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Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in Artificial Intelligence


  • Organization: ESA - European Space Agency
  • Location: Noordwijk-Binnen
  • Grade: Mid level - F2 - Research Fellowship
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Information Technology and Computer Science
    • Security and Safety
    • Scientist and Researcher
  • Closing Date: 2023-12-11


Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in Artificial Intelligence

Job Requisition ID:  18204
Closing Date:  11 December 2023 23:59 CET/CEST
Establishment:  ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands
Directorate:  Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality
Publication:  External Only
Vacancy Type:  Internal Research Fellow
Date Posted:  20 November 2023


Internal Research Fellowship Opportunity in the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality.


ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. For this purpose, we welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.


This post is classified F2 on the Coordinated Organisations’ salary scale.


ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands  


Our team and mission

This research fellowship will be undertaken in ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), a group of postdoctoral research fellows and young graduates from a broad variety of academic fields aiming to pursue academic careers. The team’s task is to monitor, perform and foster research on advanced space systems, innovative concepts and working methods. It interacts externally almost exclusively with academia and operates as a truly interdisciplinary team bound by high scientific standards. Through its research, the team acts as a pathfinder to explore novel, potentially promising areas for ESA and the space sector, ranging from applied to basic fundamental research topics. An important task of the team is to communicate scientific trends and results as input to the strategic planning of the Agency.


The Advanced Concepts Team is at the forefront of developing and applying artificial intelligence (AI) techniques in the context of space. AI research initiatives were initiated within the ACT in 2006, with a primary focus on enhancing various aspects of space missions. This endeavour involved augmenting mission design tools with alternative approaches based on swarm intelligence, evolutionary robotics, evolutionary computing, deep neural architectures, reinforcement learning and neuromorphic computing, among other things. Given the continual influx of innovative ideas and solutions emerging from AI research, the team is entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring and developing ground-breaking findings and incorporating them into creative and pioneering domains.


You are strongly encouraged to familiarise yourself with the research done by the ACT , especially in the field of artificial intelligence but also in the complementary fields of computer science and the other main research lines of the team.

You are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship

You will be responsible for proposing and conducting research in the field of artificial intelligence with a specific focus on theoretical aspects and their applications in space-related contexts. Research areas and projects are determined collaboratively, with research fellows contributing their expert insights and judgment to select topics and leading some of the necessary developments. In addition, the team aligns some of its research choices with the strategic directions of the Agency. Previous research interests have encompassed a wide array of topics, including symbolic regression, evolutionary computing, physically-informed neural networks, neuromorphic architectures, neural ordinary differential equations, Hamiltonian neural networks, neural radiance fields, large language models, reservoir computing and liquid state machines.


Scientifically, you will:

  • propose and conduct research in the field of AI, potentially collaborating with universities in ESA Member States, especially through the Ariadna programme; 
  • evaluate and explore emerging concepts and theoretical methods in AI to identify potential synergies with ESA's objectives;
  • enhance the collection of open-source tools managed and advanced by the team, aligning with the principles of open science philosophy; 
  • stay up to date on the latest developments in AI, ensuring that ESA’s AI initiatives remain relevant and competitive.


As a Research Fellow with the ACT, you will:

  • publish results in peer-reviewed publications and use modern communication tools to communicate with the broader audience within and external to ESA;
  • lead and assist in interdisciplinary projects with other ACT researchers;
  • collaborate with your peers in the field to foster knowledge exchange and innovation; 
  • participate, together with the team, in the assessment of proposed space system concepts – not restricted to artificial intelligence and computer science – and propose new concepts and assessment studies;
  • perform and participate in assessments on topics of strategic interest to ESA, providing in-house expertise towards strategy development.

Technical competencies

Knowledge relevant to your field of research
Research track record
Ability to conduct research autonomously
Breadth of exposure obtained from past and/or current research
Interest in space and space research
Ability to gather and share relevant information

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation
Operational Efficiency
Fostering Cooperation
Relationship Management
Continuous Improvement
Forward Thinking 


You must have obtained:

  • a degree in AI, computer science, mathematics or engineering;
  • a PhD in AI, before taking up duty, with a thesis topic relevant to the tasks outlined above. 


You should be aiming toward a career in academia and/or research.

Additional requirements

You should also have:

  • Interest in and ability to perform prospective interdisciplinary research;
  • Ability to contextualise specialised areas of research and quickly assess their potential with respect to other domains and applications (rapid prototyping);
  • Academic networking skills to create functioning links with universities and research institutes; 
  • Ability to work in a team as well as independently in accordance with your own research plans and directions; 
  • Natural curiosity and a passion for new subjects and research areas;
  • Proficiency in C++ and Python programming languages.


Experience with open-source projects, GPU programming, distributed computing and cloud computing are considered strong assets.


Specific characteristics of the Research Fellowship
The position of Research Fellow (RF) in ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team is similar to a regular academic postdoctoral placement, but with a number of notable differences:

  • ACT RFs have no teaching obligations. However, you will likely be involved in the mentoring of Young Graduate Trainees and student interns within the team.
  • As there are no professor or similar roles within the team, ACT RFs are academically more independent than most postdoctoral researchers. This implies greater freedom, but also greater responsibility for research directions and approaches.
  • ACT RFs  join a diverse, evolving and interdisciplinary research team embedded in a large space agency, in contrast to a more specialised, focused research group with similar competences.
  • ACT RFs are required to actively reach out to other disciplines in order to bring their competences to bear in interdisciplinary research projects and to encourage other researchers to join them in their core, cross-disciplinary research projects. 
  • ACT RFs need to communicate their expertise and research results, including their potential implications and importance for ESA’s long-term strategy, both internally and externally.


The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.     

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.


For further information on the Internal Research Fellowship Programme please visit: Internal Research Fellowship


The Agency may require applicants to undergo selection tests.


In addition to your CV and your motivation letter, please add your proposal of no more than 5 pages outlining your proposed research in the "additional documents" field of the "application information" section.

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities.  Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace.  The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us at


Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nationals from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria and Cyprus as European Cooperating States (ECS).

According to the ESA Convention, the recruitment of staff must take into account an adequate distribution of posts among nationals of the ESA Member States*. When short-listing for an interview, priority will first be given to candidates from under-represented Member States*.


In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment conducted by an external background screening service. 

*Member States, Associate Members or Cooperating States.

We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.