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This PhD position invites applicants to work on the governance of mission-oriented research and innovation policies in the context of small states. The prospective PhD students are asked to provide their own theoretical, empirical or action research proposals to tackle key research issues and contribute to the debates on mission-oriented policies. Supervisor: Erkki Karo. Co-supervisor: Veiko Lember.

Research field: Public Administration
Supervisors: Veiko Lember
Erkki Karo
Availability: This position is available.
Offered by: School of Business and Governance
Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance
Application deadline:Applications are accepted between May 03, 2021 00:00 and May 31, 2021 23:59 (Europe/Zurich)


This position focuses on the governance of modern research, development and innovation (RDI) policies in the context of small states. Recently, the global discourse on RDI policies has taken a normative turn: instead of tackling generic market failures, RDI policies are expected to set a clear focus or missions on tackling complex societal challenges (from ageing of societies to sustainability of energy, transport, food and other systems; also UN SDGs). In academic and policy debates, this turn is conceptualized as (re-)emergence of mission-oriented policies (see: https://stip.oecd.org/stip/moip).

In small states, such as Estonia, characterized by limited financial, organizational and human resources, this approach raises several policy and governance level issues, which require more in-depth theoretical, empirical and comparative work: how to pick and legitimize a small number of focus areas; how to set up appropriate governance structures and processes; what kind of policy instruments and methods to use etc. While there is emerging literature on these questions based on the experiences of large countries (US) and institutions (EU), this PhD project is expected to contribute to the academic research and policy debates with a specific focus on the smaller countries. The prospective PhD students are encouraged to provide their original theoretical, empirical or action research proposals that tackle the described research issues in an original way.  

Supervisor: Erkki Karo
Co-supervisor: Veiko Lember

Responsibilities and tasks of the PhD student: 

  • develop and implement a research plan that results in at least 3 peer-reviewed and internationally published articles
  • the research plan should contribute to one or more strategic research directions of the Nurkse Department
  • PhD students are expected to gain teaching, supervision, and research management experience at the Nurkse Department (incl. participation in PhD-related research or consultation projects)

Applicants should fulfil the following requirements:

  • Master’s degree in social sciences (preferably in public administration, political science, science and technology studies (STS) or economics) or in other areas with additional proof of social science research skills
  • clear interest in and a vision for independent research on the topic of the position
  • excellent command of English
  • strong and demonstrable writing and analytical skills
  • capacity to work both as an independent researcher and as part of an international team
  • capacity and willingness to provide assistance in organizational and managerial tasks of academic research

Applicants must submit the following additional documents with their application:

  • 3-page research proposal
  • example of relevant academic work (e.g. MA thesis)

We offer:

  • 4-year PhD position in one of the largest, most internationalized and leading social science research centers in Estonia with a large portfolio of ongoing pan-European and national public administration, digital governance and innovation studies projects
  • The chance to do high-level research in one of the most dynamic digital government contexts globally
  • Opportunities for conference visits, research stays and networking with globally leading universities and research centers in the fields of public administration, innovation studies and digital government

About the organization
The Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance (RND) is an interdisciplinary research center of Tallinn University of Technology that focuses on socially relevant and future-oriented research and teaching issues: 

  • models and practices of governance and public administration globally
  • fiscal governance and fiscal bureaucracies
  • e-governance and digital transformation of societies: datafication, public services and state-citizen relations in the digital era, smart cities and digital public services and cross-border collaboration
  • P2P technologies, its' governance and potential new production models
  • design and governance of science and innovation policies
  • philosophy and ethics of science and technology

RND is a highly internationalised department and engages some of the top international thinkers and researchers in its research fields. Next to a fully English taught PhD degree it offers a MA degree in Technology Governance and Digital Transformations, and a unique Erasmus Mundus joint MSc programme in Public Sector Innovation and e-Governance in cooperation with KU Leuven (Belgium) and University of Münster (Germany). RND and its staff have coordinated or been involved in a multitude of international research projects with the EU (INTERREG, COST, FP7, H2020), UN (UNDP), OECD (SIGMA), INET, and have participated in various European Commission working groups (the EU's Lisbon Agenda Group, Expert Group on Managing Risks in Public Technology Procurement, Expert Group on Public Sector Innovation). Recently RND initiated a major, 32 MEUR international R&D project on Smart Cities (FinestTwins). RND is also engaged in several international associations, such as the European Master in Public Administration program (EMPA), European Inter-University Association on Society, Science and Technology (ESST), and the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA) where RND coordinates the Permanent Study Group on Public Administration, Technology and Innovation.

Additional information
For further information, please contact Prof Erkki Karo erkki.karo@taltech.ee and Dr. Veiko Lember veiko.lember@taltech.ee, or visit https://www.taltech.ee/en/nurkse|https://www.taltech.ee/en/nurkse