Facilitating future practices and institutions for just circular transitions

Recruiting university

Department of Design, Media and Educational Science, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding (Denmark)

Main supervisor

Prof Thomas Markussen, Social Design Unit, Department of Design, Media and Educational Science, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding (Denmark)


Associate Prof Eva Knutz, Social Design Unit, Department of Design, Media and Educational Science, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding (Denmark)

Other co-supervisors/mentors and organisations

Julie Hjort (Danish Design Centre, Denmark) (mentor); Dr Carolina Giraldo (Climate-KIC, Denmark) (mentor); Dr James Auger (RMIT EU, Spain) (co-supervisor)


36 months

Required profile

Master’s degree in social/interaction/transition/service/system design, urban design, innovation management, entrepreneurship, policy studies or another related field.

Researcher’s mentality

Curious about working at the intersection between practice-based design research, systems innovation and circular economies. Open-minded, curious, enthusiastic, and accurate; proactive, capable of working independently, and likes to work in a team; good organizational and communication skills and a mastery of the English language in spoken and written form.

Desired skills

Due to the embedded nature of this project, the doctoral candidate should have excellent ‘soft skills’ essential for working with stakeholders (e.g., citizens, residents, business or local government employees) as well as having, or being open to developing, qualitative methodology skills and an interest in design, prototyping and creativity. Because of interactions with participants, it is preferable that the candidate also speaks Danish (or other Scandinavian languages), but this is not essential.


The purpose of this doctoral position is to study and explore how sustainable, niche innovations can be de-scaled and out-scaled to inspire other people and communities to adapt them to their own ecologies. In particular, the aim is to combine practice-based research with integrative studies of circular design, citizen-led activism and systemic barriers to develop a basis for circular transitions. Expected results are: 1) Validated sustainable niche innovations for future practices and institutions. 2) a conceptual framework for designers, businesses, government and civil society organisations using creative and co-design approaches for just circular transitions. 3) Policy recommendations for future governance.


The theoretical and methodological structure of the project will be developed at the Social Design Unit, University of Southern Denmark, in collaboration with the Danish Design Center, Climate KIC and RMIT. The methodological approach will include case study analyses, field work, participatory design and a portfolio approach to systems innovation that involves jointly made portfolios of innovation actions within different domains (e.g. energy, consumption, agriculture, transportation). This approach will be based on the engagement of and co-design with local actors, communities and organisations.


Danish Design Center (Denmark) 3 months, with mentor Julie Hjort.
Climate-KIC (Denmark/Italy) 6 months, with mentor Carolina Giraldo

What makes this doctoral research project exciting?

The pathways towards sustainable futures are often hindered or even counteracted by existing systemic barriers (political, economic, and so on). However, at a small scale in our societies, we find rich examples of how individuals and communities have invented new ways of living, working, and consuming that are eco-friendly and socially just. Such “niche innovations” are often looked upon as micro-utopias, since they offer innovative alternatives that are not (yet) deemed plausible or possible at a systemic level. This doctoral research will be dedicated to the exciting challenge of finding ways of how micro-utopian practices can be de-scaled and out-scaled to inspire or provoke other people and communities to adapt these practices to their own ecologies.

What’s special about the host department/university?

The Social Design Unit at SDU is an inclusive and platform-based research group that has extensive experience in how citizens, public sector organisations and private companies can be involved in participatory design processes that create value for the individual and society at large. Among key themes of interest are sustainable living and energy futures, public sector innovation, social design, citizen-led activism and social entrepreneurship. Over the years the group has developed strong competences in cross-disciplinary, practice-based design research which has led to the implementation of new services and programs in the public domain. The members of the group have long experience on EU-funded research and evaluation of innovation actions (https://socialdesignunit.org/).

Gross salary

We offer employment as a full-time doctoral researcher. The annual funding available to the University of Southern Denmark for this position DC9 is 61.056,00 €. Please note: this is not the gross annual salary for the candidate. This figure refers to the total amount of funding available to the university that will hire the doctoral candidate, taking into account the living and mobility allowance funding from the EU MSCA as well as national laws. Applicants should be aware that their annual gross salary may well be significantly less than this amount, once the university has covered costs they incur such as pension and national insurance, subject to national laws. The annual gross salary the candidate receives will also be subject to tax, employment and pension deductions, depending on national employment laws.

According to the indications of the MSCA-DN program, the above amount may be increased by 660€ per month for researchers with family obligations.

This doctoral position is funded by the EU MSCA Programme.