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Fellows Tackling Real-World Challenges

Three schools that participated in AACSB's Innovations That Inspire challenge use fellowship programs to find innovative solutions to real business problems.

Business schools are increasingly called on to create solutions for real-world problems. The following fellowship programs aim to do just that by engaging students, researchers, faculty, and the business community to focus on unique challenges facing their communities. Fellows immerse themselves in a specific problem and work together to find innovative solutions, with the ultimate objective of making positive and sustainable impact.

Leaders in Innovation Fellowship

Asian Institute of Management (Philippines)

In 2014, the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) partnered with the U.K. government’s Newton Agham Programme, the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to launch the Leaders in Innovation Fellowship (LIF)—a postgraduate certificate that aims to build the entrepreneurship capacity of researchers in order to promote commercialization of innovations that address development challenges in the Philippines. Although the Philippines has the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia, AIM, together with its partners, realized that little of that growth was inclusive of the country’s entire population.

The LIF aims to create an international network of innovators, experts, and technology entrepreneurs to help drive inclusive growth and help transition the Philippines into a knowledge-based and technology-driven economy. Each year, 10 researchers and five technology managers are selected for a cohort to participate in a “launching” boot camp, a 10-day residential program, and a six-month course focused on market identification, product development, and business alignment. The program concludes with a Demo Day where fellows showcase their business plans and transformations from pure academics into full-fledged technology entrepreneurs.

Export Indiana Fellowship Program

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management (United States)

In 2015, Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, the International Center, and the Indiana Small Business Development Center partnered to launch the Export Indiana Fellowship Program to address Indiana’s shortage of export industry consultants and experts and help entrepreneurs enter the international market. The program was piloted in 2015 but since then continues to be in effect and provides fellows with the resources and expertise to create an executable, proactive Export Development Plan.

Introduced in 2019, participating companies are given the option to elect staff to complete the program and/or can opt to hire a Purdue MBA Fellow to assist in the export development process. Companies that hire an MBA Fellow may apply for matching funds up to 50 percent through the Indiana University Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER).

Social Impact Fellows

University at Buffalo, State University of New York, School of Management (United States)

The Social Impact Fellows programs brings together graduate students from the School of Management and School of Social Work and prepares them with the abilities to address societal issues using principles of entrepreneurship and sustainable social innovation. The University at Buffalo School of Management recognized the need for business to play a larger role in finding sustainable solutions to society’s greatest challenges.

Throughout the program, MBA students and Master of Social Work students participate in internships at mission-driven organizations and, through collaboration and guidance of faculty, help create solutions to tackle challenges of the organizations’ stakeholders. Students also participate in forums, attend guest speaker sessions, and ultimately participate in an “Pitch for a Cause” competition where they present their solutions and compete for funding for their partner organizations to implement the student ideas.

About Innovations That Inspire

Since its launch in 2016, Innovations That Inspire has collected 840 innovative practices across a variety of themes and areas within business education. For each challenge year, a selection of innovations is featured at the International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM). Further, current members of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance have the ability to browse through all innovations using DataDirect. AACSB continuously highlights submitted examples in publications, events, presentations, and in other media as examples of business schools doing innovative things that push the boundaries of business education.

The 2020 Innovations That Inspire challenge is now open for submissions. Learn more and submit your school’s innovation at

Hanna McLeodHanna McLeod is senior manager of research at AACSB International, located in the Tampa, Florida, office.