Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline

 

Conversation with Vittorio Chiesa, President of MIP Graduate School of Business

 

We live in a world characterised by increasing interaction between disciplines, in which the professional profiles required by companies are changing. What role can a business school play in this framework?

The business school sector evolves with companies and the wider role they play in society. Companies have been required to operate with a “purpose”, i.e. to act not only for profit but for higher aims, so that they have a positive impact on the system in which they participate. Markets and consumers are showing a growing awareness of this issue and it has become essential for companies to have a relationship with their stakeholders.

Business schools must pay the same attention to students and companies. It is with this objective in mind that this year we obtained Bcorp (Benefit Corporation) certification by joining the international community of companies that stand out for their commitment to combine profit, the pursuit of well-being for society, inclusion, and attention to the environment.

The “purpose” must become a fundamental part in the development of people’s skills, so we can train managers capable of conceiving companies at the service of society.
Companies are asking us to make this cultural leap and we can help by teaching our students how a company can and should contribute positively to the system and country.
Our role is to prepare professionals to introduce strongly purpose oriented innovations that are financially and socially important.

Multidisciplinarity is functional to this objective as it imposes breadth of vision, flexibility, critical spirit, and intuition. Modern training does not only include restricted specialisation but interaction with other disciplines to create more complete professional profiles. Such people must be capable of systemic level analysis and guide companies by defining and drawing inspiration from a “purpose.”

Multidisciplinarity as a tool for breadth of vision and adaptability towards the world. How to integrate it into training?

Traditionally, the multidisciplinary approach was to provide different perspectives within a training programme, and offer different contributions within basic and specialist training. The synthesis between multidisciplinarity and specialist skills is left to the individual.

But it is possible to apply a radically different approach by integrating multidisciplinarity into a training programme, regardless of the subject. The modern challenge is to manage the complexity of this new approach. For example by using innovative teaching techniques which change the interaction between professor and student to make this type of training more effective.
At the moment it is not widely and easily disseminated, but several experiments are underway.

It requires training programme planning and preparation of professors, or rather groups of professors, working in teams. Multidisciplinary training needs more interaction, and to be delivered to small groups using teaching formats that actively involve students.

I believe that the future distinctive element between teaching programmes will be initiatives with specialist standardised content for large numbers, and more transversal content and innovative teaching methods, dedicated to more restricted groups.

Lately there is much talk of life-long education as a key to the continuous updating of skills. Is it a dynamic that intersects with multidisciplinarity?

Lifelong learning means remaining aligned with the environment development and this only rarely or partially happens through vertical insights. More often it means widening the professional profile.

What has been said before applies to lifelong learning too – it must be based on broader contents, and different from the past, using specific platforms capable of dealing with broad disciplinary ranges.

Purpose and multidisciplinarity. What are MIP’s plans for the future of these aspects?

All training programmes will include modules on “purpose,” the role of the company and managers as leaders and innovators.

Opening “Purpose Labs”, i.e. training initiatives dedicated to in-depth studying and analysing how a company can build its purpose, and support companies’ top management in this development.

Finally, innovating our service formats, so that the school is not just a place for training, but a place that encourages a person’s growth. This includes the assessment of skills, guidance, and professional development.

Inspiration from evolutionary approaches: algorithms and challenges in finance

Advanced analytical techniques borrowed from a heterogeneous literature to extract valuable insights from data are gaining momentum within the finance community. This article briefly introduces how financial ecosystems are increasingly responsive to the application of biological and evolutionary algorithms aimed to analyze the behavior and dynamics of their participants.

Andrea Flori, Assistant Professor in Management and Finance at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

In a popular 1973 work, Burton Malkiel showed how a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at the financial pages of a newspaper could select a portfolio which would perform just as well as one carefully constructed by experts (“A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, 1973), helping to fuel the debate on the possibility of extracting information from financial data and from the behaviour of market operators.

Financial markets are an arena where predictive techniques and algorithms attempt to challenge market efficiency using pattern identification.

Within this framework, numerous methodologies borrowed from various scientific fields have spread and combined to provide a new perspective for studying the dynamics of complex financial systems and the interdependencies that govern their participants’ relationships.

