PhD candidate Circular sanitation business models

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

Delft, Netherlands 🇳🇱

Department information

Description of the project and the role of the PhD candidate:

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education seeks an outstanding Doctorate candidate to research new “circular sanitation business models”. The PhD candidate will be hosted by the Water Supply Sanitation Environmental Engineering Department, under the supervision of Prof. Jules van Lier (TU-Delft), PhD Francisco Rubio (IHE-Delft), PhD Yong Jiang (IHE), PhD Joy Riungu (MUST) and PhD Avinandan Taron (IWMI).

Sanitation provision is the most important, yet most neglected aspect of human development in the Global South. Despite the importance of sanitation as stipulated in SDG6, its implementation is limited as it requires considerable funding not solely for its installation but also for its maintenance. To bridge the gap, recent developments have seen growing interest in the concept of circular economy and “closing the loop” in our vital resources, water, and sanitation. This has largely been driven by the need to optimize the use of available resources, in addition to attention to reducing the social and environmental damage (cost) linked to poor faecal waste disposal. Additionally, the faecal waste streams could provide investment/business opportunities to governments, entrepreneurs, and other groups interested in resource recovery. This, however, requires adequate planning to i) properly manage expectations, ii) properly exploit the relevant value chains and iii) to alleviate losses, like high operational costs, preventing unsustainable businesses, which unfortunately have been reported. Developing sustainable business models and assuring the sustainability of employed sanitation systems in a value chain, calls for proper quantitative and qualitative understanding of sanitary flows in a specific region. Research questions will address i) what available resources in the sanitary flows are of potential interest, ii) what recovery options are feasible (plant nutrients, animal protein, energy recovery), iii) what market demands might be linked to the identified resources, iv) what technologies can be used under the local socio-economic conditions, v) what revenues are foreseen from the recovered resources, and vi) to what extent user acceptance and willingness to pay will constrain the proposed concept. Sustainable circular economy-based initiatives can be accelerated by the development of a decision support tool (DST) that can be used to estimate the revenues of resources recoverable from faecal waste, reducing the burden of external investments.

The case study to ‘calibrate’ such a decision tool will be conducted in Nairobi City, Kenya and will majorly focus on faecal waste generated from on-site sanitation systems, being the major form of sanitation provision in the research area. The input data to the DST includes available data at Nairobi City on i) the volume of faecal waste streams and their characteristics, ii) potential market demands and value of various recoverable products (water, biogas, insect protein, organic fertilizer), and iii) distances between points of generation of faecal waste streams and the treatment and recovery plants, as well as between the potential consumers.

The input data will largely be obtained from primary and secondary sources. Primary data sources entail consumer perception and market surveys of recovered products. Secondary data include, but are not limited to city’s reports, sanitation enterprises, and published literature. Quantitative estimates will also be made based on the city population and estimated faecal sludge production rates. In cases where no qualitative data is available, particularly on recovered resources, laboratory-scale experiments will be used. Moreover, the Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) of the aforementioned scenarios would be done following the ReCiPe 2016 v1.1 method.

NOTE : This PhD position is funded by the Water and Development Partnership Programme.


  •  Your research will contribute to the development of Business models linking the sanitation-food chain.
  • The PhD candidate will publish the obtained results in peer-reviewed journals which will contribute to your PhD thesis.
  • The PhD candidate will present the results at national and international conferences and symposia.
  • The PhD candidate will mentor MSc theses which are linked to their PhD research.
  • The PhD candidate will write and successfully defend a PhD thesis.
  • The PhD candidate will participate/contribute to the seminars and workshops of the Water and Development Partnership


  • The Doctorate candidate must have a proven (educational) background in (resource) economics, business management, and/or financial management.
  • The Doctorate candidate must have a proven affinity, and preferably work experiences with resource recovery and/or sanitation.
  • The candidate should be proficient in English (written and spoken) and have demonstrated skill in independently writing academic texts in English
  • Publishing experience is an advantage
  • Microsoft Excel expertise moderate-high
  • In line with the funding conditions, only candidates from non-European low- and middle-income countries are eligible to apply.
  • Willingness to mentor master theses and a collaborative attitude.
  • Values a multi-cultural work environment and is able to have an inclusive and non-hierarchical attitude in a team.
  • With equal suitability, preference is given to a woman.  

Terms of employment

This is a position for 48 months (4 years), (38 hours per week), with the expectation that the candidate will submit and successfully defend the PhD thesis within this period. The candidate will be stationed in Delft, the Netherlands. Employment at IHE Delft is according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (scale P). The appointment implies entry into the Netherlands’ Civil Service Pension Fund (ABP).

The initial contract is for 18 months. Within the first year a go/no-go decision will be made based on a detailed PhD research proposal to be developed by the candidate, which will determine whether or not the contract will be extended.

The expected start date of the position is December 2023.

Information and application

Applications (in English) should respond specifically to the requirements and can be sent by 27 October 2023 including curriculum vitae, motivation letter and the names and contact details of two contactable referees. 

IHE Delft follows an open procedure of recruitment, which respects diversity and provides equal opportunity to applicants of all backgrounds.

Please see for more information about the PhD programme and requirements: PhD Programme | IHE Delft Institute for Water Education ( 

Please use the application form via the ”apply” button, applications via email will not be taken into consideration. 

Vacancy contact person

Contact person: Francisco Rubio Rincón

Work phone no.: +31 15 215 1890

Work e-mail:

Publication date

Publication date: 15 september 2023 15:03





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