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Philip Steinberg: 'I am interested in how corporations can be innovative'

Date:09 March 2020
Philip Steinberg's research interests include corporate innovation strategies, knowledge sourcing, organizational boundaries of the firm and individuals within the organization.
Philip Steinberg's research interests include corporate innovation strategies, knowledge sourcing, organizational boundaries of the firm and individuals within the organization.

For assistant professor Philip Steinberg, innovation and how companies can thrive in dynamic environments are pressing topics for research. Steinberg joined the Faculty of Economics and Business after completing his PhD studies at the University of Wuppertal and working in several companies including the German carmaker AUDI, the Douglas Holding, a large service retailing group, the Innovation Institute in Frankfurt, and the Bültmann GmbH..

FEB Research caught up with him for a Q&A about his research and plans for the future.

Q. Why did you chose Groningen?

A. The first time I became aware of the University of Groningen was when I participated in the Groningen Collaboration for Innovation Conference in 2016. During this conference, I was impressed with the number of top researchers in Groningen working on innovation- and strategy-related topics. When I was later looking for suitable and interesting positions after completion of my PhD, Groningen was on the top of my list.

Specifically, I was looking for a department with a good mix of experienced and ambitious young scholars working on topics similar to my research. The department of Innovation Management and Strategy at FEB was, therefore, an optimal solution for me. Last but not least, I looked for a family-friendly environment, a good place to raise kids. Groningen is certainly a nicely-sized lovely city where this is possible.

Q. Could you tell us more about your career so far?

A. Before joining RUG, I completed my PhD studies at the Jackstädt Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research, University of Wuppertal, and I hold a diploma (MSc) in Business and Management from the University of Mannheim. During my doctoral studies, I also visited the Department of Strategic Management and Globalization at the Copenhagen Business School.

Outside academia, I worked for publicly listed German multinational companies, as well as some SMEs. Maybe not surprisingly, most of the work I was involved in outside academia, was related to innovation, a topic I later pursued in my PhD studies.

Q. What issues are dealt with in your research?

A. In general, I am interested in understanding how corporations can be innovative in dynamic environments. Within this general topic, I focus on three research themes. First, I am interested in understanding if and how companies can benefit from knowledge accessed outside organizational and national boundaries. Second, I take an upper echelon’s perspective and try to understand how incentive structure and individuals’ psychological traits at the top management team level affect a firm’s innovation strategies and outcomes. Third, in recent research projects, I aim at deepening the understanding of antecedents and performance-implications of responsible, and green innovations. Specifically, I am interested in the question of how innovation and technology can help society in solving grand challenges, such as climate change and environmental pollution. I think technology and innovation are the most promising tools to solve these pressing challenges lying ahead of us.

Q. And how about societal relevance?

A. In my opinion, my research themes have a twofold relevance to society. First, in a globalized economy, European economies face increasing competition from emerging market economies. Given this context, innovation will not only be an even more important source of competitiveness in the future but will also ensure the sustainability of our economies. I also see a special relevance with regards to recent developments in the wider region of Groningen and the Northern Netherlands, where much of the economic strength stems from companies focusing on natural resources. As this source of competitiveness will decline in the future and will, therefore, deliver less value to the region, I believe a focus on innovation will become even more important over the years to remain competitive within the Netherlands and globally.

Second, in today’s world, we face many pressing emergencies. The societal challenges captured in the UN-Sustainable Development Goals require impactful solutions on a global scale. For example, to moderate the challenges of climate change or pollution, green and sustainable innovation and technology will be a key success factor. Accordingly, we need to understand better if and how organizations can contribute to delivering these solutions. We recently witnessed some promising examples in this context, e.g., the very prominent Dutch project Ocean Cleanup.”

Q. What can we expect of you in the future?

A. During my time as an assistant professor, I want to publish some of my recent research projects in top journals in the fields of innovation and strategic management. Also, I am keen on continuing to build an international research network. I find that FEB offers a stimulating environment in that sense, as international top scholars regularly visit our faculty. I experience this as a great opportunity for young scholars.   

Besides that, I am, of course, also open to starting new exciting collaborations. For example, together with SOM colleagues, we recently initiated a project with the Fraunhofer Institut (a German research organization) to better understand the success factors in crowdfunding of projects with societal relevance. Moreover, I am part of a successful trans-Atlantic funding project on social innovation at our department (with Florian Noseleit, Pedro de Faria, Björn Mitzinneck), about which I am very excited.

Lastly, I hope to engage in more intensive discussions with relevant stakeholders in society, such as policy-makers, in the future. To ensure the valorization of my research, I will increasingly reach out to these stakeholders as part of my future agenda.

For more information about Philip Steinberg's research, see his profile page.