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Entrepreneurship research got “unique” DKK 40 million funding from Maersk: “It has propelled CBS into a whole other league”

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(Photo: Mette Koors)

CBS is halfway through spending the DKK 40 million it received in 2014 from Maersk to build an internationally renowned entrepreneurship research environment. The Head of Department of Strategy and Innovation and an assistant professor reflect on the first six of 13 years of research. 

News |   24. Jun 2020

Anne Thora Lykkegaard


“There’s been a breakthrough in entrepreneurship research at CBS.”

This is how Keld Laursen, Head of the Department of Strategy and Innovation at CBS, describes what it has meant to CBS to receive the “very prestigious” donation worth DKK 40 million from ‘A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal’.

The money was donated to CBS back in 2014 to establish a “world class” research environment within the field of entrepreneurship.  And now, six years into the 13-year research scheme, Keld Laursen reflects on the output the money has generated and the various projects connected to the so-called Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship.

“CBS researchers have contributed state-of-the-art empirical methods and created new theories. Especially research on the effects of gender and diversity for start-ups’ successes and personal characteristics of entrepreneurs have been published in some of the very best journals,” he says and continues:

“It’s incredible what the researchers have managed so far.”

The money has, according to Keld Laursen, made it possible for the researchers connected to the Endowed Chair to produce and publish research of the kind that is good enough for top-tier journals. Something that can cost a lot of money when setting up new experiments, paying for access to databases, as well as paying for the publication of the results, for example, after the year-long reviewing process.

It was Professor Mirjam van Praag, now President of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who took on the position as the Endowed Chair in 2014 and set up the team of researchers. In total, four PhD Fellows and a postdoc were hired to conduct and publish research on entrepreneurship, host seminars and workshops and attend conferences.

One example of an Endowed Chair researcher who managed to get a paper published in a top journal is Vera Rocha, Assistant Professor at the Department of Strategy and Innovation. Back when the project started in 2014, Mirjam van Praag hired her for the job as a postdoc, and in January 2020, Vera Rocha received the accolade of having one of her research papers published in Strategic Management Journal – which Keld Laursen says is “huge”.

The paper concludes that what makes women most likely to take on the entrepreneurial path is not great coworkers, supportive parents or an inspirational spouse. It is their bosses, the founders of the firms they have joined as employees, especially if they are women, as these can act as role models.

“Having that paper published in Strategic Management Journal has had a huge impact on my career, and it reminds me how much I’ve developed, since I joined CBS. I’ve always thought that getting a paper published in SMJ would be out of reach but being around Mirjam and the research environment at our department really nurtured my ambition. It was a milestone,” says Vera Rocha.

Another example of research produced by the researchers from the project is a paper that shows that when start-up teams have even just one woman on the team, it immediately has more success, measured on profit, explains Keld Laursen and highlights the effect of getting results published in top journals.

“Being able to publish these kinds of papers has propelled CBS into a whole other league. Having results published in top journals makes CBS stand out and positions us as a place with world-class research on entrepreneurship,” he says and continues:

“And if you want to attract and recruit the best researchers and teachers within that field, you need to show your excellence in the field.”

From niche to mainstream

Looking back, CBS was more about innovation, and less about entrepreneurship research, explains Keld Laursen. But at the time the Endowed Chair was initiated, entrepreneurship was starting to become a hot topic.

“Business schools all over the world started picking up on entrepreneurship, alongside politicians and the business sector, who were eyeing the possibility of generating a new layer of growth. So it was in the public spirit to focus on it. This was where things were happening, and it’s a field of research that keeps growing and expanding,” says Keld Laursen.

Today, the field is far from a niche at CBS, which offers several courses on entrepreneurship, and even has an entire master’s program that has the subject as a central feature. Entrepreneurship, is, until the end of 2020, still an essential part of CBS’ strategy. And Keld Laursen believes that the donation from Maersk has been instrumental in achieving that.

“It’s not often you can set the agenda in one direction with this much money. That’s unique,” he says.

A new Chair

Mirjam van Praag left the position as the Endowed Chair in 2018, and CBS has been looking for a new person to take on the job ever since. However, with every other business school wanting the best researchers within the field, it’s a tough game, explains Keld Laursen.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I’ve spent on contacting candidates and running interviews. But we’ve now managed to find a new Chair who meets the very high standards,” he says.

I believe it will have the potential to affect the way we think about entrepreneurship – not just at CBS, but in the world

Keld Laursen

Professor José Mata from the Université de Lausanne in Switzerland will take on the position in February 2021, when he will set up a new team of scholars, and as a part of the recruitment, it has been possible to extend the donations to last another seven years, making it possible for two rounds of PhDs to finish their studies.

In José Mata’s job-talk, he explained that he’s particularly interested in exploring the relationship between migration and entrepreneurship.

“I hope that the new chair will be like a driver for the environment. The research will be of a different type, but I believe it will have the potential to affect the way we think about entrepreneurship – not just at CBS, but in the world,” says Keld Laursen.

Vera Rocha, who’s still somewhat connected with the Endowed Chair, hopes to collaborate closely with José Mata and the young scholars who will be hired in.

“Being part of this Chair means a lot for the young scholars, by getting access to unique resources and mentoring. This can have a great impact in their development as researchers. And hopefully, I can also give back and pass on some of the things I learned during my time as postdoc and assistant professor to the new, junior scholars joining us,” she says.


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