PhD project descriptions

Troels Christian Andersen

The aim of this research is to fill out the gap between academic strategy theory, emerging technology and the business model concepts such as Business Model Innovation and Business Model Innovation Leadership by investigating and proposing a Multi Business Model Innovation Strategy framework that will serve the purpose of guiding how businesses can gain competitive advantage in new ways through technology in coherence of how business models are developed and combined. It is the purpose of this PhD project to research how strategy can be developed to fit the new emerging trends of multi business model innovation. The following main research question are based upon the theoretical background study and the stated hypotheses;  


How can a generic strategic model be developed to merge the gap between strategy, technology and the multi business model framework concept, meanwhile enabling businesses to gain competitive advantages by outperforming others via strategic multi business modelling? 


The research hypotheses:

  1. A generic strategy model can create clarity on the existing gab between traditional academic strategy and the business model concept.
  2. The M-BMIS framework can help the businesses in the process of business model innovation and strategy of combining business models.
  3. The M-BMIS framework can be visualized through technology that enhances the businesses ability to understand and control the relations between strategy, business models, business model innovation process and its impact on business model ecosystem.
  4. The M-BMIS framework can help businesses outperform their competitors.
  5. The M-BMIS framework can help business to make the Business Model Ecosystems larger.

Dimitrios Apostolou

Assessment of a portable RES-based H2 production-storage system towards a zero-emission cycling based transportation

During the last decade the electric vehicle industry has been developed rapidly due to the associated environmental impacts arising from the use of conventional fossil fuel-based internal combustion engines (ICE). If someone take into account that the transportation sector comprises more than 33% of the EU-28 final energy consumption, and in 2015 was responsible for the annual emissions of at least 1182Mt CO2 equivalent (EC, 2017), this turn to sustainable mobility will present several positive effects for the environment including air quality improvement, noise reduction, and fuel independency in the case of renewable sources (RES) utilisation.

One of the most promising technologies for promoting “green” mobility comprises hydrogen based systems via the utilisation of fuel cells (FC). Especially, hydrogen production via water electrolysis supplied from RES results to much lower Life Cycle (LC) emissions and will contribute to an enhanced sustainability of the future transportation sector.

As it is mentioned above, production of H2 via RES consists a very promising method for portable applications. Denmark is a country where RES energy and particularly wind-based electricity is considered essential to the electrical network as it contributes nowadays more than 40% in the national gross electricity generation.  However, wind energy exhibits a stochastic and variable availability, enhancing the mitigation of the RES maximum penetration during the daily and seasonal electricity demand fluctuations. So, it is obvious that even in the case of high wind potential, the produced energy may not be integrated into the electrical network, resulting in a waste of energy and monetary losses for the RES investors. Hence, one may notice that it would be beneficial to combine the potential of hydrogen mobility with the wind energy curtailments in order to deploy a new market including hydrogen powered vehicles and production of hydrogen from the otherwise curtailed power from wind farms.

The main objective of this project focuses on the investigation of a portable hydrogen production and storage unit supplied from the power curtailments of wind farms located in central Denmark in order to produce store and deliver hydrogen to fuel cell based low duty vehicles such as FC bicycles.

More precisely this study will aim at:

  • Investigation of the viability of a small scale portable H2 production/storage device by comparing CAPEX, O&M cost, energy cost, range of the vehicle.
  • Study and analysis of the emerging market regarding the cost benefit of both wind farm and hydrogen portable refuelling infrastructure investors.
  • Design of the pricing mechanism of the real-time emerging market.
  • Investigation of the best scenario in terms of high absorption of wind rejected power and hydrogen demand of FC bicycles in the city of Herning. This investigation will take into account the assumption that the residents of Herning would use for short distances (up to 50km) only FC bicycles, avoiding car and public transportation. In this context, analysis of CO2 emissions avoidance is going to be performed.

Torben Cæsar Bisgaard Bjerrum

Data-driven business models

Technology is the biggest story in business today, and data is a vital factor for success of businesses in the future. Any technology will always be in need of a business model. No technology – not even big data technology - will go or do without a business model – or actually many business models.

The way we use data today is already changing the way we live our life, conduct research, curing diseases, drive our car, run businesses and countries. Some sectors and big enterprises have adopted this world of technology and data, but unfortunately many sectors have not. 

