Developing Research Groups in Business School
The KTU School of Economics and Business developed four interdisciplinary research groups to dismantle academic silos, empower faculty research competence, foster knowledge transfer to students, and increase international recognition and partnership opportunities.
Edita Gimžauskienė, Dean, Kaunus University of Technology
Call to Action
INternational, INterdisciplinary, and INdustry relations. These three “INs” became a part of Kaunas University of Technology’s (KTU) DNA in the last decade. All three INs together were leading to a larger impact for non-academia through students and direct impact to the regional economy and society.
KTU School of Economics and Business saw the potential for engagement with the broader community and the university. The mission of KTU School of Economics and Business is based on the belief that the digital transformation and European Green Deal requirements create a need for a new type of economics and management research, the relevance and impact of which directly depend on close cooperation between the international academic community; international, regional, and local business communities; and society.
Therefore, the quest for research-based solutions that are relevant to business and society is more important than ever. Additionally, to have significant impact, the research must transcend traditional research models, scientific disciplinary boundaries, and conventional forms of academic activity. For many decades, KTU School of Economics and Business was divided into departments, and faculty performed research and study activities in disciplinary silos. This structure became a limit for capitalizing on the intellectual thoughts and abilities of faculty and fully enjoying advantages of KTU INs.
The development of research groups, with their common vision toward international recognition and regional relevance, resulted in a change to the school’s research management model in 2017. Gradually, four research groups—Digitalization, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Economy, and Sustainable Management—and four study field communities—Accounting and Finance, Economics, Management and HR, and Marketing and Business—replaced six previously existing departments.
In this new model, principal investigators lead research groups, and heads of study fields lead study field groups. Every single full-time faculty member is part of one research group and one study field group. These designations helped to distinguish discussion questions within each meeting and, at the same time, offered an interdisciplinary approach to research groups that prevented siloed thinking in the development of study programs. From the very beginning, the ecosystem was created to unlock the door to new research group members and to offer opportunities for change in the research group. This flexible system allows for the establishment of new groups, as well.
International peers provided positive feedback on this structural change; the perspective of school research activities and research management received a 5 out of 5 score in a 2018 evaluation organized by Lithuanian Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre. During the pandemic, the new structure helped the school maintain resilience in research and study activities, and at the same time, our interdisciplinary approach allowed for the development of new ideas related to overcoming economic and business challenges in the region.
The creation of these new groups resulted in higher research outputs, international recognition, an increase in national and international research grants, and a positive impact on the regional economy and businesses.
The international recognition has helped researchers cooperate with the best research institutions and allowed for intellectual contributions to top-tier journals for the first time ever. Now, faculty members are co-authoring and publishing every year in journals such as MIT Sloan Management Review, Quantitative Economics, California Management Review, International Journal of Production Economics, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
In 2020, Switzerland’s St. Gallen University recognized KTU’s entrepreneurial research and excellence and in CH-EU Success Story described KTU as the “MIT of the Baltics.” Increased research orientation also helped the school attract new research grants. Researchers attracted 2.8 times more financial resources from national funds and 4.2 times more international grants in the period of 2019–21 compared to 2016–18, including a 2.5 million EUR (about 2.7 million USD) ERA Chair H2020 grant: Industry 4.0 Impact on Management Practices and Economics.
Increasing R&D resources from business—increased 3.7 times in the same period—clearly demonstrates the relevance of program topics, such as digitization and AI, and the regional recognition of the school. The next step of research management development is coming in 2023. School researchers have proposed an idea to establish the Research Center for Digital Transformation, which will combine activities of several research groups with even higher visibility and impact for economy and society.
- “CH-EU Success story: Empowering the MIT of the Baltics,” SwissCore
- “Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation: Success Stories,” NCP_WIDE.NET (direct document download)
- “Lithuania: Comparative Expert Assessment of R&D Activities | 2018, Lithuanian Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre (PDF)