Market infrastructure, the role of information and the behaviour of the operators represent, therefore, some typical pillars employed to define such approaches of analysis within financial contexts.

In particular, approaches inspired by biological perspectives have captured the attention of many financial operators interested in a new generation of intelligent techniques of analysis and calculation that mimic human actions.

Hence, genetic algorithms and neural networks have pervaded financial literature and contributed to the dissemination of methodological innovations inspired by the biological evolution and human functioning. By relying on a multidisciplinary and computationally evolved perspective of analysis, these approaches have shown to obtain promising results compared to traditional methods of statistical analysis.

Specifically, genetic algorithms employ natural selection and genetics tools and perspectives to identify the best solution to problems. By mimicking biological evolution, an initial population is iteratively mutated and recombined to determine subsequent generations, so that changes with a desirable impact are retained in the gene pool of future generations in an attempt to converge towards optimal solutions. Each individual, i.e. candidate solution, is assigned a fitness value, and individuals with more promising characteristics are assigned a higher probability of mating to generate new individuals, i.e. potentially better performing solutions to problems, thus in line with the Darwinian theory of the “survival of the fittest”. Neural networks, instead, learn from data structure and process a signal through interconnected artificial neurons creating a configuration similar to the human nervous system. Each connection is associated with a weight that contains information about the input signal that inhibits or stimulates the signal that is communicated to the neurons to accomplish a specific task. External information is used as input and processed internally in one or more layers of analysis by activating specific neurons that transmit the signal to others before determining an output with a predictive accuracy that can be increased by a learning process of previous actions. Neural networks are a complex adaptive system which can change and adapt its internal structure based on the situation and information that crosses it.

These approaches are therefore flexible and able to adapt to new circumstances, possibly learning from past experience and reacting to stimuli coming from new signals in the system.

It is not surprising, therefore, that such techniques, either separately or combined with each other, are increasingly being applied in many financial areas, such as predictive market analysis and portfolio allocation rules, hedging of financial instruments, and robo-advisor applications.

With the recent increase in computational power and resources and their wide availability, advanced techniques for massive data analysis are, in fact, gaining momentum within the finance community, contributing to a rapidly growing body of literature that exploits, in addition to the techniques mentioned above, a large-scale use of statistical and deep learning concepts to identify patterns in financial markets, study the complex non-linear relationships between and within financial time series, and identify market anomalies.

In addition, repeated episodes of financial crisis with their far-reaching externalities and cascading effects on financial markets and the real economy have driven the study and provision of new tools to monitor and predict the spread of instability in financial systems and manage critical issues that may emerge.

However, adopting statistical learning approaches and deep learning techniques in the study of financial systems requires new paradigms, knowledge and practical skills necessary to develop a solid base of models and algorithms that are properly applied in the reference domains while exploiting the potential arising from a transdisciplinary approach to scientific investigation.

In the world of finance, such tools of analysis are of the utmost importance for future technological development and play a fundamental role in many financial ecosystems. Massive data analysis using advanced statistical and deep learning techniques is in great demand in many areas and in a wide range of applications, which include in addition to forecasting market trends, also for example the study of dependencies between financial systems, the approval of credit lines, the efficient management of financial resources, the detection of anomalies and frauds, and risk assessment.

These challenges seem to indicate therefore a new research perspective, at the crossroads between data mining, predictive analysis and causal modelling, which can allow us to exploit the strength of these algorithms of analysis and calculation to investigate economic and social problems of real and changing environments.

Involving family caregivers in designing assistance services

The Place4Carers project was conceived to co-produce a new community social service, promoting the involvement of family caregivers of elderly people residing in remote, rural areas of the Camonica Valley (Lombardy Region).

 

Cristina Masella, Professor of Business Administration, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

Eleonora Gheduzzi, PhD Candidate, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

The current health emergency has provided the opportunity to reflect on the importance of community assistance and home care, especially in favour of fragile elderly people. In Italy, community assistance is entrusted primarily to 7 million family caregivers, a category that mostly goes unnoticed. Family caregivers are predominantly women aged 50 to 60. During the health emergency, more than 50% of these caregivers suspended or reduced their work activities because of the increased burden of caring for their loved ones.

