We investigate the excellent correlation between ionospheric upgoing electron beams and broadband electrostatic emissions (0–6 kHz) observed by Cluster, at ∼5 to 9 Earth's radii above the polar cap. In the absence of detailed, high time resolution waveform data in that region, we precisely analyzed several electron beams to obtain information concerning wave-particle interactions. Our results indicate that these beams are extremely variable and occasionally show multiple components. The processes involved might then occur on very short time scales, of the order of or shorter than sampling rates, typically 100 ms. We suggest that non linearities are at the origin of the spread of the frequency range of the waves simultaneously observed, as well as of the beam variability. We conclude that these electron beams are likely to destabilize Langmuir waves and, by the non-linear evolution of the electron bump-on-tail instability, could be responsible for the appearance of electrostatic solitary waves above the polar cap.