Funding for a PhD project within sustainable concrete construction

The Family Thomas Research Foundation (Familjen Thomas forskningsstiftelse) is a recently started foundation with the aim to fund research on Sustainable concrete construction as the overarching theme.

In this initiative, we invite applications for research grants to support a PhD project within this theme.

Last day for submission of application is
June 15, 2022.

Background

To make concrete construction sustainable, the climate effects of concrete construction need to be drastically reduced, and by 2045 it should be “climate-neutral”. Several measures need to be combined to achieve this goal:

  1. Reduce CO2 emissions from the production of cement or alternative binders
  2. Reduce use of cement clinker in the binder; i.e. develop and use alternative binders
  3. Reduce use of binder in the concrete; i.e. improve proportioning of concrete
  4. Reduce use of concrete in structures, and avoid using concrete of higher strength than required; i.e. optimize design
  5. Efficient use of thermal energy storage in buildings; i.e. optimize energy use during the life-time of a building
  6. Increase/utilize the longevity of concrete buildings and structures


The Family Thomas Research Foundation focuses, primarily, on bullets b-d above, i.e., to optimize the concrete and the structural design.

Research themes included in this call

Two subthemes are included in this call, first one focusing on design and second on material level:

  1. Smart, resource-efficient design solutions which increase the competitiveness of concrete from a sustainability perspective.
  2. Resource-efficient concrete that reduces the concrete's climate footprint, including alternative binders and proportioning to reduce binder or clinker.

A successful proposal addresses one, or both of, these subthemes.

 

The subthemes are further described in the following:

Subtheme 1: Resource-efficient design solutions

The first subtheme focuses on smart, resource-efficient design solutions which increase the competitiveness of concrete from a sustainability perspective. Building with concrete has advantages in many aspects: sound insulation, thermal mass, fire-safety, durability, etc. Accordingly, concrete is used for many applications for both buildings and infrastructure, such as foundations, slabs, columns, and walls. To handle the carbon footprint associated with concrete structures, smart, resource-efficient design solutions which minimize the use of concrete in different applications are needed. The aim is to improve material utilization and minimize material consumption. Various methods can be applied, e.g., optimization of topology, shape, size, use of prestressing. A successful proposal addresses applications and methods with potential for large savings in total consumption.

Subtheme 2: Resource-efficient concrete

The second subtheme focuses on resource-efficient concrete, i.e., methods to reduce the climate footprint of the concrete material as such. Both alternative binders, and improved proportioning to reduce binder or clinker content, can be considered. The most explored alternative binders include coal combustion fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag and natural pozzolans, such as calcined clays and volcanic ashes. The availability of coal fly ash and slag will soon be low, as the climate crisis calls for reduced use of coal in power plants and steel industry. Consequently, other alternatives are of main interest in this call. Examples of research questions concern quality control, high replacement levels, mechanical and durability properties. Optimization of the mix design can be reached using different methods, e.g. by utilizing materials with low water demand, adding filler material, or by optimizing the particle size distribution. Production is a major challenge; more advanced production plants are required, and production at large volumes exhibits uncertainties.

Who can apply?

To be eligible to apply, the main applicant must have a doctoral degree and a permanent position at a Swedish university. The grant may only be administered by a Swedish university.

Budget and timeframe

The total budget for this call is 7.5 million Swedish crowns. We envisage supporting a project with a grant up to 1.5 million Swedish crowns per year. The project grant can be used to cover costs for salaries, travel, equipment, and other costs directly linked to project implementation. Co-funding from other funding sources is encouraged.

A project supported under this call is expected to start in early 2023, and can be planned to have a total duration up to five years. Funding will be granted for three years, with the intention to continue funding of a successful project up to five years. Important criteria for a project to be granted continued funding is output in form of relevant publications of good scientific quality. The foundation will also follow the progress of the project continuously.

The applications will be evaluated in a two-step procedure.

All qualifying applications in step 1 will be reviewed by external evaluators in summer 2022. The Board will decide which applications will pass on to step 2 in mid-September 2022. Applicants passing to step 2 will be informed as soon as possible after the decision is taken, and invited to submit a more detailed project description, considering also possible comments from the review process.

The deadline for the second step proposal will be October 25, 2022.

The Board will decide on project grant in mid-November 2022.

All applicants will be informed on the outcome of the process latest November 2022.

Submitting and application

An application for a project grant must be submitted as one pdf-file by e-mail to info@familythomasfoundation.se

 

The application must be received no later than June 15, 2022.

We will confirm receipt of each application by e-mail to the main applicant.
Please see the next section Application guidelines and instructions for detailed instructions for how to apply.

Applicants are welcome to contact us by e-mail: info@familythomasfoundation.se for further information or for clarification regarding the requirements for applications.

To ensure maximum transparency, all questions and answers will be published in a Q&A page on our website.

Application guidelines and instructions

All applications for research funding within this call must:

  • be structured in accordance with the guidelines stated below;
  • be written in English;
  • be saved in PDF file format (of ready-to-print quality);
  • be laid out in European A4 paper format, with a minimum font size of 12 pt and margins of at least 25 mm.

Applications exceeding the page limit specified for each section below will be rejected.

 

Applications shall contain the following:

Front page:

The front page shall include the main information:

  • Proposal title
  • Main applicant, affiliation, e-mail address
  • Co-applicants, affiliation, e-mail addresses
  • Project duration
  • Total amount applied

 

Project description – max 2 pages:

Describe background, aim, methods, timeline, relevance for this call, and expected outcomes.

 

Budget and funding:

Include a detailed budget for the project, including distribution of costs (e.g. salaries, overhead, other costs). The budget must follow the national model of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF). State the activity level (per cent of a full-time equivalent) of all personnel active within the project. Indicate if the project will be partly funded (co-funded) by other sources, and whether that funding is secured or applied for.

 

CVs for the main and co-applicants:

Include a 2-page CV plus 1 page listing 10 selected publications for each applicant.