Solar Fuels theme leader / Research group leader (F/M)

The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER is one of the nine research institutes of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). DIFFER focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to energy research, combining physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science to enable the energy transition towards a carbon neutral society. Our mission in short is ‘Science for Future Energy’.

DIFFER strives to play a central role in fundamental research for the global energy transition. The institute carries out multidisciplinary research focused on two themes: fusion energy (FE) and solar fuels (SF). Within each theme, different groups develop their independent research while collaborating in synergistic programmatic efforts. Within the SF research programme, DIFFER investigates the fundamental science governing the use of renewable energy to power the chemical conversion of molecular building blocks (H2O, CO2, N2, etc.) into carbon neutral chemicals and fuels. At this moment, the SF programme consists of nine research groups: See also DIFFER's Strategic Plan for details:

We seek a:

Solar Fuels theme leader / Research group leader (F/M)

Solar Fuels theme leader / Research group leader (F/M)

We expect applications from senior scientists who wish to lead our SF research programme, establish their own research group within this programme, and join the management team of the institute.

Responsibilities and tasks: 


The  SF theme leader -with the SF Group leaders- is responsible for the overall strategy and development of the SF research programme,. You will act as a mentor for the SF group leaders and build a strong (inter-)nationally competitive team working on the relevant research questions to fullfill DIFFER’s mission.

As SF theme leader you will also become a member of the DIFFER management team (MT). As member of the DIFFER management team (MT) you will develop, contribute to and implement the overall strategy of the institute.

A key aspect of the position is to establish the SF research programme nationally as well as internationally, to secure research funding, and to acquire state of the art research infrastructure. To this end you will need to have and further build up a network of stakeholders in the SF community, academia and industry. As programme leader you will have an important role in organizing the national research field and to initiate agenda-setting initiatives with external partners, such as the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the European Research Council (ERC).

As a research group leader you will guide group members, develop methods of research and control budget and planning. You are also responsible for the quality of the projects within the group and publications in leading international journals.


  • Establish own research group within the SF theme at DIFFER;
  • Secure a prominent positioning for the SF research program and its consituent research groups in the national and international scientific arena;
  • Identify and stimulate new research directions in the field of solar fuels and beyond;
  • Manage the Solar Fuels programme staff, planning and budgets;
  • Contribute to the long-term vision of DIFFER and translate this into a long-term strategy (research directions, programme description);
  • Lead projects and partnerships, both inside and outside the institute;

Applicants should have a PhD or equivalent in a relevant field of research (chemistry / physics / materials science & engineering) and a proven track record in solar fuels, (photo-)electrochemistry, (photo-) catalysis or closely related topics. Naturally you have excellent communication and leadership  skills and a proven experience in management of international scientific staff with multiple drivers and interests. You also have an excellent knowledge of the English language and you are (willing to become) proficient in the Dutch language.

Employment conditions: 

Our institute offers a top class international research environment with various interdisciplinary but related research topics and projects. The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres. We offer:

  • A start-up budget for personnel and equipment to initate or relocate a research group to DIFFER;
  • An initial contract for two years duration with the expectation that, based on performance and alignment with DIFFER’s long term vision, it will be converted into an indefinite contract;
  • Depending on relevant work experience, a salary of up to a maximum of 8,087 euro gross per month (salary scale 16). This salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance and end-of-year bonus;
  • An excellent package of secondary benefits including a pension plan, group discounts on individual insurances and travel expenses. We offer generous relocation expenses and support with finding accommodation

NWO and DIFFER have number of regulations that support employees in finding a good work-life balance, such as conditions for teleworking, part-paid parental leave and the possibility to purchase or sell holiday leave. General information on working at NWO can also be found at the NWO website (

Further information: 

The 'NWO job interview code' applies to this position. DIFFER strives to achieve a diverse workforce to develop talent and creativity by bringing together different perspectives. As such we encourage applications from women and minorities. To strengthen our commitment to diversity, in January 2018 we formed a taskforce with the aim to design, implement, and monitor diversity and gender equality initiatives. Further information on the vacancy is available through, prof. dr. M.C.M. van de Sanden,  director DIFFER 040-3334  827, e-mail m [368] cm [368] vandesanden [28] differ [368] nl More information about DIFFER can be found at:

Application procedure: 

In case you are interested you can apply by submitting an application letter and full resume. Please refer to vacancy 19.006. The letter of application and resume may be sent electronically as single PDF-files (in the following format lastname_appl.letter, lastname_CV, etc), to vacancies [28] differ [368] nl Candidates will be considered immediately, and until the position has been filled.

Closing date: 
Friday, May 31, 2019
Vacacany number: 

Go to the Vacancies page.