Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth Observation

Job Req ID:  14611
Closing Date:  13 July 2022
Establishment:  ESRIN, Frascati, Italy
Directorate:  Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes
Publication:  External Only
Vacancy Type:  Internal Research Fellow
Date Posted:  14 June 2022


Internal Research Fellowship Opportunity in the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes.


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..


ESRIN, Frascati, Italy  


Our team and mission

Φ-lab, a division in ESA's Future Systems Department, aims to fully embrace NewSpace and be the catalyst for radical innovation in Earth Observation (EO). In particular, our vision is to become a kind of "hub", connecting a growing ecosystem of Artificial Intelligence (Al) capabilities across Europe.


At present the power of Al for EO is largely untapped. Many scientific, applications and capability challenges still need to be addressed in order to deliver to our society and economy the maximum value from satellite open EO data. See ESA ¢-lab Explore Office Research & Innovation (R&I) strategy, 2020 (


You are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship

This applied research opportunity would enable tackling some of those challenges and you are thus invited to suggest research activities in the following areas:


•    Self-supervised learning and transfer learning;
•    Frugal machine learning (with a small number of labels);
•    Physics-informed machine learning combining models and statistics;
•    Neuromorphic computing mimicking more closely brain functions (e.g. spiking neural networks);
•    Search of optimal ML architectures for multi-tasking (e.g. AutoML);
•    Federated learning (e.g. privacy ML, swarm intelligence);
•    Edge computing and model reduction (e.g. TinyML, distillation);
•    Reasoning;
•    Smart integrated observing systems.


These research activities should be applied to an EO domain in line with your interests and with Φ-lab strategic research plans.


In addition to your main research activity, you will have the possibility to contribute to the general Φ-lab activities involving industry and research centres, and in general support Φ-lab activities in the community related to your expertise.


In particular, you will:


•    perform applied research in one of the above areas, bringing newly developed Al technologies to upcoming smart EO sensors;
•    contribute to development of an interactive environment for rapid prototyping and testing of new ideas;
•    publish results in top-ranked peer-reviewed publications;
•    promote/share your results and tools through new digital tools, including notebooks and social media;
•    perform and participate in assessments on subjects of strategic interest to ESA.


Benefits of working at the Φ-lab will include boosting your personal and professional development through:


•    Being exposed to ESA’s unique, broad competences and having access to well-known leaders in EO, Al, ICT, the space industry and academia.
•    Building a network of international connections that can help you in your future career;
•    Becoming an integral part of the Φ-lab ESA community and its related networks;
•    Impacting the growing Al4EO ecosystem, promoting and developing your ideas on EO, Al and a rapidly changing space sector;
•    Developing applied research in line with your interests in an innovative and stimulating environment;
•    Addressing real-world applications that will impact European scientific and industrial competitiveness.


Technical competencies

Knowledge relevant to the field of research
Research/publication record
Ability to conduct research autonomously
Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities
Ability to gather and share relevant information
Strong knowledge of EO technology for scientific or industrial applications
Strong understanding of AI techniques and computer science technology evolution
Understanding of disruptive technologies

Behavioural competencies

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


You should have recently completed, or be close to completion of, a PhD in data science, Al, computer vision or similar engineering areas. Preference will be given to applications submitted by candidates within five years of receiving their PhD.


Additional requirements

You should also have:


•    Interest in applied research
•    In-depth knowledge of and interest in Al themes
•    Strong programming skills (Python)
•    Experience with machine/deep learning algorithms
•    A proven record (e.g. github) in using neural network frameworks (e.g. Tensorflow, Keras)
•    The ability to work cooperatively as part of an international, multi-disciplinary team, and individually on personal research projects and directions
•    A natural curiosity in and passion for new subjects, methodologies and research areas
•    Knowledge of Earth observation is a plus, but not compulsory. General interest in space and space research
•    A strong research/publication record.


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 and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Cyprus and Slovakia 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 or balanced 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.