Escaping the winter for a research exchange at the IESE Business School, Barcelona

Escaping the winter for a research exchange at the IESE Business School, Barcelona

Julius Francis Gomes, a project researcher and a doctoral student at the institute, paid a research visit to the IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain.

“Coming from Bangladesh, November and December are usually the toughest months of the year for me to survive in Oulu during the winter. I do not have much problem with extreme cold, not even with the slippery road conditions, but I cannot just stand the long dark period. Therefore, for the last three years, I took my annual holidays in December to escape the darkness and enjoy the sun for a couple of weeks in my home country. Escaping the dark winter is my routine, but as a third-year Ph.D. student I was not aiming for a holiday, I am trying to stay more connected to my studies and finish writing the dissertation. I was also discussing with my supervisors Petri Ahokangas and Minna Pikkarainen for the last few months that I want to go for a research visit to somewhere, to explore new ends!

I had three alternatives: Aalborg, Dublin, and Barcelona. I was wondering what could be the best place to escape the long dark winter and at the same time get exposure to a world-class business school. With some pleasant coincidences, I ended up deciding for a research visit at the IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain. In the end, Barcelona as a city has almost a year-long summer, hosts iconic architectures from Antoni Gaudi and is the home of my favorite football club!

The IESE Business School is currently ranked as the global best for executive business education according to the Financial Times ranking. It is also the 5th best European Business School on an overall cross-disciplinary assessment. So, being able to visit this institute is an excellent value in itself. Added to that, I had the potential for new academic learnings, cultural and organizational experiences and professional networks.

My sponsoring professor at the IESE business School is Joan Enric Ricart, the Director of the Center for Globalization and Strategy (CGS). Most of my collaboration during the research visit would take place with him and his research team. The visit period from November 24 to December 22 went by quite quickly due to all sorts of activities. Being a business model researcher myself, professor Joan Enric introduced me to one of the European H2020 research projects they are working on currently, focusing on smart cities from the business model perspective. The project involves three large city consortia of Barcelona, Cologne and Stockholm. Altogether more than 40 public and private stakeholders are involved in the project. I was aske to facilitate the research team working with the business model work-packages of the project, with new methodologies for business model replication and innovation regarding its transfer to new markets. The initiated collaboration will continue in the upcoming months.

I also got to familiarize myself with the Center for research in healthcare innovation management (CRHIM) headed by Magda Rosenmöller. It is heavily involved in EIT-health research projects.

As a doctoral student I also could make some general observations. In Finland students are themselves responsible for the focus and implementation of doctoral research, but need most often also take part in teaching, administrative or project research tasks to secure funding for their studies. At IESE, which belongs to a private university, students need to pay tuition fees. They   are not obligated to carry out any of the mentioned additional tasks. However, in my opinion, the Finnish model is more practical, since it gives students a better glimpse of the competitive and demanding career realities.

At IESE, Tenure-tracked academics handle most of the teaching activities. This is also due to their heavy involvement in executive business education. For conducting project research and preparing the cases for course facilitation IESE generally employs fixed-term research assistants. They populate a large portion of the overall staff at IESE. On the other hand, for doctoral students IESE offers many academic courses for all the disciplines that eases the training process considerably. According to my knowledge, IESE also very actively encourages research mobility for doctoral students.

December 21, my last day during this fruitful research visit ended with a networking event that is a year-ending traditional event at IESE. Long-term employees are recognized in this event as a ritual. All the employees are invited for a typical small-plate cocktail lunch, which then turns to a more pre-holidays mingling event. It was an excellent opportunity for me to say goodbye to the colleagues and exchange contacts with some new people too.

All in all, the research visit at the IESE Business School has been an enjoyable and valuable experience for me. I believe I can use the new networks and learnings for improving my research activities and outcomes. I want to thank the Instrumentarium Science Foundation (ROSA project) for making the visit possible.

Moreover, I will not forget the amazingly beautiful campus of IESE located on the northern outskirts of Barcelona up on a mountain. The view from the University terrace is breathtaking, a panoramic look through the whole city of Barcelona. In a single frame, one could see all the architectural landmarks that the city holds. From the Temple of Tibidabo (a church at the peak of the highest mountain in Catalonia), to the Sagrada Familia, to the Magic Fountain of Barcelona, to the Camp Nou, and all the way to the beach shores and the city’s ports."