Crosscutting, multi-disciplinary research collaboration - Interview with Klaus-Peter SCHULZ - ICN Business School

Crosscutting, multi-disciplinary research collaboration – Interview with Klaus-Peter SCHULZ

– “sustainable development and creativity” priority research area at CEREFIGE, the University of Lorraine’s management research laboratory  

Can you tell us something about the part you play in this partnership with CEREFIGE?

I’m a member of the board of directors at CEREFIGE and responsible for one of the laboratory’s five priority research areas, related to sustainable development and creativity.

How much room for maneuver do you have in this capacity?

Since I work at a crossroads between ICN and the University of Lorraine, I have quite a lot of room for maneuver because I’m familiar with the potential, opportunities and limitations of both parties.

How do the two partners go about defining priority research areas?

CEREFIGE features spheres of competence and research interest that constitute a driving force. The research areas, which were initiated by ICN, are at the heart of ICN’s research strategy and in line with its missions. The sustainable development and creativity area that I’m in charge of reflects the concept and philosophy behind ARTEM and also corresponds to the activities of the UNESCO ICN Chair on Sustainable Development.

“This research area reflects the concept and philosophy behind ARTEM and also corresponds to the activities of the UNESCO ICN Chair on Sustainable Development”

How are the roles split between research lecturers from CEREFIGE and ICN?

The idea behind this partnership is very simple: everyone does what they do best! Apart from CEREFIGE administrative staff made available by the University, there are no set roles. Areas for cooperation emerge from interactions and discussions between lab members. That means that communicating through the different stakeholders is crucial. Our colleagues from the University know more about the research sphere in France, whereas ICN research lecturers have a more international vision and a wider outlook on the English-speaking world. These two perspectives are complementary.

“The idea behind this partnership is very simple: everyone does what they do best!”

Can you explain the content of the research area that you’re responsible for? What other members are involved?

Our objective for this research is to move sustainability from a “respecting the environment” angle to take on a more global vision. That includes social responsibility, human development and the circular economy. It means looking for new ways of living and working. As a result, creativity and identifying the creative potential of stakeholders are essential. Very little research looks at this connection between sustainable development and creativity (which should at least lead to sustainable innovation). So it’s a crosscutting area correlated with other areas, like healthcare, entrepreneurship, etc.).

Two colleagues help me run this research area, one from ICN and another from the University. In total, 20 members, including PhD students, are involved in this group, and the number of researchers is increasing. My role as leader is above all about defining the strategic framework and identifying funding directions drawing on all members of the group.

“…move sustainability from a ‘respecting the environment’ angle to take on a more global vision”

Do participants in the research group implement any particular approach?

The group thrives on its diversity and that’s important to us. Participants can either initiate very theoretical or applied approaches, or take a general economic perspective. However the heart of our work is case studies, which are often carried out by practitioners. The aim is to generate scientific knowledge but also to develop guiding principles or solutions that contribute to the concrete development of business or society.

Could you tell us about some of the projects currently underway?  

The projects are in research fields related to corporate social responsibility, means of creativity, ethical strategies, arts and management, and participative development, etc.

To give you some concrete examples: a green, socially responsible university; digitization and virtualization of creative processes; integrating and educating stakeholders to develop a circular economy.

“The group thrives on its diversity and that’s important to us. Participants can either initiate very theoretical or applied approaches, or take a general economic perspective”

How do you communicate your results?

We go through the usual channels, since the project is in its early days: internal research group meetings at CEREFIGE; national and/or international conferences. We also have a biennial conference on organizational creativity (ARTEM OCC). Some colleagues have started to record videos about our work, which is a great initiative. Other more experimental approaches to disseminate our research are also possible.

What are the development prospects for this research area?

Our general strategy is to make our studies more visible and accessible to a broader public involving practitioners and the academic sphere. This means identifying formats accessible to this target audience and putting in place permanent channels connected to our research. We have started with special editions of journals and books.

Do you have a strategy to develop networks?

Absolutely. The members of the research group and CEREFIGE as a whole, with over 150 researchers, already constitutes a network. The ARTEM OCC community is also an international network with partners in several countries (Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan, South Africa, United States). We’re also counting on the UNESCO chair to extend our networks.

One strategy to extend networks involves developing transborder partnerships based on joint projects. Apart from major projects like “Horizon Europe”, we can work on bilateral and multilateral partnerships between countries.

How do you interconnect with other priority research areas or the different ICN chairs?  

As I mentioned, the sustainable development and creativity research area involves a crosscutting approach. Consequently, other areas are examined through a sustainable development lens. Another important aspect of the research concerns methodology: how can we facilitate creativity and sustainable development, in particular by integrating different groups of actors? The answer to this question applies to all of the other areas.

“One strategy to extend networks involves developing transborder partnerships based on joint projects … we can work on bilateral and multilateral partnerships between countries”

You have no doubt developed a policy to raise awareness among young researchers and doctoral students. Can you tell us about it?

This area mostly involves personal communication, which means mobilizing everyone to identify potential candidates. In addition, we need to initiate thesis subjects connected to the themes in the research area. Including research subjects in teaching activities can attract students interested in pursuing more in-depth analyses.

How many PhD theses are currently being pursued in this area?

It’s difficult for me to give the exact number of studies supervised by other colleagues because research has only just got started. But several are under way. I can tell you that the five theses that I (co) supervise concern creative areas, social responsibility, creative processes using games and modeling, sustainable development of universities, and creativity and ethics.

Apart from human resources, what resources are being assigned to develop this area? What are your other sources of funding?   

One particular resource is institutional networks, which are important to access scientific knowledge as well as financing procedures. Funding sources are currently being developed, but I can mention two: FEDER and the Franco-German University (DFH-UFA). Applications have been sent to the national research agency, ANR and its German partner, DFG.  We need to do more.

Can you draw some first conclusions for the school and its research lecturers?  

I note a growing number of participants and an interest in contributing to studies in this area and proposing subjects for discussion and development. I’m also aware of strong support and interest from the ICN and CEREFIGE management teams. All of which can be explained by the crosscutting studies in this research area and its correspondence to current research demands and strategies.

“ I’ve observed a growing number of participants and an interest in contributing to studies in this area… which can be explained by the crosscutting studies”

Biography

Klaus-Peter Schulz is Professor of Strategy and Innovation and Deputy Director for research at ICN. He is also a member of the CEREFIGE board of directors. His research is mainly focused on strategies and methods for sustainable development, creativity and innovation. In particular, he is interested in methods such as game-based intervention and modeling. He holds an accreditation to supervise research (HDR) and a PhD from Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany. Formerly, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

 

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