For businesses in general, the main argument is that there will be a paradigm shift from common single and traditional business models to multiple new data-driven business models due to digitalization and data collection.
These business models will contain integrated elements of big data, service, IoT, and digitalization, which are new areas for the businesses who, consequently, need guidance. These topics can be categorized as technology development, business development and business innovation.

What I address in my PhD thesis is:­


How can a data-driven business model framework be developed alongside present business model frameworks for the businesses to gain a competitive advantage?  


Through working with businesses, the aim is to discover the anatomy of data-driven business models, the drivers for data-driven business models and monitor the current approach that companies have towards data-driven business models.

With that knowledge, the research should (with a a technology that has not yet been defined in the project) present a theoretical model, prescriptive methods and normative tools for use in businesses that want/need to use data-driven business models anywhere in their business. 

Peter Enevoldsen

The development of wind turbines has increased dramatically over the past decades (Bilgili, et al., 2010; Manwell, et al., 2009) as a market for renewable energy has been created by an international green energy policy (Ward, 2012; Szarka, 2007). At the same time, wind turbines have increased in size (Wizelius, 2007). The increased hub height of wind turbines (Leung & Yang, 2012; Manwell, et al., 2009) has made it possible to locate wind turbines in forested areas. Furthermore, wind project developers in Northern Europe are often forced to site wind farms in forested areas, due to lack of space (Loring, 2007; Manwell, et al., 2009) and higher land prices elsewhere (Bergström, et al., 2013). However, few, if any, studies have adequately explored the risks related to wind farm development in European forests (Binz, et al., 2012).

In response to this apparent lack of research, this project will explore the risks associated with developing wind farms in European forests throughout the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The wind conditions in these countries are considered some of the best for wind energy production (Wizelius, 2007; Troen & Petersen, 1989), and the market acceptance level (Sovacool & Ratan, 2012) favors the wind industry (Strachan, et al., 2006). Furthermore, Denmark is covered by 14.1 percent forest (Johannsen, et al., 2012), Sweden by 67 percent (Udenrigministeriet, 2007), Norway by 28 percent (Nations, 2000), and the United Kingdom by 13 percent forest (Atkinson & Townsend, 2011), which is why methods for reducing uncertainty in predicting wind energy production in forested areas are needed to support the continuation of wind energy development in the targeted countries. Such improved methods will be constructed using CFD modelling and verified in measurement campaigns by usage of LIDARs and meteorological masts.  However, such continuation is only possible with sociopolitical acceptance (Sovacool & Ratan, 2012) of wind turbines in forests, why the methods explored in this research are expected to affect the energy policy in the targeted countries. The comparison of local negative environmental impact versus the global good of reducing dependence of fossil fuels and protecting the earth from climate change has been studied extensively (Hellström, 1998; Nadaï & van der Horst, 2010; Nadaï & Labussière, 2009, 2010; Warren, et al., 2005) and will be investigated in this research, with a specific focus on lowering the risk of local negative impact in order to affect the energy policies of the targeted countries, and promote wind project development in forested areas with as little harm as possible to the local animals and environment.

Rune Aardal Hansen

Today’s production of plastics accounts for more than 300 million tonnes annually, and research estimates that 4 to 12 million tonnes of plastic are entering the oceans every year. The size of the plastic entering the oceans differs from larger macroplastics to microscopic microplastic particles, and the majority of current research on this problem uses known sources and known accumulating zones in the oceans. In public media, these areas are referred to as ‘garbage patches’, and it is difficult to estimate the size and extent of these patches, as it depends on the degree of plastic concentration and the definition of such. Consequently, estimates differ greatly from similar to the size of Texas to larger than Europe or even the North American continent.

Historically, the dominant research focus in relation to microplastic has been on such areas as: occurrence, influence and distribution in the marine environment. However, businesses in many sectors contribute to the problem through their daily operations, e.g. the use of plastics in production, possibly constituting a vital source of microplastics – both directly and indirectly. Thus, more holistic approaches to the subject are needed to establish a foundation for sustainable solution(s) and initiatives possible of driving a new ecological approach, especially as microplastic transcends physical borders and scientific domains.

Consequently, from an outset within the business domain, the objective of the current project is to provide new perspectives on the problem.

Approaching the problem of microplastic from within and across traditional business and social science in combination with an engineering and technology perspective could provide such a new approach and subsequent perspectives on the matter. This is important, as sustainably sound solutions will arise only when a multitude of aspects of the problem are cohesively investigated in depth, thereby allowing these scientific domains to be part of a much-needed solution.

