/)

Industry Advisor:Dr Per Risberg (Husqvarna) and Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA)

Secondments: 2 months in Ireland (Academia), 2 months in Germany (Industry) and 2 months in Sweden (Industry)

PhD Awarding University:Tekniska Högskolan i Jönköping (JTH), Sweden

End of life (EoL) management of various products has become a vital part of CE practices, especially in the European Union (EU). Consequently, manufacturers must develop EoL management practices of their produced products through RLs activities, in line with EU extended producer responsibility policy. HUS, as one of the largest manufacturers of outdoor power products will need to adapt to such policies and therefore, will need to model their reverse logistics activities to get their EoL products and parts back to the manufacturing stage of their value chain, in a sustainable and streamline manner. To address this objective, R3 will utilise the existing supply chain design expertise at JTH  and UCD to develop a reverse logistics network design DSS. R3 will use IOTA’s DLT and its information storage and sharing capabilities to incorporate real-time information from all reverse supply chain actors i.e. customers, dealers, and collection centres. This novel reconfigurable DSS will consider various ways of transportation, different levels of EoL product quality and once fully deployed will assist HUS to collect their EoL products locally, nationally, regionally and globally. With inputs from HUS in various stages of designing this digital DSS, the final prototype will be validated by a case study.

Host/employer: Husqvarna, Sweden

Supervisors:Dr Vanajah Siva (JTH) ((opens in a new window)https://ju.se/personinfo.html?sign=sivvan&lang=en) & Dr Elena Dieckmann ((opens in a new window)https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/elena.dieckmann13)

Industry Advisor: Dr Per Risberg (Husqvarna) and Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA)

Secondments: 2 months in Sweden (Academia), 2 Months in the UK (Academic) and 2 months in Germany (Industry)

PhD Awarding University:Tekniska Högskolan i Jönköping (JTH), Sweden

The primary objective of this project is to apply advanced DLT and digital twin technologies to analyse state of health and remaining life of a whole product, such as an outdoor battery chainsaw, and its components. R4 will investigate the application of IOTA’s DLT for tracking the in-service status of the returned products using direct and indirect wear analysis and indirectly from sensor-based service data. The developed digital tool will identify areas where reuse, recovery, and recyclability can be improved. For battery-based products, R4 will develop the concept of a battery digital twin to enable 2nd life battery applications and will create a framework for battery digital twin which will be capable of collecting use data in real-time. The developed digital twin is then combined with physics-based models to determine control parameters for lifetime extension and suitability for 2nd life applications. A data-driven approach which aggregates data from fleets of products will be developed to increase the accuracy of the degradation models, where parameterisation remains a challenge. The project will result in (a) a battery digital twin and (b) a circularity assessment digital tool that will assist the company to assess the remaining lifetime of the collected EoL products including batteries.

Host/employer:IOTA Foundation, Germany

Supervisors: Dr Pezhman Ghadimi (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/) & Dr Elena Dieckmann ((opens in a new window)https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/elena.dieckmann13)

Industry Advisor: Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA) and Dr Russel Vickers (FMCI) 

Secondments: 6 months in Ireland (Academia and Industry)

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

R5 will evaluate existing EV recycling methods testbeds (during the secondment at FMCI) and model their integration into the current digital systems, both in the vehicle software and in industry-specific enterprise software. R5 will also analyse end-consumer attitudes and compliance towards vehicle recycling. This will result in an understanding of how to improve recycling rates from a consumer perspective. Based on this analysis, R5 will develop innovative digital tools that utilize IOTA’s DLT to measure circularity in EV designs, identify areas where reuse, recovery, and recyclability can be improved, and enable EV manufacturing companies to provide information on recyclability to the end consumer. Working in conjunction with ICL and UCD, AI-based algorithms will be developed for circularity measurements. Finally, guidelines for how to integrate these tools into the life cycles of other manufacturing areas such as industrial robots, and outdoor power products will also be developed.

