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PhDs legal aspects of the development of HVDC – Doctoral Network ‘Inter-oPEn' (V24.0018)

Job description

A consortium of 8 universities forms the consortium ‘Inter-oPEn’ to work on the development of HVDC electricity networks. The consortium stands out for coupling the technical developments with the legal aspects in order to foster innovation in the energy sector. The project is funded by the European Union as a Marie Curie doctoral training network ( At the University of Groningen, we have two 4-year PhD vacancies. The two PhDs will focus on energy law and technology law respectively.

Societal Challenge
Europe wants to build around 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050. In the future, the cables to connect offshore wind farms will not only transmit electricity directly to the shore of the coastal states, but also to other states or different ‘hubs’ of wind farms. Large, cross-border high voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity systems are needed for this. These systems must be interoperable and mutually compatible. The future interoperability of different network elements has an important societal impact in creating a cost-effective connection of the vast amount of offshore wind, and integration of the European electricity networks. This project has interoperability in HVDC networks as its core objective. For a simple explanation about HVDC grids and interoperability, watch this video (, made by another project in which the University of Groningen also participates, which is working on resolving several short term issues in this field.

From a legal perspective, interoperability in HVDC systems has two components, namely an energy law and governance component, and a technology law component. They form two separate PhD trajectories. The specific projects are elaborated further below.

A. Governance of Multimodal Electricity Grid
The goal of this individual research project within the larger Inter-oPEn consortium is the development of a regulatory model for the governance, liabilities and procurement of a multimodal electricity grid. The development of a regulatory model should stimulate investments from network owners and developers, and to provide a higher level of investment protection, which is important in the highly regulated world of energy networks. The scope of the project is the legal and regulatory framework for cross-border electricity grids in the EU and/or with a connection to third states such as the UK or Norway, with a focus on the regulation of electricity grids, procurement, competition and liability. The methodology will be a combination of doctrinal research, namely systematisation and analysis of existing primary and secondary sources, and legal empirical research based on stakeholders perspectives ex ante (based on actual regulatory field and practice) and ex post (based on model). The PhD researcher will be embedded in the Groningen Centre of Energy Law and Sustainability and work closely together with the other RUG-based PhD student focusing on technology law.

B. Open-source and closed-source IP models to support interoperability and information sharing
This individual research project within Inter-oPEn has three objectives: first, to identify whether the current legal frameworks allowing for open-source and closed-source software elements satisfy the needs of stakeholders enabling interconnectivity and interoperability; second, to investigate future legal models that can meet the needs of the different stakeholders; and third, to investigate ways that data can be shared in a way that satisfies fair competition rules. The methodology used will be a combination of doctrinal and empirical research. The overall result is to provide a critical study on the legal frameworks enabling interconnectivity and interoperability, with a particular focus on the interaction of open-source and closed-source software. The PhD researcher will be embedded in the Technology Law group and work closely together with the other RUG-based PhD student focusing on energy law.
Expectations and Results

An important feature of the Marie Curie Doctoral Framework is the use of doctoral training and secondments. Doctoral training events, organised on a rotating base with the consortium partners, allows the PhD students of the different individual projects to gain knowledge on the other aspects of their field of research. This means that the technical PhD students will gain knowledge on the legal perspectives, and the PhD students on the legal aspects will be provided with knowledge and insights on several technical aspects, in order to bridge the fields of law and technology. Next to doctoral training in theory, each researcher has 2 secondments, of 3 to 6 months each, to gain more experience in practice. Currently, the planned secondments are:

Project A:
● TUB: with the purpose to exchange regulatory viewpoint with functional modelling methodology
● TransnetBW: with the purpose to implement the TSOs’ view into the governance framework

Project B:
● RWTH Aachen: with the purpose to get insight into engineering aspects of interoperability/ information sharing
● CRESYM: with the purpose to use the CRESYM industrial network to get insight into how IT/IP aspects are handled in different companies and TSOs

The output of both research projects is the same: next to a final dissertation, several peer-reviewed publications and participation in several conferences/dissemination events.

Next to the University of Groningen, RWTH Aachen, KU Leuven, TU Delft, TU Braunschweig, KTH Sweden, Universitat Politecnica Catalunya (UPC) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are involved.

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Faculty of Law ( is building on a longstanding tradition of four centuries of quality legal research. It is an ambitious top-ranking faculty of law with both high-quality education and research, with a strong international orientation, firmly rooted in the North of The Netherlands. The faculty creates and shares knowledge through outstanding education and research, benefitting society. With more than 4000 students and 350 staff the faculty is heavily involved in educating students, both Dutch and international. The faculty is a modern, broad and international institution, educating students to become forward-looking, articulate and independent lawyers.

Position A will be integrated in the Groningen Centre of Energy Law and Sustainability (GCELS - GCELS brings together expertise from all branches of law within the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen to develop cutting-edge research and educational programmes relevant for the energy transition. Its research covers the entire energy chain as well the transitions necessary to move towards a more sustainable society. This includes all legislation and regulation applying to the production, transport, storage and supply of energy, the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, the need to secure energy supply, as well as climate action and environmental protection.

Position B will be integrated in the department of Transboundary Legal Studies. This department is home to two research groups on technology law: the Security, Technology & e-Privacy Research Group (STeP) and the IT law Group. These groups bring together a broad interdisciplinary team of researchers looking at digital transitions including in the energy field. Position B will work closely with researchers in intellectual property issues.

All PhD candidates participate in the Groningen Graduate School of Law (GGSL - The GGSL organizes the education of Research Master students and PhD students in the Faculty of Law. The inspiring and stimulating research environment is evidenced by the last external research audit in 2022 that judged research of the faculty of outstanding quality and praised the GGSL for the way in which PhD students are supported and supervised from the start till the very end of the PhD.


We expect the candidate to have:

• completed or be close to completing a Master's degree in law
• ability to analyse and apply the relevant international, European and national regulatory framework of energy law (specifically Project A), and technology law (specifically Project B), in connection with other environmental and social regulatory and policy aspects
• independence and availability to travel and settle in the countries of the universities participating in the project and to carry out international academic activities.
• ability to understand and communicate in the language(s) relevant to the proposed doctoral research project
• eagerness to publish international articles and write a dissertation
• enthusiasm to work in an interdisciplinary research team
• demonstrable competences as conceptual capacity, presenting, monitoring, planning and organizing
• good social and communication skills
• excellent command of English and academic writing skills.

Candidates must also meet the following criteria:

• be in the first four years after graduation of the masters’ degree
• be of any nationality, but not having resided or carried out their main activity in the Netherlands for more than 1 year in the past 3 years.
• have not yet been awarded a PhD degree.


Conditions of employment

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time working week. Additional (family) allowances can be applicable depending on specific circumstances, in accordance with Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) conditions
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE) for four years; first, you will get a temporary position of eighteen months with the option of renewal for another thirty months; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress to indicate that successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Law.

Envisaged starting date: 1 June 2024


The application should include:

• a cover letter explaining your motivation for the position and the preference between topic A (energy law) and B (technology law)
• CV
• the names and contact details of two referees and an indication of whether we can contact them at this stage
• overview of grades
• a writing sample (e.g. Master thesis or other written work).

Candidates admitted to the Interview stage will be required to submit a three-page research proposal which includes a specification of the research question(s) you would like to answer in this context and approach and methodologies you would use. You will give a short presentation on this at the beginning of the interview.

Only complete applications submitted by the deadline will be taken into consideration.

You can submit your application until 17 March 11:59pm / before 18 March 2024 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

The interviews for the position are scheduled in March.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers:

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For information you can contact:

  • Dr Ceciel Nieuwenhout, Assistant Professor of Energy Law, c.t.nieuwenhout

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.