PhD vacancy: personal data vaults as an enabler for a new digital platform ecosystem - analysis from a techno-economic perspective




imec is a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, and energy.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together close to 4000 brilliant minds from over 97 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and also has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, and offices in India and Japan. All of these particular traits make imec to be a topclass employer.

Ghent University – imec IDLab Research group

The Internet Technology & Data Science Lab (IDLab) is an imec research group at Ghent University and the University of Antwerp. IDLab focuses its research on internet technologies and data science. Bringing together more than 300 internet experts, we develop technologies outperforming current solutions for communication subsystems, high speed and low power networking, distributed computing and multimedia processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and web semantics. IDLab has a unique research infrastructure used in numerous national and international collaborations.

IDLab collaborates with many universities and research centers worldwide and jointly develops advanced technologies with industry (R&D centers from international companies, Flanders’ top innovating large companies and SMEs, as well as numerous ambitious start-ups).

The IDLab techno-economics team where this vacancy is offered consists of engineers and economists who are supporting decision makers by translating technological innovation into business opportunities and challenges in different application domains like smart cities, smart mobility and smart energy. The groups is supporting companies and policy makers in supporting their decisions by combining insights in technical possibilities with the expected economic costs and benefits.

The evolving ICT domain

Digital platforms are constantly gaining importance. Collecting multi-modal mobility data on a cloud-based platform, for example, can enable a multitude of traffic management solutions. Public as well as private actors can offer solutions that improve the city mobility, create an added value for the citizens and stimulate the local economy. Or consider a platform that allows optimal use of energy in a specific residential area by matching the demand curve of residents, retailers and electric cars to each other and to the (renewable) energy generation. Several governmental services get automated via digital platforms as well. In nearly all of these digital platform services, access to personal user data is important.

Thanks to the use of technical innovations that enable the implementation of a personal data vault for every citizen (a so-called data pod), novel data ecosystems can be defined. Think of a data pod as a virtual drive to which you as an individual hold the keys. Your data pod can then store and safeguard every single piece of data that you produce as well as every single piece of data that companies and organizations produce about you.

In order to evaluate the feasibility of digital platform ecosystems in general and the market potential of personal data vault based ecosystems in particular, some interdisciplinary research questions remain to be answered. As a first research objective is to understand the relationship between technical requirements and the value creating potential in a digital ecosystem based on personal data vaults, in order to ensure that further technical developments go in the direction that indeed leads to market potential for this technology. Next, based on the facts that the biggest challenges within this ecosystem relate to end users and application and services providers, the second research objective is to get insights in the trade-offs that both end users and application and service providers are facing when deciding to engage in a personal data vault based digital ecosystem.

In order to face the different research questions in this domain, we are looking for a researcher who is able to combine technical and economic insights.

Job description

The job

  • Under the supervision of a professor and a postdoc researcher in the team, you will prepare a PhD dissertation over a duration of about 4 years.
  • You perform cutting-edge research in the domain of techno-economic evaluation of digital platforms.
  • You publish and present results both at international conferences and in scientific journals.
  • You validate your research by considering concrete use cases and discussing with public and private actors in the field.
  • You tightly collaborate with IDLab colleagues within the technoeconomics teams, as well as in other teams where appropriate.
  • You will participate in the framework of national and European funded research projects, and collaborate with research partners from industry.
  • You will assist the research group with limited educational tasks.

Job requirements

  • Holder of a Master degree in Computer Science Engineering, Electrical Engineering, IEOR or Commercial Engineering.
  • Strong interest in economic evaluation of technological projects.
  • Strong analytical skills for designing and implementing abstract models.
  • Experience with object-oriented programming and web-based development is a plus.
  • You work independently, have a strong feeling of responsibility and are able to commit to timing and milestones set forward by different research projects.
  • You are a team player and have strong communication skills.
  • A good knowledge of English (oral and written) is a must. Any knowledge of Dutch (oral) is a plus.

Our offer

We offer a challenging, stimulating, young and pleasant research environment where you can contribute to solving real-life problems for technological innovations with a clear societal as well as economic value. The work is done in close collaboration with ICT and telecom industry players in Flanders and Europe. The UGent doctoral school program offers possibilities for following a range of courses or trainings of your interest. We foresee a competitive remuneration and the possibility to obtain a PhD degree in Engineering.

How to apply?

This PhD position is available immediately and is open until the vacancy is filled. The position is not open for post-docs.

Apply by sending an email to prof. Sofie Verbrugge. Your application should include

  • your resume (curriculum vitae)
  • motivation letter (indicating both your technical and economic background/interest as well as any specific research skills)
  • a copy of your diploma and diploma supplement (with overview of all courses followed)

More information

Sofie Verbrugge –