Internal Research Fellow (Post-Doctoral) in Disruptive Innovation for Green and Sustainable Future

Updated: about 2 months ago

Internal Research Fellowship Opportunity in the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes.

ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. For this purpose, we welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.

This post is classified F2 on the Coordinated Organisations’ salary scale .

ESRIN, Frascati, Italy 

Our team and mission

Reporting to the Head of the Explore Office in the ESA Φ-lab, you will work in close cooperation with other staff in the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes.

You will be part of the ESA Φ-lab. Our mission is to accelerate the future of Earth Observation (EO) by embracing disruptive innovation and acting as a catalyst for disruptive/transformative innovation in the sector. Our vision is to become an “EO innovation hub” connecting a growing ecosystem of disruptive and transformative innovation like AI, ML, Quantum Computing, Edge Computing, etc.. with EO. Many of the challenges posed by new digital technologies still need to be tackled at scientific, application and capability level to deliver maximum value from satellite-derived EO assets for our climate, society and economy. The Φ-lab will bring together early career and senior researchers from a variety of disciplines across EO and disruptive/transformative innovation to help develop innovative EO solutions.

We offer:

  • a stimulating multinational and interdisciplinary open work environment;
  • access to high-performance computing infrastructure and dedicated EO and technology expertise;
  • a unique opportunity to work on innovative solutions to address global problems;
  • freedom and focus to conduct creative research while making an impact related to ESA strategy;
  • a wide network of relationships and collaborations with top academics, industry and research centres;
  • the possibility to contribute to the Φ-lab’s strategy and activities.

You are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship

This fellowship aims to explore the use of space and ground-based EO products integrated with disruptive technologies to address green solutions for a sustainable future. For example, you will deploy AI-automated algorithms to:

  • identify suitable locations for new green energy facilities (such as on/offshore wind farms and solar power plants);
  • forecast short-range renewable energy production for a hybrid energy system approach;
  • quantify the uncertainty of low-cost real-time air sensing monitors;
  • collect and harmonise data for operation in an intelligent digital system (digital twin);
  • detect and quantify methane leakages from ‘institutional’ and ‘New Space’ satellite missions to monitor methane and other greenhouse gas emissions;
  • detect natural disasters (such as wildfire ignition points and floods) through human sensor social networks (multimodal crowd sourcing and satellite imagery).

In your application, please provide a research proposal (of no more than five pages) answering the following questions:

1) What are the green solutions for a sustainable future that you would like to address?

2) What is your chosen disruptive technology?

3) Why is this research proposal important to society?

In particular, you will:

  • undertake advanced research activities, exploring and expanding the use of disruptive/transformative innovation (AI, ML, Quantum Computing, Edge Computing, etc… to develop new frameworks and solutions. Your research can cover a wide range of innovative topics, from the development of novel methods, algorithms and ML iterative pipelines to high-level products;
  • contribute to the development and curation of open data sets and tools enabling the community to develop their own AI for applications and research;
  • support the definition and implementation of rapid prototyping activities, research sprints and open challenges of innovative EO solutions addressing upcoming lab activities and wider strategy;
  • engage with the innovation ecosystem to promote the uptake of new techniques and capture the latest developments in EO and disruptive/transformative innovation;
  • publish the research project outcomes in high-impact journals;
  • drive collaboration within the Φ-lab community and ESA internal teams to promote the uptake of these new techniques and solutions;
  • contribute to the Φ-lab’s strategy, activities and outreach on disruptive technologies for EO;
  • maintain a continuous dialogue with the scientific community, including major international programmes and initiatives in the fields of AI, ML, Quantum Computing, Edge Computing, etc…
  • support the Φ-lab’s research network of Young Graduate Trainees, national trainees, interns and visiting researchers, as applicable;
  • ensure solid scientific content for a Green and Sustainable Future.

Technical competencies

Knowledge relevant to the field of research

Research/publication record

Ability to conduct research autonomously

Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities

Ability to gather and share relevant information

General interest in space and space research

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation
Operational Efficiency
Fostering Cooperation
Relationship Management
Continuous Improvement
Forward Thinking 


You should have recently completed (within the past five years) or be close to completing a PhD in a relevant field such as data science, AI, Computer Science, machine Learning, Earth System Science, Climate etc.. with the subject of your thesis being relevant to the description of the tasks outlined above.

Additional requirements

You should also have:

  • sound knowledge of themes of interest, such as EO, AI, ML, Quantum Computing, ICT revolution technologies in general, Edge Computing, etc..
  • the ability to think outside the box and explore new avenues, with natural curiosity and a passion for new subjects and research areas
  • experience with one or more general purpose programming languages (e.g. Python) and with general purpose deep learning frameworks (e.g. Tensorflow or PyTorch)
  • the ability to share knowledge with other ESA units

You should have good interpersonal and communication skills and should be able to work in a multi-cultural environment, both independently and as part of a team.

The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.

During the interview motivation and overall professional perspective/career goals will also be explored.

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework .

For further information on the Internal Research Fellowship Programme please visit: Internal Research Fellowship

The Agency may require applicants to undergo selection tests.

In addition to your CV and your motivation letter, please add your proposal of no more than 5 pages outlining your proposed research in the "additional documents" field of the "application information" section.

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities.  Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace.  The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us at [email protected] .


Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nationals from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus as European Cooperating States (ECS).

According to the ESA Convention, the recruitment of staff must take into account an adequate distribution of posts among nationals of the ESA Member States*. When short-listing for an interview, priority will first be given to candidates from under-represented Member States *.

In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment conducted by an external background screening service. 

*Member States, Associate Members or Cooperating States.

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