Martí-Franquès COFUND Fellowship Programme


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Engineering and Architecture

Supervisor name and surname:

Manel Vallés Rasquera

Supervisor email:

Supervisor short biography

Co-supervisor name and surname:

Laureano Jiménez Esteller

Co-supervisor email:

Co-supervisor institution:


Co-supervisor short biography

PhD programme:

Nanoscience, Materials and Chemical Engineering

Title of the research project:

Sustainable Development Goals and Planetary Boundaries: Insights from mathematical programming and life-cycle assessment

Description of the research project:

As humanity’s impact on the environment continues to increase, it brings with it an increased risk of abrupt and irreversible changes at the global scale. The global agenda is undoubtedly determined by the success of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Planetary Boundaries (PBs) framework, . Both public and private institutions show great efforts towards the full integration of the SDGs in their own agendas. Ultimately, national governments are responsible for the effective budget allocation for sustainable development.

The lack of open, discussed and widely accepted general guidelines related to how to link national public spending (based on the classification of the functions of government) to the achievement of the SDGs is reported in the literature. Thus, the aim of this project is to propose an initial mapping between them, as well as to assess, through data envelopment analysis (DEA), mathematical programming and multiobjective optimization, the national public spending efficiency where government expenditure is consumed (inputs) to attain a certain progress in indicators specific to all 17 SDGs (outputs). Planetary boundaries, identifies a safe operating space for several processes deemed critical to the continued stability of the Earth system. At national level, countries face the challenge of limiting their environmental impact while enabling their inhabitants to lead happy lives.

Different economies of various types and stages of development exhibit varying emissions and resource needs, yet they all exert pressure on the same Earth system processes. On the one hand, results were analyzed for each SDG by income groups, unraveling inefficient spending strategies, thus identifying potential weaknesses that should be overcome before some countries can achieve the same level of progress on SDGs as the best performing nations. On the other hand, low income and high income countries deliver higher average public spending efficiency. Countries of these two groups might often deemed efficient, being displayed alongside the efficient frontiers of the DEA. These finding highlights that low middle-income and upper middle-income countries exhibit the major room for improvement in public spending.
Considering this broad context, here we apply DEA to assess the efficiency of nations in “converting” their environmental impact into a happy populace, or, in other words, the environmental efficiency of well-being. We plan to calculate aspirational improvement targets for countries violating one or more PBs and identify trends within income categories as defined by the World Bank. We found that only around one third of the countries analysed operate efficiently, with only a few of them doing so within PBs. Following best practices, most countries could meet PBs while increasing their happiness level at the same time. Conversely, reductions in well-being would be required for most high-income countries to operate within PBs. Overall, this work highlights both the differences and similarities between nations concerning how they provide well-being while providing high-level targets towards the global goal of conserving the Earth system without compromising our well-being.
Data will be recovered from public databases coming from diverse international organisms.

- Hold a bachelor/master degree (or equivalent), in chemical engineeering, computer science, mathematics, economic or similar.
- Language skills: English is the working language of the international research group (
- Other skills: we wish to recruit a motivated and talented fellow to undertake original research in the area of sustainable decsion making in a very multidisciplinar and interdisciplinar topic.

- Skills: multivariate statistical analysis, mathematical programming (LP, NLP, MILP, MINLP), multiobjective optimization, DEA, multicriteria decision making, machine learning, life-cycle assessment.
- State-of-the art modelling & optimization tools, including process simulation (e.g., gPROMS...); life cycle assessment and related software packages (e.g., SimaPro, Ecoinvent...); algebraic modelling systems (e.g., GAMS, Matlab...), optimization solvers (e.g., CPLEX, DICOPT, SBB...) and machine learning algorithms (e.g., artificial neural networks, support vector machine...). programming in several tools (GAMS, Matlab...).
- Personality traits: The PhD project is embedded into a larger, interdisciplinary research effort with international collaborations. There are ongoing collaborations with international research centres that will be used to validate the modelling framework.
Ethics: This project involves ethical aspects

Workplace Location: Campus Sescelades, Tarragona

Gross anual salary:

27103.20 €


Full time

Working hours:

37.5 hours a week

Earliest expected start date:

14 February 2022

European union This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 945413