Fox School of BusinessIdea Marketplace

Bridging the Digital-Physical Infrastructure Divide: Fox Scholars Discuss Global Innovation in Copenhagen

August 14th, 2019

Posted in:

Every year, students and faculty at the Fox School of Business distinguish themselves on the international stage at conferences all over the world. Last month, Dr. Ram Mudambi, Professor and Frank M. Speakman Chair of Strategic Management at the Fox School, convened the 7th annual iBEGIN Conference, where scholars from around the world met to discuss research streams related to the iBEGIN acronym—International Business, Economic Geography and Innovation.

Hosted by the Copenhagen Business School (CBS Maritime), scholars at iBEGIN reported on many research streams related to innovation. Alain Verbake, Professor of at the University of Calgary, gave the keynote on the role of port clusters in international logistics chains. This topic reflects the 2019 conference theme: Ports versus Portals: International Connectivity and the Bundling of Tangibles and Intangibles.

By studying innovation in these international maritime hubs, iBEGIN scholars hope to uncover elements of the “invisible web” of connectivity that underlies not only our social networks, but our world. “I used to a teach a course on digital strategy,” said Mudambi, “and one of things that I noticed was that even though we think of digital connections as global, instantaneous and ubiquitous, the reality is that there is a hard infrastructure of cables and wires (the internet backbones) that actually makes it work. Hence, the intangible linkages that we take for granted are enabled by tangible networks.”

Only a handful of studies have attempted to bridge the divide between physical and digital infrastructural networks in order to better understand their joint impact on global knowledge and value creation. By exploring this new and exciting research topography, iBEGIN aims to uncover important lessons regarding the relationship between these networks and innovation.

Ultimately, innovation is the alpha and the omega of the iBEGIN project. How and whether cities, ports, or institutions increase their innovative power or lag behind global averages is of extreme importance for scholars and governments around the world. The emphasis this year on how transportation networks—which have connected humans for millennia—and new digital technologies interact is an area that is critically understudied.

iBEGIN is partially funded through the Fox School’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). As part of a broader national platform supported by the Department of Education, Temple CIBER aims to promote trade education and support research in areas of international business, providing overseas work and study experiences for Fox School students. With Temple CIBER’s ongoing assistance, iBEGIN has been able to expand its influence in the international community.

“iBEGIN is the go-to place for researchers who are working at the interface of the disciplinary boundaries that the iBEGIN community acronym embodies,” said Dr. Rudolf Sinkovics, Professor of International Business at the University of Manchester. “While it is highly focused, it is an inclusive community that feels like a family and is very effective in the diffusion of work at the frontier.”

These comments were echoed by other attendees, such as Alex Berman, a PhD candidate at FOX in International Business and Strategic Management: “The 2019 iBEGIN conference in Copenhagen provided a fantastic overview of the current research on the subject of global innovation, illustrating how geographic idiosyncrasies influence important economic processes and outcomes. I was particularly impressed by the insights put forward by the series of discussions about ports and port-related initiatives, such as the presentation by Dr. Alain Verbeke on the role of port clusters in international logistic chains.”

Although housed at the Fox School, iBEGIN works with a number of partner schools around the world, such as Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and University of Venice Ca Foscari, and the Indian School of Business. Going forward, Mudambi is optimistic that the project will continue to grow, folding ever more schools and talented researchers—such as those at CBS Maritime—into its ranks. “We were able to add a whole new set of shipping researchers to the iBEGIN research network and this was a huge step forward for the network.”

The 2020 iBEGIN conference will be held at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

See All Idea Marketplace Posts