Kristian Løbner

The rise of the digital age has led to increased access to new markets and competition from new organizations. The need to stay ahead of the rapidly developing competition is more essential than ever. Academic focus on innovation leadership throughout the 20th century centered on managing innovation in products and services. The past 20 years, academia and practitioners have acknowledged that innovation in the business model is an essential competitive advantage of the 21st century.

In spite of the increased focus on business model innovation, the organizational and leadership parts of business model innovation (BMI) remain poorly understood. Further, scholars have focused mostly on exciting new and disruptive innovation, new market entrants or how incumbents fail to innovate on their existing business models.  There exist only few insights in how continuous BMI could be lead in incumbent businesses. With the urgency of leading BMI in established businesses, there is a need for further guidance, methods and severe empirical evidence.  

Large businesses have experienced massive transformations (both external and internal) in the last few decades. With the growth of the knowledge economy, the number of project-based businesses has grown considerably as a serious trend. With the trends of 'open innovation', 'sustainability' and 'knowledge-sharing', many businesses are operating many business models depending on the specific project. However, research of BMI in project-based businesses s is scarce.

The existing evidence is primarily based on either ex-post studies of the process of BMI or momentary case studies. There is a severe need for more longitudinal studies to coin why some processes succeed in valuable BMI and why some fail.

Based on three longitudinal studies of how BMI is organized in a large incumbent service business, this study contributes with deep insights on:

  • How the managerial drivers and barriers affects business model innovation.
  • How the needed capabilities for conducting BMI successfully can be developed.
  • How to ensure a continuous progress of BMI.

A main result of this study is a tested framework for leading the organization of BMI in large incumbent service businesses.       

Michiel Johannes Nijland

Entertainment is serious business! A first step into embracing the potential of entertainment to fulfill higher human needs within the marketing literature

The goal of my research is to integrate recent findings within the entertainment consumption literature concerning the potential for the fulfillment of higher needs in a motivational framework.

The first aim is to identify groups of “serious” entertainment consumers and compare their motivations and gratifications of entertainment consumption with “casual” consumers. Special attention is given to the relatively new distinction between hedonic and eudaimonic motivations for entertainment consumption. People are only now considered to also consume entertainment for the fulfillment of higher needs rather than just instant gratification, and this new area requires more thorough research. This new type of consumption motivation is particularly lacking in the marketing domain of research, while other types of consumption motivation such as hedonic and utilitarian consumption have been studied extensively. A motivational framework that will take Oliver and Ranney’s (2011) two-dimensional model of entertainment consumption as the scientific basis will be drawn up. It will also attempt to integrate extrinsic motivation such as social pressure into the model, to have a more comprehensive overview of the motivational processes that underlie entertainment consumption.

The goal of this study is ultimately to devise a motivational framework that incorporates both the distinction between serious and casual consumers, hedonic versus eudaimonic motivations, and the interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. This hopefully allows us to come to a better understanding of consumers of entertainment that will lead to better segmentation, targeting and positioning, and ultimately better customer value.

Iben Duvald Pedersen

The weekend effect, an organizational and cultural issue?

This PhD project explores whether differences in organizational design and organizational culture can explain the weekend effect in an emergency department (ED). The weekend effect is defined as differences in outcomes (i.e. 30-days mortality, length of stay and number of adverse events) of treatments between patients with the same diagnosis admitted during weekdays or during the weekends. A previous study showed that the organizational design of many ED’s in Denmark changes during the day (24 hour) (Moellekaer et al 2014). Based on that, we hypothesize that the organizational design and culture changes during the week too and that such changes can provide insights into why a weekend effect exists.

Previous studies of the weekend effect shows that acute patients admitted to hospitals on a weekend experience worse outcomes than those admitted on a weekday (Bell & Redelmeier 2001,Cram et al 2004, Barba et al 2006). Also in Denmark a weekend effect exists (Hansen 2015). The existing studies of the weekend effect are based on epidemiologic analysis. They can explain that a weekend effect exist, but are not able to explain why (Hamilton et al 2010). The answer to why these variations occur remains unclear (Hamilton et al 2010, De Cordova et al 2012, Handel et al 2012). Several studies point to the need for research into the causes of the weekend effect (Ananthakrishnan et al 2009, De Cordova et al 2012, Handel et al 2012).