 

“We have a thousand worries. Our life is very hard. We haven’t even the smallest moment to ourselves; a time in which to recharge our batteries. And community assistance is steadily decreasing,” Caregiver (55), Breno.

 

In addition to the psychological hardship of seeing a loved one suffer, family caregivers experience intense stress, a sense of impotence, and solitude due to their ‘burden of assistance’. To prevent the emergence of new vulnerabilities on the territory, a network of healthcare and social service providers must be created that can collaborate closely with family caregivers and provide them with the assistance they need in caring for the elderly. The goal of establishing such a network is twofold: to support caregivers, improving their psychological and social condition, and to strengthen the provision of community assistance to vulnerable elderly people.

 

“We have a greater awareness, both of ourselves and of the relationship we can establish with healthcare operators and professionals to assist our loved ones. I have matured a lot because I now realise what I can do,” Caregiver (77), Breno

 

The Place4Carers project has responded to these needs through participatory scientific research actions involving family caregivers who look after dependant elderly people living in the Camonica Valley. This mountainous, hard-to-reach area was chosen as the scope of the project because here, the caregivers’ assistance is truly crucial given their limited access to healthcare and social services.

The three-year project was funded by Fondazione Cariplo and coordinated by the EngageMinds HUB of the Università Cattolica, in collaboration with the School of Management (SOM) of the Politecnico di Milano, the Need Institute, and Azienda Territoriale per i Servizi alla Persona (ATSP), the local social welfare centre in Breno, Brescia.

In particular, the Politecnico di Milano’s SOM team was entrusted with mapping the needs and the psychological and social condition of family caregivers in the Camonica Valley. This study revealed that caregivers spend an average of 75 hours per week caring for their loved one, experiencing greater physical and psychological fatigue than those who benefit from greater healthcare and social services.

These and other results formed the basis for a new, co-designed service, “S.O.S CAREGIVERS: feeling well to help others feel well”, comprising four co-designed workshops involving 26 family caregivers, 6 researchers and 3 ATSP representatives.

The School of Management team supported ATSP in the implementation of the service, by evaluating its feasibility first and then its impact. The service comprises four macro-activities and has helped more than 150 caregivers:

  • Know more, know better: training courses aimed at providing family caregivers with know-how and practical skills for more effective management of their loved ones.
  • Tradition and memory: a sociable support group offering family caregivers the chance to exchange stories relating to life in the Camonica Valley, mediated by the support and supervision of a psychologist.
  • Information is good for the heart: the establishment of various local information channels, both online and offline, to inform caregivers about the community services available to fragile elderly people and to promote the new SOS Caregiver service.
  • Citizens’ Committee: a participatory organisational structure managing the service, supervising its performance and providing suggestions to improve its effectiveness. The Committee is made up of family caregivers, ATSP representatives, and researchers.

The results were more than satisfactory. For a more comprehensive, overall evaluation of the service, the School of Management team involved all the stakeholders who collaborated in implementing the service: family caregivers, ATSP representatives, researchers, trainers, professionals, and four local care homes. Overall, the service met with a very high level of satisfaction (around 90%), good understanding of course contents (around 88%), and a considerable participation rate, given the hard-to-reach context (around 20%). Moreover, the ATSP representatives, the professionals, and the managers of the four care homes involved were interested in continuing the service, highlighting the importance of supporting family caregivers in caring for the elderly at home.

 

“While we didn’t receive any physical help, the training and assistance we received has helped us manage better our day-to-day problems”, Caregiver (78), Breno.
“We were able to gain a better insight of the day-to-day difficulties experienced by family caregivers in caring for the elderly, and this helped us to review our services in order to address the needs not just of the elderly but of the family as a whole”, an ATSP member of staff, Breno.

 

This project has kicked off the establishment of a community network involving caregivers, researchers, ATSP, ATS Montagna (the mountain health protection agency), ASST Vallecamonica (the local community social healthcare company), Comunità Montana (the Italian mountain community), Assemblea dei Sindaci (the assembly of local mayors), four care homes in the Camonica Valley and a number of cooperatives.

