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PhD Position on designing a recommender system for sustainable investments

We are looking for a highly motivated and creative Ph.D. candidate interested in developing and applying recommender systems that suggest investments in sustainable businesses. The ultimate goal is to map and evaluate sustainability metrics for investors and, based on this, develop a recommender system. The recommendations will be tailored for multiple user classes and accompanied by appropriate explanations and interpretations.

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Key takeaways

  • Hours
    38 - 40 hr.
  • Salary indication
  • Deadline
    31 Jul 2024

During the project, you will closely collaborate with industry and a doctoral training network spread throughout Europe, including extended research stays abroad.

The successful applicant will join the Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems (IEBIS) section of the High-tech Business & Entrepreneurship Department (HBE) at the Faculty of Behavioural Management and Social Sciences (BMS).


This Ph.D. position is one of four positions at the University of Twente in the context of the international Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions project DIGITAL. For the general description of DIGITAL and the Ph.D. positions, please check https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/178873

DIGITAL' main goal? To significantly advance the methodologies and business models for Digital Finance through the use of five interconnected research objectives https://www.digital-finance-msca.com/:

1. Ensure sufficient data quality to contribute to the EU's efforts of building a single digital market for data;
2. Address deployment issues of complex artificial intelligence models for real-world financial problems;
3. Validate the utility of state-of-the-art explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) algorithms to financial applications and extend existing frameworks;
4. Design risk management tools concerning the applications of Blockchain technology in Finance;
5. Simulate financial markets and evaluate products with a sustainability component.

This project closely relates to objectives 1, 2, 3, and 5, as we aim to provide a recommender system that improves data quality, applies sophisticated AI technologies to real-world financial scenarios, incorporates explainable AI to increase transparency and trust, and supports the simulation and evaluation of sustainable financial products. Through this, we contribute to the development of a digital single market for data within the EU, aligned with sustainable finance principles.

Recommender systems are well-known information filtering systems that suggest items most relevant to a user. Although recommender systems have been successful in many domains, there are presently none that suggest appropriate investments in sustainable technologies and businesses. This project will develop and deploy a recommender system to inform financial institutions and their clients about investments' sustainability and help to invest in sustainable businesses.

Modern recommender systems are generally a hybrid of content-based and collaborative-based filters through sophisticated algorithmic pipelines, using both item information and user information to get the best out of both worlds. In the financial domain, a key challenge for such hybrid architectures is to ensure regulatory compliance and eliminate potential bias.

The main objective of this research project is to develop a recommender system that applies filters based on both stock data and investor data to offer relevant, diversified, and targeted recommendations that will help propel sustainable investments. In doing so, it is imperative that the system follows regulations and prevents undesirable biases.

Your profile

We look for a highly motivated, enthusiastic researcher who is driven by curiosity and has/is:

General skills:

  • Master’s degree or equivalent experience in Finance, Economics, Engineering, Information Technology, Computer Science or related fields;
  • A strong passion and outstanding skills in data science and experience working with programming languages such as Python and libraries such as sklearn, and recommender systems libraries (e.g., recmetrics, surprise);
  • Knowledge of quantitative modeling of financial markets, econometric techniques, machine learning, or quantitative empirical research methods;
  • Knowledge of investments and portfolio construction;
  • The ability to work on real-world problems in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented environment;
  • Good communication skills and an excellent command of English.

Project-specific skills:

  • Knowledge of and/or work experience in the field of investing, ideally in sustainable finance.
  • Good programming skills, primarily in Python. Experience with recommender systems is helpful.
  • Knowledge of data engineering concepts such as machine learning pipelines, product deployment, and data ingestion.
  • Interest in practical applications of recommender systems, with attention to aspects such as explainability and regulation.

Interested and motivated candidates are encouraged to apply, even when not yet possessing all desired skills. Through dedicated learning and doctoral training, you will be able to develop relevant skills on the job.

