Category: Engagement With Business
Location: Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador
Accreditation Status: Business
Industrial Studies—A Collaborative Initiative
To strengthen ties with the local Ecuadorian business community, ESPAE developed Industrial Studies, a new, applied research outlet that fosters collaboration between researchers and business by producing industry-specific reports.
Call to Action
The school is continuously searching for new ways to strengthen the link with the local business community. During 2015, the school sought to readdress the impact of the faculty’s research in the business community. In one of the meetings with the school’s advisory board, one of the board members suggested a new outlet specifically oriented to the private sector. The board believed that standard academic research outlets (i.e., papers) were not sufficiently consulted by the Ecuadorian business community, and thus specific outlets should be designed.
In particular, there is a need in the country for industry-specific reports that are currently provided exclusively from large consulting firms, which typically are very costly and thus inaccessible for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or entrepreneurs.
Regarding implementation, the school looked for innovative models for the new outlet. Businesspeople were to be involved in different stages of the elaboration. There was an extensive discussion regarding the financial model: Should the school charge for these reports, for example via a subscription model? Or should we look for specific sponsors? Given the importance of generating significant impact, the school chose an open-distribution model with a sponsor. Choosing the sponsor was also challenging: it needed to be a firm that would not affect the neutrality of the report (e.g., a pharmaceutical firm should not sponsor a pharmaceutical industry study).
Industrial Studies is a series of reports, each of them devoted to a specific industry. Each report (around 40 pages) includes a general outlook of the industry, specific industry factors, special focus (that includes something relevant to the sector), strategic industrial analysis, and sustainability sections. This last section analyzes the industry regarding the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, identifying weaknesses and strategies to tackle them. There is also a “Vision” sector, with a general perspective of the industry from the point of view of an expert.
During the pilot phase, which was developed during 2015, the first two reports were prepared: pharmaceutical industry and tourism. The pilot phase was funded exclusively by the school. After this initial phase, the school searched for a sponsor and chose Fidesbur, a local tax and accounting consulting firm—founded by two alumni.
The elaboration process is very collaborative: there is a unit at the school composed by a senior researcher and two research assistants. This unit writes the first draft that is presented to a select group of stakeholders of the respective industry—businessmen, government, chambers, and so on. In a working lunch, they review the draft, suggest improvements, and recommend the special focus. Afterward, the unit prepares the second draft and invites a specific faculty member or businessperson to write the “Vision” section.
During 2016, five reports were completed and reports for 2017 are underway. An event is also being planned for early 2017 to present results from the studied industries to respective stakeholders.
Industrial Studies has had significant impact in strengthening links with the private sector. There have been seven working lunches, each with 15 prominent business representatives that have allowed the school to increase its relevance in the community. Some of the attendees have later become closer to the school, participating in other events, as well as members of advisory councils.
The reports have had an important influence in the media. As of October 2016, there were more than 8,000 interactions with the five reports that are available online. Several of them have also been reported in local press articles. Every report is distributed to faculty, students, alumni, chambers, and international organizations (Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, etc.).
The school also anticipates significant impact on teaching and research: it aims to have the Industrial Studies report as part of consulting materials for some of the courses and as input for faculty research.