The project may have come to an end, but Place4carers keeps on going!

For further information on the Place4Carers project, please click here to watch the project video and here to the final presentation.

Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society: new Joint Research Center

Creating a more ‘smart’ and inclusive world: this is the scope of the new Joint Research Center ‘Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society’ created through a five-year agreement between the Politecnico di Milano, NTT DATA, and POLI.Design, with the participation of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management.

The new Research Center will see the work of NTT DATA — a leading Japanese multinational company in consultation and the IT sector — POLI.Design — a company of reference for post-graduate education that acts as a hinge between the university, institutions, companies and work — and, for the Politecnico, the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, the Department of Design, and the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering.

The idea of working together grew out of not only a desire to make joint studies on innovative technological issues, but also sharing important values for promotion together, such as equality, diversity, and inclusion.

One of the collaboration’s primary goals is to use the most advanced technological and design tools synergistically to initiate a cultural transformation, to ‘focus on people’, supporting the inclusive development of society and placing technology at the service of individuals.

The collaboration establishes financing for activities and research projects related to different areas and topics of primary importance to create and realize ‘transparent’ technological solutions with impacts on our daily lives: Smart Mobility, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Internet of Humans, Diversity Management, Universal Design, Design for Social Benefit, Product and Service Design

In particular, the contribution of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering will focus on the issues of Data Analytics and Technology Tools for Diversity and Inclusion in close collaboration with the Department of Electronics, Electronics, Information and Bioengineering at the Politecnico di Milano.

For more information, read the press release.

Call for Visiting Professors and Fellows at the School of Management

The School of Management is committed to host visiting professors, guest professors and fellows from all over the world to promote and enhance the international exposure of research and teaching activities.
We are eager to host researchers in different fields of Management, Applied Economics and Industrial Engineering.
More information on the research lines and research groups are available here.

The call for the academic year 2020-2021 is now open. Applications must be sent before November 30th 2020.

For more details please visit:

https://www.som.polimi.it/en/join-us/

Expo Dubai 2020: re-establishing the connections

Lucia Tajoli, Full professor of International Economics, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

Lucio Lamberti, Full professor of Multichannel Customer Strategy, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Coordinator of the Physiology, Emotion and Experience Lab

 

Expo Dubai 2020, which will be held between October 2021 and March 2022 after a year’s postponement due to the pandemic, will—presumably and hopefully—be a key hub, post-Covid. World Expos are considered to be mega events, comparable in impact only to the World Football Championships and the Olympics in terms of media exposure, number of participants and effects on the host economy, but unlike mega sports events, they last longer (6 months) and potentially have a greater influence on the economy of the participating countries.

The last two editions of the World Expo have had special connotations. The 2010 Shanghai event was the largest in history in terms of participants, with around 84 million visitors. The theme was the quality of life in cities (“Better City, Better Life”), but, not by chance, together with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was also China’s way of demonstrating to the world the socio-economic prominence that the country had achieved. The 2015 Expo, held in Milan and focused on the theme of the ability to provide high-quality food to humanity (“Feeding the planet, Energy for life”), attracted around 20 million visitors, and represented, in a stagnant national economic context and despite considerable organisational complexity, a driving force for what many international analysts have considered the Milanese “Renaissance” of the last lustre.
The theme of Expo Dubai 2020 is “Connecting Minds, Creating the future“. The event focuses on the role of interconnection as a key to sustainable development.

192 countries have signed up, including Italy, which will participate with a pavilion with the theme “Beauty Unites People“.
The Politecnico di Milano and its School of Management are partners of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is organising Italy’s participation in Expo Dubai 2020, and, starting from 2018, has developed several studies aimed at quantifying the potential impacts of this involvement. Indeed, beyond the obvious need to justify the investment of public resources in the construction of the Pavilion, the measurement of returns (economic and non-economic) is made particularly relevant by the geopolitical specificities of this event: the geographical position of Dubai, the hub of the ME.Na.Sa. (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) area, and logistics intersection, and the passageways of the New Silk Road makes this Expo a fundamental point of contact between Europe and the areas of the world with the highest rates of economic growth and growth of the middle classes.

It is no coincidence that the event, in the initial forecasts, has attracted a very large majority of non-local visitors, and foresees a committed and significant participation in terms of planning from both Middle Eastern countries and emerging economies such as those of India and Central-Southern Asia. This is a very important opportunity to address the issue of sustainable development in these areas of the world, for example with reference to Infrastructure and transport, the enhancement of cultural heritage, life sciences and aerospace.

Three main kinds of consideration justify the great attention that economic operators in the world are paying to the event.
Firstly, being the first World Expo held in the Middle East, Expo Dubai 2020 represents an opportunity to consolidate business and representation relations at various levels between this area of the world, the Arab world, North Africa and Europe.
Secondly, it is an Expo with a strong research connotation (even more so considering that the pandemic could reduce the number of “real” visitors and increase the virtual interconnection aspect): the Expo season has been archived for a couple of editions now, interpreted as a mere “showcase” of the participating countries, the logic of participation of many of the countries involved, including Italy, is to create within Expo 2020 a true hub of expertise to develop stable collaboration platforms, to be perpetuated even after the event.
Thirdly, this Expo represents one of the first mega events, together with the Tokyo Olympics, of the post-pandemic period, and will therefore have the dual role of showing the possible profile of the new normality in terms of events, flows of people and interconnections, and on the other hand of contributing to financial recovery following the interruptions linked to the pandemic.

The measurement of the impact of participation in a mega event with World Expo on the Organiser, and even more so on the countries that participate without hosting it, is a topic to which the scientific literature has not yet given definitive answers. With reference to the Olympic Games, while there are qualitative indications about the expansive result on the host country, there are also many critical voices that highlight how these initiatives tend, on a direct financial level (difference between investments and tickets, television rights, sponsors, etc.), not to pay off.
However, it is clear, on the one hand, that the direct financial effects are only one aspect of the induced fallout (there are impacts on tourism, equivalent advertising of the territory, etc.) and, on the other, that the World Expo has a different spin-off profile from the Olympic Games, due to the fact that it lasts 6 months and therefore produces a much higher flow of visitors, and because the participation of the host and organising countries is oriented towards primarily economic and diplomatic development objectives.

With reference to the participating countries, in particular, it is possible to attribute the areas of spillover to a potential impact on exports, as participation is an opportunity for promotion of one’s own excellence and of organisation of diplomatic and commercial missions. There is also, in the hub vision of Expo Dubai 2020, the possibility of promoting the meeting between supply and demand of capital, i.e. between innovative entrepreneurial initiatives and financiers, generating incoming and outgoing flows of foreign direct investment. Thirdly, participation with a pavilion at an Expo is also linked to the promotion of the cultural specificities of a territory (and the connotation focused on the beauty and technologies for cultural heritage of Italian participation makes this theme particularly central), and therefore tends to involve tourism promotion, with the potential expansive economic effects that this entails. Last but not least, diplomatic proximity and exposure to scientific collaboration platforms are increasingly a fundamental objective of participation in an Expo event. The analysis carried out in 2018 showed that a precautionary estimate of the expansionary effects of these phenomena for Italy could reach a value of 1.7 billion Euros per year for at least three to four years after the event.

It is clear that these estimates must be—if not revised, at least reconsidered—in the light of the pandemic. However, paradoxically, net of the possible further brakes to the event linked to phenomena at this unpredictable time of the continuation of the state of emergency, the need for the world economies to recover the positions lost in recent months, and the possibility of experimenting with new forms—more digital and less physical—of international promotion initiatives, could even have an even more expansive effect. What is certain is that Expo Dubai 2020 can have a symbolic value of a desire for redemption and, at the same time, a stage of further consolidation of the relationship between Europe and Asia. Analysing the effects in the short, medium and long term is a fascinating challenge that must be taken up in order to make these opportunities increasingly central in the process of developing international economic, and other, relations.

Building a Roadmap for the Future of Global Manufacturing

Conversation with Marco Taisch
Professor of Advanced and Sustainable Manufacturing Systems, and Operations Management, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Scientific Chairman of the World Manufacturing Foundation
President at MADE, Competence Center on Industry 4.0

 

 

Tell us about the path that led to the World Manufacturing Forum: why was it launched, and what are its objectives?

Since first edition of the forum held in 2011, the World Manufacturing Forum is organised yearly by Politecnico di Milano with financial support from the European Commission. In 2018, thanks to Confindustria Lombardia and Regione Lombardia, in order to give stability and guarantee an expansion of activities, we created the World Manufacturing Foundation, which organises the annual event and deals with various initiatives.
The Foundation, created as an open international organization involving regional governments, companies, trade associations, industrial and non-industrial, therefore has the strategic objective of restoring the centrality of the manufacturing sector in the political agendas of various countries.

The main tools put in place are the World Manufacturing Forum, that last year attracted around 1500 people in three days, and the World Manufacturing Report, a yearly white paper that, through a process of consultation with experts from the world of business, academia and policy makers, collects opinions and offers visions for the future on a specific issue, which are relevant to manufacturing, suggesting key recommendations.

In the first edition, in 2018, we addressed the issue of the future of manufacturing as a lever for creating economic and social well-being; in the second, last year, we focused on the fundamental skills required by the sector. And this year, in the event that will take place on 11 and 12 November, we will talk about artificial intelligence.

 

The 2020 edition of the Forum has a unique flavour, a flavour relating to distance, but also to post-Covid recovery. What kind of edition will it be?

The format of the event will change due to the need for social distancing, but only in part: it will take place at the traditional venue in Villa Erba di Cernobbio with a maximum of 200 participants, with worldwide streaming.
We asked ourselves, like everyone else, what will be the impact of Covid on the manufacturing sector at regional and global level, and to give us an answer we created the “Back to the Future” project (the quote is intentional), new this year.
We “decomposed” the complexity of the problem into 14 sub-themes and created 14 working groups accordingly, each one coordinated by an expert (managers, representatives of the associative world, policy-makers, academics), who were asked to discuss and analyse the impact of Covid on their area of expertise, and to give recommendations.
We have already shared online, with the public, several drafts of documents and videos, produced by these workshops, whose results will be presented on the first day of the Forum, on November 11. On November 12 we will present the World Manufacturing Report.
If I can give a little preview, next year we will talk about digital transformation as an enabler of manufacturing sustainability, thus bringing together the two most important trends in the sector.

 

We come from the epic situation of Industry 4.0. How can digitisation in the factory world be a competitive advantage for boosting production and starting up again faster? 

Before the pandemic, it was “normal” to say that digitisation was the competitive advantage, and that’s the way we characterised the 4.0 industry. Now we have changed the statement: it is no longer an advantage, but a business prerequisite.
During the lockdown we saw how digitisation ensured business continuity for many companies that had already invested in this area. For others, unfortunately, there was nothing to be done.
It was a tragic way of realising, undoubtedly, that it affected those companies which, out of ignorance or inertia, had not paid attention to this technological trend.
In our country in particular, which was slower to adopt new technologies, the pandemic has accelerated the awareness of the importance of digitisation.

 

Large companies and small businesses: who has the advantage in this fourth industrial revolution?

Large companies have been digitising in our country for some time now, even before the “National Industry Plan 4.0” of 2017. Small and medium-sized enterprises, were, in fact, lagging behind. It was thanks to the plan, and the planned tax incentives, that they became aware of this opportunity for modernisation. Paradoxically, it was by talking about tax incentives that it was also possible to train in the field of technology, and this had a huge impact on the cultural growth of our country on these issues.
It is very important that the national plan has continuity over time, and that it is not a one-off incentive, to enable businesses—especially small ones—to plan and build a training and expertise programme. And today, to do so, they have several tools at their disposal, such as the Digital Innovation Hubs, and especially the Competence Centers. The Politecnico di Milano has put itself in the forefront of this last tool by creating MADE, a competence center that, gathering the skills of multiple departments, coordinates the work together with 44 other partners from the academic and industrial world.

 

What, in your opinion, are the 3 key words on the evolution of digital transformation in factories over the next 6 months?

First of all “servitisation”, i.e. the development of new business models that are being created thanks to new digital activities carried out in remote industries.
And then the second, “remote” or, if you like, “industrial smart working.”
Finally “resilience”, meaning adaptability, reconfigurability and flexibility of the factory and the supply chain.

Practicing Continuous Innovation in Digital Ecosystems

Luca Gastaldi, Associate Professor, Politecnico di Milano
Jeannette Visser-Groeneveld, Executive Secretary CINet, University of Twente
Harry Boer, Professor of Aalborg University

On 20-22 September 2020, the 21st CINet Conference on Practicing Continuous Innovation in Digital Ecosystems was held. The conference was preceded by the 20th CINet PhD workshop.

The event was hosted by the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano (Luca Gastaldi, Mariano Corso, Daniel Trabucchi, Stefano Magistretti and Rosella Onofrio) but took place virtually, due to the Corona pandemic.

The PhD workshop attracted 16 students from six different countries, who presented and discussed their research designs and early findings. Reflecting current hot topics in industry and science, the studies discussed included digital technologies, maturity and transformation, business model innovation, and digital platforms.

In the conference, the same topics were on the top of the agenda. In total, the 110 attendants from 16 countries worldwide, presented twelve papers on Value Creation in Digital Ecosystems, and an additional four papers on (Innovation in) Ecosystems. Other popular topics included Design Thinking and Continuous Innovation (eight papers), Innovation through Digitalization (eleven papers), and Healthcare Innovation (four papers). Furthermore, considering emerging societal issues in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a special session was held on Innovation and Resilience, aimed at stimulating new research avenues and knowledge on how innovation management approaches are interlinked with resilience in organizations and how resilience can become a focal aspect in these approaches and innovation outcomes

Keynote addresses were delivered by Professor Wim Vanhaverbeke (Surrey Business School, United Kingdom) who spoke on Digital Technologies and the Role of Innovation Ecosystem Management: Examples from Agriculture and Healthcare, and Professor Roberto Verganti (Politecnico di Milano, Italy and Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden), who shared his thoughts on Data and Platforms in the New Normal.

Having an entirely virtual conference cum workshop was an entirely new experience for all participants. The digital platform created by Luca Gastaldi and his team functioned perfectly, without any glitch. The conference program was fully navigable, and gave direct access to the session rooms, the plenary rooms, and the papers collected in the conference proceedings. Attendance to the sessions was quite comparable to that of “normal”, physical, conference and the same held for the interactions between the participants.

All in all, a very and, perhaps, unexpectedly, good experience. Yet, many participants agreed that going virtual can be done quite effectively and provide a good climate for presentations and discussions, but does not exceed the benefits of face-to-face interactions. Hopefully, the 22nd CINet Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, 12-14 September 2021 brings us back to the old “normal”.

International Business in the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Era – EIBA 2020 Conference

 

The sudden emergency of COVID-19 instantly changed the landscape of business (and conferences) around the world. Some of the features that characterize the business environment in the pandemic era include increasing uncertainty and complexity, the growing importance of digital connectivity, changes in the international labour markets, and emerging geopolitical tensions.

We already see the first consequences on the company-level, such as the resilience of GVCs becoming a leitmotif of international configuration and reconfiguration of MNEs’ activities, political discussions about regionalization and de-globalization, reshoring, and back-shoring strategies, to name just a few.
With travelling often impossible and almost always limited, urgent calls for citizens to return to their home-countries, expatriates and management-teams of MNEs also had to adjust their way of doing business and living.

The 46th Annual Conference of the European International Business Academy (EIBA), which will take place fully on line from 10 to 12 December 2020, will be dedicated to discussing the trends, the challenges, and the new normal in the international economic, technological, and social environments, as well as implications for MNEs and MNE employees.

Though fully online, the EIBA conference will follow the same structure as the traditional one, with doctoral workshops, plenary panels, paper presentations (competitive, interactive, poster) and panel sessions.

Special workshops are being organised on recent topics in International Business teaching and research, as well as academia in general, by experts in the field.

The call for posters & workshop proposals will be open until October 19, 2020.
For more information, please visit the conference website: www.eiba.online.

Looking forward to see you at EIBA 2020 Online!

Lucia Piscitello
EIBA Chair
Professor of International Business, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

DRIVE – Developing Research and Innovation capacities in Albania and Kosovo

 

Margherita Pero, Associate Professor of Business Processes Reengineering, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices is one of the key actions of the Erasmus+ Programme, which makes it possible for organisations from different participating countries to work together, to develop, share and transfer best practices and innovative approaches in the fields of education, training and youth work.

In this context, transnational capacity-building projects are a unique opportunity to address the challenges of higher education institutions and systems, to increase cooperation within the EU, to promote people-to-people interactions, intercultural awareness, and understanding.
And this is possible even despite the current pandemic and health concerns.

This is the first goal we can consider as being achieved by the Erasmus+ DRIVE project, which is a partner of the School of Management.
Launched in February 2020, just before the pandemic spread in Europe, Developing Research and InnoVation capacitiEs in Albania and Kosovo (hereinafter DRIVE) is an Erasmus+ project with the objective of developing the research and innovation capacities of Higher Education Institutions in Albania and Kosovo, by enhancing their institutional capabilities, staff skills and networking.

The consortium is composed of three universities from Albania (POLIS University, Polytecnich University of Tirana, European University of Tirana), and three universities from Kosovo (University of Prishtina “Hasan Prishtina, University of Gjakova “Fehmi Agani”, Universum College), the Hamburg University of Technology (Germany), the University of Aalborg (Denmark), and Politecnico di Milano, with the School of Management.

Within the consortium, the School of Management will contribute to:

  • Enhancing the skills of students (graduate level and beyond) to conduct independent research by improving the capacity of teachers and mentors,
  • Enhancing the research capacities of academic and managerial staff through study visits and tailored training,
  • Strengthening institutional level managerial capacities for research activities and innovation by setting or strengthening dedicated research and innovation support structures (RISS), and
  • Promoting research excellence and innovation by developing interdisciplinary networks and industrial collaborations among local and international stakeholders.

The partner Higher Education Institutions in Albania and Kosovo would be able to improve their research and innovation capacities and foster links and collaborations among the actors in the innovation ecosystem (institutions and organizations) by the time DRIVE comes to an end.

To achieve this aim, five training workshops are planned, and will be hosted by the European partners throughout the project’s lifespan. A wide set of activities will be organized during these workshops, including training sessions, brainstorming, discussions, study visits, establishment of new structures and development of guidelines and roadmaps.

The series of workshops are designed to target different audiences that require capacity building actions on the following themes:

  • new methods of training and mentoring (for teachers)
  • developing guidelines for new methods of training and mentoring application (for mentors)
  • ethics in research, on how to publish in high-quality journals, how to build a research project and how to manage a research project (for researchers)

Finally, partner universities will be trained on establishing or empowering dedicated research and innovation support structures (RISS), research networks, and developing a virtual platform for managing such a network.

From 22nd to 24th September 2020, the School of Management successfully designed and chaired the training week on “creating the framework for improving study programmes to enhance the research skills of students”. Although due to the current health concerns not all partners could join the sessions physically, we were able to develop and virtually chair the programs related to sharing and discussion on teaching methodologies, leveraging on blended online sessions and face to face group discussions.

Three sessions were arranged in this workshop:

  • sharing experiences on the well-developed innovative teaching methodologies by EU partners,
  • brainstorming innovative teaching methodologies applicable at partners in Albania and Kosovo, and
  • developing a roadmap for the adoption of innovative teaching methodologies.

The results of this intensive week show that the main barriers to be overcome in order to fully benefit from the innovative teaching methodology are cultural, skills-related, institutional and technological.
Therefore, the roadmap that will be developed based on this workshop will include actions at all levels: from a single course and a single teacher, to a study plan level and an institutional one.

The participants, both physically present and online, were strongly engaged in the discussions on the future of teaching in their countries, showing that the topic is relevant and, despite the emergency situation, that people are willing to take on these new challenges. Although we—School of Management professors—were connected online, we could feel the enthusiasm of the participants in sharing their thoughts and experience of teaching with innovative methods.
This enthusiasm gives us the energy to continue with our project, to move from words to deeds.