Based on an ethnographic fieldwork with emphasis on interviews and participant observation, this project will contribute new knowledge about why the weekend effect exists.

Organizations are complex and cannot be fully understood from a single perspective. Based on multi-contingency theory (Burton & Obel, 2004) and cultural analysis (Hastrup et al 2013) the project will study the organization design and culture of an ED on weekdays and weekends with the aim to contribute to an understanding of why and under what circumstances the weekend effect exits. ED’s are the cornerstones of the Danish National Health System, since up to 70 % of all acute patients are evaluated there.

The combination of organizational design theory and cultural analysis will be used to analyze how an ED is organized on both macro and micro level on weekdays and weekends. The suggestions, mentioned in the previous studies as to why the weekend effect exits, focused on individual parts of the organization such as competences (Barba et al 2006, Kostis et al 2007, Goddard & Lees 2012), number of employees (Halm & Chassin 2001, Bell & Redelmeier 2001) or access to the service departments (Saposnik et al 2007, Schilling et al 2010). Multi-contingency theory offers a more detailed picture of how the components of the organization interact and what might cause the weekend effect. With cultural analysis we can delve into different components and look at the employees work tasks, decision-making and interaction with each other. The cultural analysis can show how employee behavior is shaped by the organization and thus examine whether employees behave the same way on weekdays and weekends.

This project is a part of the research network DESIGN-EM and sponsored by ICOA (Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture), BTECH and Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University.

Christian Wittrock

The Diffusion of Management Concepts

Management concepts like coaching, Total Quality Management (TQM), Business Process Reengineering (BPR), and Lean have a decisive impact on how we work and how we allocate resources in organizations. Lately, we have also seen management concepts taking the role of policy concepts, influencing the political agenda (Wittrock & Hofmeister 2013). Management concepts exhibit fashion swings (Abrahamson 1996, Barley & Kunda 1992), and the offerings of management consultancies follow similar surges (David & Strang 2006). Management concepts have been portrayed as panaceas to organizational problems (Røvik 2002), as useful to organizations (Larsen 2001), as “handy terms” for stakeholders in organizational development (Giroux 2006), and as reminders to managers on forgotten ideas on solutions to organizational problems (Benders & van Veen 2001).

A prerequisite for the travel of ideas on how to organize and develop organizations is their theorization or conceptualization into (management) concepts (Strang & Meyer 1993). In this project, I study the genesis, development, spread and phase out of management concepts, using historiographic research and bibliometric studies.

The study yields new insights on how and why management ideas are conceptualized, why management concepts become attractors of public attention, and what the nature of management concepts is. The study contributes to management fashion theory, and theory on the diffusion of management innovations.

Papers related to the project:

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

  1. Wittrock, Christian (2015): ‘Reembedding Lean: The Japanese Cultural and Religious Context of a World Changing Management Concept’; International Journal of Sociology, 45:2, 95-111.

Conference proceedings

  1. Wittrock, Christian (2016): ‘Defining Power: Management concepts as Concepts of Expectation and Concepts of Struggle’ conference paper, European Group for Organizational Studies, 32nd EGOS Colloquium, Naples, Italy July 7-9th.
  2. Wittrock, Christian (2014): ‘Re-embedding lean: The Japanese context of a world changing management concept’ conference paper, American Sociological Association 109th ASA Annual Meeting, San Francisco USA, August 16-19th.

Gerardo Zarazua de Rubens

Societal and Business Implications of a Vehicle-to-Grid Transition in the Nordic region 

This PhD project is part of the grant that supports an innovative research project that studies electric mobility in the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and has a special focus on Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology. See this link.

It relies on a mix of concepts and a mixed-methods approach to explore, from an empirical perspective, the business and social benefits, barriers and policies involved in a Nordic transition to V2G. This is of great importance given the regional climate targets in terms of carbon emission reduction and increased use of renewable energy sources for 2020 and 2050.

From a high level, this project first aims to explore both the promise and the possible pitfalls of a transition to V2G infrastructure in the Nordic region, focusing first on its benefits and then analysing the sociotechnical barriers to the implementation of a V2G transition. Second, it aims to determine the necessary policies and incentives suitable for increasing the commercialisation of V2G automobiles throughout the Nordic region. It thus involves three themes of development: (1) assessing potential, (2) identifying barriers and (3) policy recommendations.

The PhD project started in 2016 and is expected to be completed within a 3-year period.