Our offer

We encourage high responsibility and independence while collaborating with colleagues, researchers, other university staff, and partners. We follow the terms of employment by the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Universities (CAO). Our offer contains: a fulltime 4-year Ph.D. position with a qualifier in the first year; excellent mentorship in a stimulating research environment with excellent facilities; and a personal development program within the Twente Graduate School. It also includes:

  • Gross monthly salary of € 2.770 in the first year, increasing each year up to € 3.539 in the fourth year;
  • Excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment;
  • A training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • A green campus with free access to sports facilities and an international scientific community;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • A full status as an employee at the UT, including pension, health care benefits and good secondary conditions are part of our collective labour agreement CAO-NU for Dutch universities.
  • This PhD position includes two research stays with industrial partners, which likely include the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and the European Central Bank (ECB). The research stays will comprise 22 months of your PhD. Note that the precise nature of the secondments may be subject to change.

Information and application

Are you interested in being part of our team? Please submit your application, and include:

Please ensure that your application is submitted by the deadline and note that we will start conducting interviews on a rolling basis; however, the application deadline is July 31. Do not make submissions via e-mail as they will not be considered.

Additional information can be acquired via email from dr. Wouter van Heeswijk (w.j.a.vanheeswijk@utwente.nl) and dr. Marcos Machado (m.r.machado@utwente.nl), with a cc to dr. Jorg R. Osterrieder (jorg.osterrieder@utwente.nl).

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About the department

The HBE cluster is dedicated to encouraging a supportive and inclusive working culture. Our aim is that all job applicants are given equal opportunities. When we select candidates for employment, it will be on the basis of their competence and ability. To support the workforce diversity, we are open to offer flexible working conditions on an individual basis to support work-life balance, that may include contract of employment, working hours and location, or child care arrangements.

Please have a look at this video to learn about our wider HBE department: The High Business Entrepreneurship corporate video can be watched via this link

About the organisation

The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a key role in understanding, jointly developing and evaluating innovations in society. Technological developments are the engine of innovation. As a technical university that puts people first, we tailor them to human needs and behavior and use social engineering to integrate them into society. We also ensure adequate governance at public and private level, and robust, inclusive and fair organizational structures. We do this by developing, sharing and applying high-quality knowledge in Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Sciences, Philosophy, Educational Sciences and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines revolves around tackling and solving societal challenges. The research programs of BMS are closely linked to the research of the UT institutes Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the Faculty of BMS offers work that matters. We equip you to create new possibilities for yourself and for our society. With us, you will become part of a leading technical university with increasing, positive social impact. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial atmosphere, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example through our flexible, adaptable benefits.

Want to know more?

Heeswijk, W.J.A. van (Wouter)

Heeswijk, W.J.A. van (Wouter)
Assistant Professor

Heeswijk, W.J.A. van (Wouter)
Assistant Professor

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Then you can contact Wouter for all substantive questions about this position and the application procedure. For general questions about working for the UT, please refer to the chatbot.

How to apply

Step 1

When you see a vacancy that appeals to you, you can apply online. We ask you to upload a CV and motivation letter and/or list of publications. You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.

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Step 2

The selection committee will review your application and you will receive a response within 2 weeks after the vacancy has been closed.

Step 3

1st interview.
The 1st (online or in person) meeting serves as an introduction where we introduce ourselves to you and you to us. You may be asked to give a short presentation. This will be further explained in the invitation.

Step 4

2nd interview.
In the second interview, we will further discuss the job content, your skills and your talents.

Step 5

The offer.
If the conversations are positive, you will be made a suitable offer. If applicable, we will sign you up for screening.

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About the BMS faculty

Curious about what The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) stands for? Check out the BMS website for more information.

A job that matters

Create new opportunities for yourself, your colleagues and our society. Scientist or teacher, administrator or facilitator, thinker or doer, energetic leader or silent support – your work at the University of Twente matters. And you too!

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