Host/employer: IOTA Foundation, Germany

Supervisors: Prof Nikolaos Papakostas (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/) & Prof Robert Shorten ((opens in a new window)https://robertshorten.com/

Industry Advisor: Dr William Fabian Sanders (IOTA) and Russell Vickers (FMCI)

Secondments: 4 months in Ireland (Academia and Industry) and 2 Months in the UK (Academia)

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

An important issue in the design of circular systems concerns enforcing social contracts. A social contract is an agreement where an agent must comply with a rule governing a shared resource (for instance, free 2 hours parking) in a circular system. To design a circular system, R6 will first study the characteristics of such system. Then, building on ICL’s initial work, R6 explores the use of IOTA’s DLT to design a sharing contract. Two specific directions will be explored. First, risk pricing mechanisms to enforce social contracts across coupled activities will be studied. Distributed techniques from control- and game theory will be explored as mechanisms to design appropriate pricing policies. A 2nd issue arises in networks of interconnected activities; for example, in applications where separate sharing systems interact with each other. In such situations, pricing mechanisms for one system will affect the other and disturbances in one price signal may propagate wave-like through a network (string stability) in a disruptive manner. The developed system will be tested on a testbed provided by FMCI related to EVs.

Host/employer: University College Dublin, Ireland

Supervisors: Dr Pezhman Ghadimi & Prof Nikolaos Papakostas (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/)

Industry Advisor: Dr Russel Vickers (FMCI) and Dr Soren Kahl (Husqvarna)

Secondments: 4 months in Ireland (Academia and Industry) and 2 Months in Sweden (Industry).

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

R7 will identify various challenges and barriers in creating circular supply chains. Consequently, circular supply chain archetypes will be established investigating reverse supply chain activities across the three industrial sectors. These archetypes will be validated through secondments in KUKA, FMCI and HUS. Based on the identified archetypes and building on a UCD’s initial work, R7 will develop a generic collaborative multi-agent optimisation architecture to establish coordination mechanisms including contracts, supply chain integration, and knowledge management with all stakeholders in a closed-loop supply chain network setting to keep used products/components/materials in circulation. The developed architecture will be implemented and tested based on realistic scenarios across the three industrial sectors integrated with various bio-inspired optimisation algorithms.

Host/employer: University College Dublin, Ireland

Supervisors: Prof Vincent Hargaden (https://www.ucd.ie/lams/) and Dr Vanajah Siva (JTH) ((opens in a new window)https://ju.se/personinfo.html?sign=sivvan&lang=en

Industry Advisor: Mr Brian Cooney (KUKA Ireland) and Dr Soren Kahl (Husqvarna)

Secondments: 4 months in Sweden (Academia and Industry) and 2 Months in Ireland (Industry).

PhD Awarding University: University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland

The digital transition is a major challenge as it requires the realignment of technology and new business models to more effectively manage supply chains and interact digitally at each stage of the customer experience, whether B2B or B2C. This implies understanding the linkages and exploiting the synergies between the digital and the CE agendas. For the industrial robotics, EVs and outdoor power products sectors, the transition challenge is exacerbated by external regulatory requirements and standards. Working closely with WPs4-6 researchers and in close collaboration with the project beneficiaries of the three sectors, R9 will employ a maturity model/readiness approach to enable circular digitalisation in each of the three sectors individually, followed by an overarching cross-sectoral framework. During the three separate secondment periods in HUS, FMCI, and KUKA, this framework will be validated by three in-depth case studies (one for each sector). Based on the findings and with the support of JTH, adjustments to existing standards and development of new standards which will be devised and proposed to the technical committee members of ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy for further consideration.

Host/employer:Imperial College London, UK

Supervisors: Dr Elena Dieckmann ((opens in a new window)https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/elena.dieckmann13) and Prof Robert Shorten ((opens in a new window)https://robertshorten.com/

Industry Advisor:Dr Soren Kahl (Husqvarna) and Dr Russell Vickers (FMCI)

Secondments: 3 months in Sweden (Industry) and 3 months in Ireland (Industry)

PhD Awarding University: Imperial College London, UK

R9 will explore Product-as-a-Service models for both single owner goods and shared goods such as outdoor power products or EVs. The objective is to develop a digital tool and infrastructure to enable such products and services to be deployed. Issues to be explored include digital notions of identity, ownership and sovereignty, as well as markets where such goods can be exchanged. We aspire to understand the need for infrastructure; the nature of infrastructure investments and development; the costs and benefits; and the technological aspects. In the case of larger shared goods, the objective of this project is to develop a tool for both dimensions of shared goods and services. Algorithms for dimensioning services, and congestion management, will be developed and implemented as part of our solution. The applicability of the developed tool will be tested based on case studies in FMCI and HUS.


