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CSC-TU/e Scholarship: PhD in “Creating intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context”

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has an agreement with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), which enables excellent Chinese candidates to pursue their PhD degrees at TU/e with a 4-year scholarship from the CSC.  

The department of Industrial Design (ID) of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is located in a highly industrialized region, known as ‘Brainport’. This region is internationally recognized as a top technology area with a special focus on the integration of design and technology. The department was established in close collaboration with the technological industry, and, because of this, focuses its research on the Design of Intelligent Systems, Products and related Services in a social context. With these intelligent systems it aims at offering new, breakthrough possibilities leading to societal transformations.

Companies can no longer rely solely on technology breakthroughs and incremental product development. Effective differentiation and real added value for the consumer are achieved by incorporating end-user insights in product innovation. This takes on an added significance when designing solutions for the emerging connected, digitally enabled world.

Innovative solutions today increasingly address a complex web in which products, services, technologies and user needs are interwoven. This in turn means that innovation is increasingly dependent on agreements within larger groups of stakeholders. This carries an inherent risk of slowing the innovative process down precisely at the time it needs to speed up in the face of an ever more dynamic and volatile market. Traditional markets are becoming increasingly saturated, educated and brand-wary.

Products and services are increasingly overlapping, everyday products are more intelligent and adaptive, and the focus is on ‘systems’ rather than stand-alone devices. Additionally, user needs are evolving over time. Maintaining simplicity and understanding the user in such a landscape becomes a challenge. The industry needs a new kind of industrial design because of these developments. Industrial Design is acting in response to this need. Ideas for innovation can quickly be hampered by technical limitations, incomplete use of user insights or lack of fit to existing business models.

Applicants to this PhD research shall have a background in industrial design, computer science, information technology or electrical engineering.

The applicants can apply for one of the following topics:

  1. Design for Social Interaction through social computing. we explore the impact of Social networks, Internet, multimedia, and virtual reality on the modern society, the impact of the bottom-up power and the much flattened structure of the social media on societal transformations, the impact of the social and systematic perspective of intelligent systems, products and related services on industrial design, and in turn, the possible impact of industrial design on these on-going societal and technical changes. The primary research areas are social computing, social interaction, linking between the virtual and the physical,  the opportunity and challenge brought up by connecting the web of people and the internet of things, and the related cultural and societal issues. This research is expected to contribute to the strategic areas around key societal issues: Energy, Health, and Smart Mobility. The social aspect of the research shall be linked to at least one of these issues. Application-wise the design research on social computing can easily be integrated with health and care by bring in the power of social bounding and support for the new generation of social networks and the ageing society in which the resource of the formal care is limited. Possibilities in contributing to other areas shall be considered, for example the environment and energy domain offers many opportunities for exploring crowd shifting techniques and social intelligence in systems design; social networking can provide ad-hoc yet real time information from the drivers and vehicles for a more efficient traffic, for a safer journey, or for a better experience on move.
  2. Social car. Many projects in the area of automotive aim to support the performance of the driver, e.g. by detecting fatigue and distraction, and by designing the user interface for Information and Entertainment systems such that they are optimally adjusted to the driving context, with the aim of enhancing safety. More recently, designers, researchers and manufacturers have realized that driving is also situated in a social context. This creates challenges (think of the social dilemma) but also opportunities. In particular, cars have become connected to the internet, allowing communication among drivers. Of course, safety issues should be taken into consideration, so that interfaces for communication among drivers cannot be copied from other contexts but need to be adjusted to the driving context. The project aims to identify a number of use cases and to select one or a few use cases for further elaboration in a research through design approach. The research should contribute to the further elaboration and refinement of an existing model for understanding the driving experience.
  3. Towards Autonomous Driving. In the not too distant future, autonomous driving will become possible. The transition from the current situation towards autonomous driving will be stepwise: more and more systems supporting the driver will be implemented in the car. This observation raises a number of questions. In the first place there are questions about the acceptance of autonomous driving by drivers, given the fact that the role of the driver will change from driving towards monitoring the performance of the system and once in a while adjust performance settings. If drivers reject the change of role or if the change of role results in undesirable behaviour (e.g. because of behavioural adaptation to the new situation), the expected benefits may not obtain. In the second place there are questions concerning the transition phase. In the transition phase, more and more systems will support the driver. This situation raises questions and challenges both concerning the division of labour and transfer of control between the driver and the system and the design of the associated interface, and again the behavioural adaptation effects, both supporting and adverse. The project will address these questions and challenges. The aim is both to conduct research and design and validate concepts to ensure a smooth transition towards autonomous driving. Real drivers should be involved in the design process.
  4. Shape Changing Physical Interfaces. Despite rapid advances in display and interaction technologies such as multi-touch and computer vision based interaction or tangible user interfaces, modern interactive displays are static in physical appearance, relying on visual and audio modalities to display dynamic effects. This project examines shape changing physical interfaces (SCPIs), where output and input modalities are symmetrical allowing for a dynamic mix of traditional audiovisual input and output, with malleability and manipulability. TU/e is engaged in a long-term research program that will try to answer questions such as: How to build such technologies? How to write software for them? What opportunities do they offer for interaction design? What benefits can they offer to users from both a functional and an aesthetic perspective? What applications are there for these technologies?
  5. Design for playful behaviour change. The aim of the project is to design and develop an integrated decentralised platform that enables designers to create intelligent playful environments that seduce users, such as children or elderly to more social and physical activity. It is related to addressing societal issues such as supporting children to lead less sedentary lifestyles, and supporting independent living of older adults. The PhD will choose a concrete context, e.g. either related to children or older adults, and through iterative design research cycles will develop design guidelines for how to design playful solutions that support behaviour change.  The PhD student will combine knowledge from psychology and motivational research with knowledge about emergent decentralised systems behaviour. The project builds on our expertise of designing playful environments for children and older adults.


More about research at ID, TU/e:

More examples of research projects at ID, TU/e:

More about the requirements in applying the Scholarship from China Scholarship Council (CSC) for Chinese PhD candidates: (in Chinese)

If you are interested in applying, please first adress your interest to dr.Jun Hu:, and prepare the following documents:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Research plan according to one of the above mentioned topics (no more than 4-pages of A4 in English, Including: Background, Objectives and Research questions, Methodology, Planning, Expected results, Feasibility, Future Plan after your PhD, and References).
  3. Motivation letter (no more than 1-page A4).
  4. Copy of Master Degree (if available, or a letter from your university that you are expected to graduate in due time).
  5. Letter of recommendation from supervisor at home university.
  6. Any indication of your English level according to the request from CSC. See (in Chinese)

For further questions, feel free to contact dr. Jun Hu: