Progress reflections – Fostering Innovation Networks in a Digital Era

As FINDER sets out to Foster Innovation Networks in a Digital Era in a European, this Industrial Doctorate partnership of 4 years between Radboud University and Atos has been on its way now for close to 3 years already. Time thus to report on some of the progression made to date. This portal has outlined various of these initiatives over the past years, including the hosting of various startup initiatives, including a startup weekend with participants from 3 continents and various technology domains, doctoral workshops, student oriented case study initiatives and – last but not least –  collaborative research being presented at sone of the major international conference in the field of management. These academic venues include such as the Academy of Management, EGOS (European Group for Organization Studies) and EURAM (the European Academy of Management). All activities are driven by the ambition to prepare a new generation of business and entrepreneurship researchers contributing to the development of innovative ecosystems in a digital era.

On that note below a review of the progression per Early Stage Career (ESR) track:

  • ESR Track 1’s research on collaborative innovation management addresses gaps in organizational sciences literature concerning the sociopolitical forces behind technological innovation as it occurs between firms and other firms, between firms and regulators, and between firms and society. There are no clear indications that businesses engaged in high-tech ecosystems will divert away from collaborative innovation approaches, which makes this research and the tools it produces timely and useful in elucidating the challenges that practitioners presently face and will face in the future.
  • ESR Track 3’s research is relatively embryonic, for the ESR only joined the project in November 2020 following a resignation. This ESR has already achieved considerable progress, focusing on how uncertainty in times of crisis triggers organizational transformation. As the world has been rocked by economic, pathologic, and climate-related disasters with no signs of slowdown in the future, understanding how companies survive and adapt to major turbulence is crucial for strategic management scholarship’s understanding.
  • ESR Track 4 also deals with the social forces at play in interfirm decision-making. The role of positional icons such as CEOs is significant in events such as mergers and acquisitions. This research uses novel methods to examine the signals that CEOs advertently and inadvertently cast when announcing their M&A decisions, which promises to broaden the managerial sciences’ scope on the applicability of investigative machine learning.
  • ESR Track 5’s focus on venture capital (VC) as a fuel for the entrepreneurship of technological innovation provides a different lens on the social aspect of interorganizational relationships. Quantitative research methods will allow this track to investigate how the VCs’ reputation interplays with their funding targets’ performance. The practical applications of this research will largely be for the parties engaged in this dialogue, but as investing overall becomes more democratized, insights therefrom promise to become more widely applicable as they age.

All ESRs completed or at least entered into their secondments, digitally and now then finally also – on site again, with Jonas Geisen embedded at TQ Frankfurt for the coming half year, as COVID restrictions are eased to a level that accommodates for such field work again.  


As for academic training all ESRs had their research proposals accepted by the Radboud Scientific Advisory Committee. All ESRs also partook in the FINDER-led Research Excellence Workshop in February 2020 as well as the Strategic Management Society Berkeley Doctoral Workshop held virtually in November 2020. Currently each candidate is wrapping up – or has already rounded up – the business side of the training .

ESR Track 1 has completed 24 ECTS of doctoral training, ESR Track 3 has not yet completed ECTS, but is currently taking training that will allow for 9 ECTS of doctoral training, ESR Track 4 has completed 17 ECTS of doctoral training, and ESR Track 5 has completed 26 ECTS of doctoral training portfolio on offer via ATOS, experiencing the very same training opportunity as open to the broader ATOS workforce.

In the course of the research methodologically outlined as part of this ITN proposal, some outputs have already come to fruition including  manuscript submissions and acceptances to the 2020 and 2021,  European Group for Organization Studies Colloquia, 2021 Academy of Management Annual Conference, the 2021 International Process Symposium and the 2021 European Academy of Management Annual Conference., and most recently also the 2022 EURAM conference as first 2022 onsite event to take place in  Switzerland this year. With papers targeted at the 2022 AOM, SMS and also the local paper workshop venues (national university level) research exposure is certainnly consolidated on by the ESRs, a job well done!

example of a conference that featured FINDER inputs

Then in terms of expected potential impact:

As the FINDER research scope spans industries and job functions, it requires candidates to synthesize complex information and to approach problems nimbly in a manner that can be transferred to both academics and practitioners. FINDER’s integrated curriculum prepares the ESR’s to drive change at the vanguard of business and technology by challenging them to consider multiple perspectives and to create innovative solutions to problems in such a way that they are not only profitable to business but also relevant and responsible towards society at large.

As each of the  Marie Curie FINDER PhD Fellows investigates an aspect of innovative collaborative arrangement amongst organizations –such the various configurations possible among grassroots, incumbents and the wider society as they inclusively explore digital technology for new product or market development, impact is diverse also.

the main ambitions are summarized per track in the following general objectives – with associated research questions, as has become evident over the past years of reporting on each of those on this portal:

Managing innovation in the networked organisation
RQ: How do digital technologies influence systems, practices and processes for the effective management of innovation within and across organisations?

Seizing the future: fostering collaborative entrepreneurship
RQ: What are the characteristics of alternative business models in digital ecosystems? Which factors facilitate their development?

Alternative business models in digital ecosystems RQ: What are the internal and external contingencies that explain the diverse organisational arrangements seen in new ventures? How does the internal organisation of entrepreneurial ventures interact with governance, ownership, industry and

Effective strategies and policies for enhanced social payoff, during and after digital transformation
RQ: What are the roles, challenges and opportunities for incumbent firms and newcomers for a sustainable transition to digital technologies? How can organisations overcome struggles over the meaning of sustainability, within and across organisational fields, as the digital ecosystem unfolds?

In the period to come you can expect further policy reflections on each of those questions posted by the ESRs. So stay tuned.  Promising future outcomes in this regard per track are:

  • Track 1 continued ethnographic research will provide insights that non-FINDER academics have commented on as important to the field, with a closeness to data not often seen in this discipline. Insights promise a close fit to both policymakers and practitioners, as ongoing collaboration in the direct Fintech realm is being reflected on from various theoretical angles. In depth case work that  makes it into policy advice.
  • Track 3 has recently consolidated on empirical evidence that unpacks some of the dynamics that back high tech oriented serial acquisitions. With M&A making up for a major governance mode to pair fintech startups with incumbent players, this project is particularly fitting to the FINDER ambition to review the various characteristics of alternative business models in digital ecosystems. For instance, and despite the reoccurrence of failure, high-tech organizations are persistent in their pursuit of their next acquisition, committing significant resources to this strategic activity in the process. In this study, and drawing on organization learning theory, novel theoretical arguments are developed to connect a firm’s repetitive acquisition portfolio decisions to its short and long term market performance.
  • Track 4, particular to the employed methodology, is amassing a dataset of CEO M&A announcements which will provide a baseline for further analysis in this track for future academic and white paper submissions. Policy advice will advocate the need to pay attention to behavioral effects when orchestrating collaboration – as via mergers or acquisitions – in the technology domain.
  • Track 5 experienced pandemic-specific delays that necessitated a shift in data collection; nonetheless, this track currently consolidates on rich data on the collaboration between Venture Capitalists, startups and incumbents as they try to team up towards a successful tech – as well as non tech oriented service offering. What configuration works best? What is the role of partner diversity, timing and innovation at large as these mini-consortia team up in pursuit of the next IPO or acquisition? Policy advice will be backed by quantitative evidence to reflect on these questions in the near future.

All tracks will reflect on the societally responsible aspects of their advice, thus considering employment next to profit, long term societal aspirations next to short term financial gain, applying a multiple stakeholder approach to their conclusions.

21-3-2022 Rick Aalbers

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