ILRI Hiring PhD Graduate

ILRI PhD Graduate Fellowship: Intelligence for Responsible Innovation and Scaling

  •  Nairobi, Kenya
  •  Full-time
  •  CapDev

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) seek to recruit a PhD graduate fellow to work on intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling under the CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa (Ukama Ustawi). The successful fellow will be hosted by the Impact at Scale program at ILRI.                                                                 

ILRI works to improve food and nutritional security and reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock. It is the only one of 15 CGIAR research centers ( )dedicated entirely to animal agriculture research for the developing world. Co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, it has regional or country offices in East, South and Southern Asia as well as Central, East, Southern and West Africa.  

The Impact at Scale program is responsible for spearheading the scaling-up of innovations of all International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) programs for a sustainable future. The innovations have been tested and proven to be effective. The program aims at ensuring that many people can benefit from these technologies. Impact at scale program

Wageningen University & Research’ mission is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines. The Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group has played a global leading role in advanced science on agricultural innovation systems and responsible innovation and scaling.

ILRI and Wageningen University are collaborating under the CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa (Ukama Ustawi). Work Package 6 focusses on scaling innovations and coordinating CGIAR and partner activities in the region through a scaling hub that uses the Scaling Readiness approach to inform, activate and bring to scale innovations that respond to regional or country demand. It is in this context that ILRI and Wageningen University are investing in state-of-the-art science on scaling innovation, in order to advance the practice of scaling innovation for societal benefits.

Scope of Work

The science of scaling is a new, exciting field of study that is concerned with better understanding and guiding the scaling of innovation for achieving positive societal impacts such as those defined under the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The PhD will be action-oriented in that it seeks to conduct scientific research in support of achieving development outcomes and impacts. The design, testing and validation of decision-support tools to advance intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling with CGIAR and partners will be a central part of the PhD project. The CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa (Ukama Ustawi) offers a dynamic environment for data collection and piloting new approaches with CGIAR and partner innovation development teams.

This PhD fellowship will play a key role in advancing the science of scaling. The state-of-the-art knowledge, products and experiences are meant to inform curriculum development and strengthen capacity in practice of scaling. The focus of the PhD position will be on advancing the science of scaling.

Intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling refers to the knowledge, tools and approaches that can promote responsible and sustainable innovation for widespread impact. Intelligence, in this context, can refer to various forms such as (responsible) artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics for foresight and ex-ante impact assessment, or other types of research methods and collective learning approaches that can enable food system actors to perceive, understand, reason, and make informed decisions. Responsible innovation emphasizes the need to consider the ethical, social, and environmental implications of technological advancements and to ensure that they align with societal values and goals. Scaling refers to the process of expanding and integrating innovative solutions or technologies to reach a broader audience or have a larger impact. It involves overcoming challenges related to implementation, adoption, and scalability to achieve widespread and sustainable deployment.

Intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling aims to advanced solutions to solve complex problems while being mindful of potential risks and unintended consequences. It involves considering factors such as privacy, security, inclusivity, equality, transparency, and the potential impact on various stakeholders, including individuals, communities, and the environment.

Overall, the goal is to contribute to contribute to critical scholarly perspectives on responsible innovation and scaling, by exploring how to harness the power of knowledge, data and other forms of intelligence in a way that contributes to innovation for positive societal outcomes and limits negative impacts in a timely way, responds to needs or demands of innovation users/ clients, promotes sustainable development, and ensures that the benefits are widely accessible and equitable.

The PhD fellow is expected to lead the co-design, testing and validation of methods, approaches and/or tools that can strengthen timely intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling in close collaboration with CGIAR and partner teams. This is expected to generate insights on the conditions, factors and processes that enable or constrain collective intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling in agricultural research for development (AR4D).

Responsibilities of the fellow:

Design, implement and document/ publish scientific PhD research.

  • Develop a PhD-research proposal to be accepted by the Wageningen School of Social Sciences.
  • Develop and conduct a personal Training and Supervision Plan.
  •  Conduct research on the topic in close collaboration with the CGIAR Regional Integrated Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa (Ukama Ustawi).
  • Lead the design, testing and validation of approaches and/or tools that can advance intelligence in responsible innovation and scaling.
  • Write scientific articles about the findings and submit them to relevant international scientific journals.
  • Present PhD research findings at seminars and conferences.

Other duties

  • Collaborate and exchange with other PhD students in the science of scaling domain.
  • Contribute to Ukama Ustawi activities that align with PhD research.
  • Collaborate with the CGIAR Scaling Readiness team on topics that align with the PhD research.
  • Provide periodical reflections and recommendations to Ukama Ustawi Work Package 6 team.
  • Contribute to strategic communication efforts on the PhD research.

Requirements & qualifications:

  • A university degree (MSc) in a relevant scientific field that includes considerable social/ innovation science substance.
  • Strong interest in agricultural research for development, innovation and development impact.
  • An understanding/appreciation of the socio-economic and political dynamics of agricultural innovation and development in low- and middle-income or specifically SSA countries.
  • Ability to ‘think out of the box’ and proactively propose creative research ideas (e.g., translating concepts and tools used in other sectors).
  • Experience in independently designing, implementing and documenting scientific research.
  • Strong interpersonal, communication and network skills.
  • Good knowledge of English language, in listening, speaking and writing.
  • Competencies to use advanced qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis tools, methods and software (e.g., machine learning, R, ODK).
  • Strong digital skills, including proficiency in presentation, project management and collaboration tools.
  • Experience in low- or middle-income countries in agricultural/ development settings.
  • Experience in facilitating events in a multi-cultural environment.
  • Teamwork – ability to lead work in an agile and fast-paced environment.


ILRI Nairobi, Kenya. The position might involve international travel, including prolonged periods at Wageningen University, Netherlands and for conducting field work.

Duration: 4 years.

Terms of appointment and stipend:

This is a 4-year sandwich PhD-position at WUR. The candidate is expected to spend 20 months in Wageningen, the Netherlands (course work, proposal development and paper writing) and 28 months in East and Southern Africa to conduct field work. The successful candidate will be supervised jointly by an ILRI scientist and the university/academic supervisor/s and will be provided with: –

  • A living allowance during stay at Wageningen University, the Netherlands and in the project location.
  • Medical insurance cover.  
  • A budget for the PhD research that includes travel.
  • Support to obtain a residence permit for your stay in the Netherlands.
  • Logistical and administrative support in organizing the PhD.

Applicants MUST provide the following documents:

  • A cover letter of maximum 1 page that eludes the candidate’s motivation and fit for the PhD position.
  • A curriculum vitae that clearly shows how the applicant fulfills the requirements and qualifications listed above.
  • Names and contact details of three referees who are knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience.
  • Scanned copies of academic diplomas (bachelor and master) and associated lists of marks/ qualifications for courses followed.
  • A completed assignment in relation to the PhD research you would like to undertake (Appendix 1).

Appendix 1:

As a candidate for the position of PhD, you will play a crucial role in driving science on responsible innovation and scaling in East and Southern Africa. This region presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring novel and creative approaches to address complex social, economic, and environmental issues. In this writing assignment, we would like you to outline your approach to intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling, specifically tailored to the context of East and Southern Africa. You should demonstrate an understanding of the region’s unique food systems needs and challenges, as well as propose research questions, and innovative methods and analysis tools that can advance intelligence for responsible innovation and scaling.

The candidate is encouraged to develop a research note along the following lines:

1.         Understanding the context: a) Describe the socio-economic and environmental challenges faced by East and Southern Africa, highlighting the specific aspects that make scaling and responsible innovation essential in this region. b) Share examples of successful and failed responsible innovation and scaling initiatives in East and Southern Africa and discuss their impact on the region’s development.

2.         Responsible Innovation and scaling: a) Define responsible innovation and scaling and explain why it is crucial in the context of food system transformation in East and Southern Africa. b) Propose a theoretical/ conceptual framework or approach for responsible innovation and scaling (visualizations are encouraged, and integrating learning from other sectors on responsible innovation is encouraged. c) Highlight potential considerations and implications that might arise when developing and scaling innovation in East and Southern Africa, and outline strategies to mitigate these concerns.

3.         Research questions: a) Define 1 overarching research question, and 4 interrelated sub-research questions that could form the backbone of the PhD research. b) shortly elaborate how these main and sub-questions interrelate and link the conceptual framework.

4.         Innovative methods and analytics: a) list a set of innovative methods and corresponding analysis tools that the candidate expects to use to generate results/ answers to the listed sub-research questions. b) Ideas on overall case study or experimental design for the study.

5.         Societal relevance: a) Discuss the importance of tackling the research questions for sustainability and inclusivity in the context of responsible innovation and scaling in East and Southern Africa. b) Briefly explain how the science could inform innovation and scaling curriculum development, as well as advance the inclusivity, equity and other responsibility considerations into innovation and scaling strategies.

Please ensure that your response is well-structured, supported by examples and references to relevant research, and demonstrates a thoughtful and comprehensive understanding of the topic. Your writing should reflect critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to apply theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios. The assignment should be approximately 1500 to 2000 words in length (excl. reference list). The use of visuals and images is encouraged.

By submitting the written assignment, the applicant declares to have developed this research note without external support, attests originality to the results and takes full responsibility for it.

Applications should be sent to the Capacity Development Manager, ILRI by clicking on the tab “APPLY NOW” on or before 30th September 2023. The position title and reference number REF: GF/IAS /01/2023 should be clearly marked on the subject line of the cover letter.

We thank all applicants for their interest in working for ILRI. Due to the volume of applications, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

ILRI does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process (application, interview meeting, processing or training). ILRI also does not concern itself with information on applicants’ bank accounts.

To find out more about ILRI visit our websites at


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