2 Fully Funded PhD Research Fellowship in AI at NTNU in Norway 2021

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) offers 2 PhD research fellowship positions within “Explainable AI systems for business-critical applications” in the 2021/2022 academic session.

Project details:

Explainable AI and the EXAIGON project

The recent rapid advances of Artificial Intelligence (AI) hold promise for multiple benefits to society in the near future. AI systems are becoming ubiquitous and disruptive to industries such as healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, robotics, retail, banking, and energy. According to a recent European study, AI could contribute up to EUR 13.3 trillion to the global economy by 2030; EUR 5.6 trillion from increased productivity and EUR 7.73 trillion from opportunities related to consumer experience. However, in order to make AI systems deployable in social environments, industry and business-critical applications, several challenges related to their trustworthiness must be addressed first.

Explainable AI (XAI) aims at remedying these problems by developing methods for understanding how black-box models make their predictions and what are their limitations. The call for such solutions comes from the research community, the industry and high-level policy makers, who are concerned about the impact of deploying AI systems to the real world in terms of efficiency, safety, and respect for human rights. In order for XAI to be useful in business-critical environments and applications, it should not be limited to algorithm design because the experts who understand decision-making models the best are not in the right position to judge the usefulness and structure of explanations. It is necessary to enhance XAI research by incorporating models of how people understand explanations, and when explanations are sufficient for trusting something or someone. Such models have been researched for many years by philosophers, social and cognitive psychologists, and cognitive scientists. It becomes evident that significant interdisciplinary contributions are needed for AI systems to be considered trustworthy enough for deployment in social environments and business-critical applications.

The EXAIGON (Explainable AI systems for gradual industry adoption) project (2020-2024) will deliver research and competence building on XAI, including algorithm design and human-machine co-behaviour, to meet the society’s and industry’s standards for deployment of trustworthy AI systems in social environments and business-critical applications. Extracting explanations from black-box models will enable model verification, model improvement, learning from the model, and compliance to legislation.

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EXAIGON aims at creating an XAI ecosystem around the Norwegian Open AI-Lab, including researchers with diverse background and strong links to the industry. The project is supported by 7 key industry players in Norway who will provide the researchers with use cases, including data, models and expert knowledge. All involved researchers will work closely with each other, the industry partners, and researchers already working on relevant topics at NTNU, hence maximizing the project’s impact and relevance to the real world.

You will report to the Head of the Department.

Worth of Award

  • exciting and stimulating tasks in a strong international academic environment
  • an open and inclusive work environment with dedicated colleagues
  • favourable terms in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund
  • employee benefits
  • PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 482 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.


  • They seek two ambitious and highly motivated individuals with a Master’s degree in engineering cybernetics, computer science, control engineering, applied mathematics, or a related discipline.
  • Applicants are required to justify their candidateship by explicitly explaining their personal motivation and academic aptitude for pursuing a doctoral degree within this research field.
  • Applicants that expect to complete their master’s degree studies by summer 2021 can apply.
  • Academic results, publications, relevant specialization, work or research experience, personal qualifications, and motivation will be considered when evaluating the applicants.
  • It is a prerequisite that the PhD scholar applies for and is granted admission to the NTNU PhD studies as soon as possible after employment.
  • Excellent English skills, written and spoken, are required.
  • Applicants from non-European countries where English is not the official language must present an official language test report.

The following tests can be used as such documentation: TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). Minimum scores are:

  • TOEFL: 600 (paper-based test), 92 (Internet-based test)
  • IELTS: 6.5, with no section lower than 5.5 (only Academic IELTS test accepted)
  • CAE/CPE: grade B or A.

Appointments are made in accordance with the regulations in force regarding terms of employment for PhD candidates issued by the Ministry of Education and Research, with relevant parts of the additional guidelines for appointment as a PhD candidate at NTNU.

  • Applicants must undertake to participate in an organized PhD programme of study during their period of employment.
  • The person who is appointed must comply with the conditions that apply at any time to employees in the public sector.
  • In addition, a contract will be signed regarding the period of employment.
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How to Apply

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English or Norwegian.

The application must include:

  • An explicit indication of which of the two positions (PhD1 or PhD2), the applicant applies for. If an applicant’s background and experience justify it, one can apply for both positions. In that case, the applicants’ research statement should reflect information pertaining both positions.
  •  CV including information relevant for the qualifications and contact information for at least 2 reference persons.
  • Certified copies of academic diplomas and transcripts.
  • Applicants from universities outside of Norway are requested to send a diploma supplement (or a similar document) which describes in detail the study and grading system, and the rights for further studies associated with the obtained degree.
  • A research statement (max. 3 pages) including:
    •  A short presentation of the motivation for a PhD study.
    •  Why the applicant is suited for the position.
    • The applicant’s view of research challenges for the PhD position, as well as his/her theoretical and methodological approach to the challenges.

Please submit your application electronically via jobbnorge.no with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered.

Deadline: The application deadline is February 15, 2021.


Click here for more details and to apply