PhD position OT-21998

PhD - Assessing the absolute environmental sustainability of territorial bioeconomy trajectories from a life cycle perspective

34000 Montpellier

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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) is a major player in research and innovation. It is a community of 12,000 people with 272 research, experimental research, and support units located in 18 regional centres throughout France. Internationally, INRAE is among the top research organisations in the agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, as well as in ecology and environmental science. It is the world’s leading research organisation specialising in agriculture, food and the environment. INRAE’s goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. Faced with a growing world population, climate change, resource scarcity, and declining biodiversity, the Institute has a major role to play in building solutions and supporting the necessary acceleration of agricultural, food and environmental transitions.

Work environment, missions and activities

You will be based in the ITAP research unit (joint INRAE - Institut Agro, Montpellier unit), on the offices of the Institut Agro de Montpellier (10 minutes by bike from the city centre and railway station), with the possibility of remote working up to 3 days a week.
The PhD will be supervised by Eléonore Loiseau (UMR ITAP, INRAE) and Anthony Benoist (BioWooEB, CIRAD).

Are you looking to contribute to addressing the challenges raised by achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and the ecological transition? Do you have a strong taste for science, the production of knowledge, the search for sustainable alternatives to our lifestyles, and the prospect of deriving meaning from it in order to support sound decision-making? Then this is the offer for you!
You will be working in the SLAM-B1 project of the PEPR FairCarboN, which aims to structure the French research community that develops and applies integrated modelling and assessment approaches to support the development of a sustainable bioeconomy.
Territorial development strategies based on the bioeconomy aim to transform food and non-food production and processing chains to meet the needs of our societies. Largely based on the use of natural resources, these strategies also involve agroecology, optimising the use of all the components of agro-resources, collective action and the development of virtuous interdependencies (e.g. circular economy, strengthening the urban-rural link). Given the numerous initiatives and planning projects founded on bioeconomy, quantitative environmental assessment methods are required to prioritise the actions to be taken and identify false good ideas.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides a recognised and standardised framework for quantifying the environmental impacts of a product or service from a life cycle perspective (from the extraction of raw materials to waste management) and using a multi-criteria approach. Initially designed to assess systems at 'micro' scales (products, processes), the LCA methodological framework has been adapted to quantify the eco-efficiency of land development scenarios, each of which combines a range of services provided by the area (e.g. jobs, agricultural production) with a panel of environmental impacts (e.g. climate change, toxicity, eutrophication), paving the way for eco-design and decision support ( This evolution of LCA, commonly referred to as territorial LCA, allows different trajectories to be compared in order to identify the best-performing ones, depending on the environmental indicators considered. However, this relative analysis says nothing about the capacity of these trajectories to remain within the biophysical limits of ecosystems.
Within this PhD thesis, your objective will be to propose methodological developments for quantifying the biophysical limits of production and consumption activities associated with the implementation of the
bioeconomy in a given territory. These limits, or carrying capacities, can be defined globally (e.g. the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere that must not be exceeded) or locally (e.g. the maximum volume of water available for human activities). These new metrics will enable an absolute assessment of the environmental sustainability of territorial bioeconomy trajectories. As well as identifying the most efficient trajectories from an environmental point of view, the thesis work will help to define trajectories that are likely to remain within the Safe Operating Space. The core of the methodology will be based on an innovative coupling between territorial LCA and the concept of planetary boundaries. The proposed developments will be implemented in a case study in order to assess their applicability and their interest in terms of decision support.

SLAM-B will consider the various components of the bioeconomy, in particular the diversity of production systems, raw materials and finished products, biorefineries, recycling loops and supply chain organisations. SLAM-B aims to meet three major scientific challenges: (i) to develop generic modelling approaches for simulating bioeconomic transitions and anticipating their consequences, (ii) to demonstrate the relevance and legitimacy of these approaches through their application in 6 Living Labs, and (iii) to produce tailored knowledge for public decision-makers at National and European level. SLAM-B involves more than 40 laboratories throughout France, so the person recruited will be at the heart of a dynamic community working on bioeconomy issues, bringing together leading researchers in bioeconomy research in Europe and internationally. The SLAM-B community meets face-to-face around twice a year.

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree

 Recommended training: Master or Engineering degree in environmental science or agronomy  Knowledge required in several of the following areas: environmental assessment methods, LCA, ecology, data processing and basic statistical analysis, programming tools (R, Python), Geographical Information System (GIS), agricultural systems, process engineering
 Skills sought: organising, autonomy, interest in interdisciplinary work
 Excellent written and spoken English required (French not a prerequisite)

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

- up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

How to apply

I send my CV and my motivation letter
PhD_Position_LCA_TASE_2024.pdfpdf - 670.20 KB

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Beginning: 01/10/2024
  • Remuneration: 2,100€ gross monthly
  • Reference: OT-21998
  • Deadline: 21/06/2024


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