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(2) Focus Area: Ecosystems and Firms

In a societal environment driven by goals to pursue a comprehensive sustainable development and a circular economy, new technology systems such as biotechnology or digital farming are increasingly needed to establish stronger foundations for competitiveness and are pivotal for companies facing emerging global challenges. At the same time, though, biotech and agri-food sectors are mainly composed by SMEs which usually face challenges associated with limited resources and qualified personnel for R&D, thus representing barriers that hamper agri-food and biotech SMEs from innovating and being competitive. To overcome those hurdles, we are witnessing new dynamics, like open innovation, cross-industry innovation and/or systemic innovation as well as the emergence of novel product categories and new technology platforms across different value chains. Our research group thus strives to empirically analyze how entrepreneurial avenues in incumbents and start-ups shape those dynamics and how they strategically renew themselves in sight of societal pressures. We investigate which traits and motives foster the engagement of actors in such systemic innovation and circular economy opportunities in a context of emerging, interdisciplinary settings like the bioeconomy in punctual observations as well as aiming for a longitudinal monitoring of sustainability transitions. Moreover, we evaluate those dynamics by empirically analyzing the emergence of novel ecosystems and business models consequent to the introduction of product/process innovations and/or cascading usage of agricultural by-products/waste aimed at addressing global challenges such as resource scarcity (e.g. phosphorus). Overall, examples of research questions we have worked/are working on are:

  • What drives cross-industry innovation and opportunity recognition in interdisciplinary, knowledge intensive settings?
  • What types of innovations can we scrutinize in the emerging bioeconomy?
  • Which factors enable SMEs to engage in systemic innovation and strategically renew themselves within sustainability transitions?
By answering these questions, we seek to further contribute to innovation management research in the complex agri-food sector and its related ecosystems. Our data include qualitative and quantitative primary and secondary sources, whereas methods entail multivariate statistics, as well as qualitative content analysis.


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