Benefits and Funding

Successful candidates will be employed for a maximum period of three years full-time equivalent and receive a generous financial package plus an additional mobility and family allowance according to the rules for Researchers in an EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks (DN). Researchers will be employed either by a university or a partner company.

A career development plan will be prepared for each fellow in accordance with his/her supervisor and will include training, planned secondments and outreach activities in partner organisations of the network. The Researcher fellows are supposed to complete their PhD thesis by the end of the 3rd year (this may vary for Researchers hosted in Sweden) of their employment.

For more information please visit the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks website.

Employment Conditions

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme offers highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions. The selected candidates are employed with a full-time contract. The salary follows the Marie Curie- Sklodowska ITN funding Scheme. The exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment. It consists of a living allowance (approximately €4,000 per month, depending on the hosting country) plus an additional monthly mobility and family allowance depending on the family situation. Depending on the governmental taxation law of the host country, some reductions may be applicable to this monthly stipend. General information is available at this (opens in a new window)link1.

Qualifications / Expertise:

An applicant meets the general entry requirements for third-cycle studies if he or she has:

  • Been awarded a degree at the Master's level.
  • The candidate must hold a Master’s degree in Engineering incl. industrial, mechanical, manufacturing, mechatronics, electrical, design and science related incl. computer science, mathematical sciences, data science, machine learning or equivalent as appropriate to their specific project topic.
  • The candidate must exhibit interest and ability in specific topics detailed in the position above.
  • Each beneficiary organisation might have additional eligibility criteria, e.g. work/study visa, language or other requirements. These will be clarified in the second stage of the application process.

Eligibility and Mobility

  • The candidate must possess exceptional inter-personal and communication skills to cope with the opportunities to travel and work in various settings of different cultures and environment within the project.
  • The candidate should be able to display a strong aptitude and enthusiasm for Engineering Research at postgraduate level.
  • Applications from suitably qualified female candidates are particularly welcome.
  • Supported researchers must be doctoral candidates, i.e. not already in possession of a doctoral degree at the date of the recruitment. Researchers who have successfully defended their doctoral thesis but who have not yet formally been awarded the doctoral degree will not be considered eligible.
  • Recruited researchers can be of any nationality and must comply with the following mobility rule: they must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the host country for more than 12 months in the 36 months immediately before their recruitment date(opens in a new window)2.

Key Responsibilities:

  • To manage and carry out their research projects within 36 months
  • To write a PhD thesis
  • To write articles for scientific peer reviewed journals
  • To write progress reports and prepare results for publication and dissemination via public lectures, presentations, and the web
  • To participate in research and training activities within the iCircular3 network
  • To disseminate their research in the scientific community (international conferences) and non-scientific community, by outreach and public engagement
  • To liaise with the other research staff and students working in broad areas of relevance to the research project and partner institutions.
  • To enrol and complete courses in accordance with the research education subject area syllabus.
  • To participate in departmental duties such as department meetings, teaching, etc. (max 20%).

Funding Agency:

The project is funded by Horizon Europe / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

Start Date:

May - June 2023 (tentative)

How to Apply:

To begin the process, please first read the descriptions of the research topic. The topic is not firmly fixed, and it may change as the successful candidate develops their PhD proposal.

Please send your application file (incl. the four points described below) in PDF format using this google form (sign-in required): (opens in a new window)https://forms.gle/mLtUBwFTD37Lf5G97

If you couldn't get access to the google form, please email your application file in PDF format to (opens in a new window)pezhman.ghadimi@ucd.ie

For the Swedish positions (R3 and R4), the application must be also submitted through JU’s recruitment system, Varbi ((opens in a new window)https://ju.varbi.com/login/).

In your application file, you should include:

1. A cover letter addressed to Dr Pezhman Ghadimi and Prof. Nikolaos Papakostas, project coordinators, that includes (i) a self-introduction (ii) motivation to join the iCircular3 Marie-Curie Doctoral Network project, and (iii) a description of previous relevant experience and best project or research work to date. (iv) Indicate your preferred project topics (ranked #1, #2 and #3) (it is fine if you would like to apply for one position only). (v) Confirm that you meet the criteria for Researchers under the EU rules.

2. Latest CV including prior education and all publications,

3. Bachelor and Master transcripts, and

4. Contact details of three referees.

The application must include the items listed above in one single PDF file to be submitted as soon as possible, using the above provided (opens in a new window)Google Form or (opens in a new window)Email address.

UCD Laboratory for Advanced Manufacturing Simulation

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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