Business and Economics

Phd defences Faculty of Business and Economics

Forthcoming PhD defences and past PhD defences in the archive

Forthcoming PhD defences

31 January 2023 - Daniel Behr (Department of Transport and Regional Economics)

Daniel Behr

  • Tuesday 31 January 2023 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Thierry Vanelslander & Eddy Van de Voorde
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.
  • Please contact Mr. Daniel Behr ( or whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Monday 30 January 2023.

Determining financial viability of railway undertakings under open access regulatory environments

In North America, railway deregulation has lowered the entry barriers and opened opportunities for private sector small to medium sized business entities (SMEs) to
participate in the railway sector. This has resulted in the upward spiraling success of the “shortline” railway subsector of rail transportation in North America, which operates
mostly as a closed access system. The liberalized system of open access railways in many non-North American countries has similarly opened prospects for participation in the railway sector that were previously unavailable to the private sector. Though there are vast differences in the characteristics of how the two systems operate, there are common elements, but careful analysis is required to determine financial and operational viability.

In this dissertation, the process of exploring European candidate routes and analyzing their financial prospects using traditional investment metrics is demonstrated by a cost
simulation model, based on real costs, realistic sample revenues per loading unit and a range of operating scenarios, to understand the financial performance under a broad
range of parameters.

Going beyond the financial performance of each of the eight scenarios depicted, through a combination of sensitivity analyses and detailed analyses of the costs, this dissertation identifies the most influential parameters and cost elements contributing to the financial success of a railway undertaking.

While the financial performance and influential factors contributing to profitability are identified, deficiencies and weaknesses over the railway network and indeed, the entire sector, are also recognized to determine what conditions can be optimized for overall financial and system performance to facilitate the shift of cargo from road to rail. A comprehensive analysis of tangible and intangible factors affecting railway network performance is explored and recommendations are made.

20 February 2023 - Giuliana Ciancio (Department of Management)

Giuliana Ciancio 

  • Monday 20 February 2023 - 3 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Annick Schramme & Pascal Gielen
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.
  • Please contact Mrs. Giuliana Ciancio ( whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Friday 17 February 2023.

Cultural policy and emotional clusters in the post-global context. Performing arts and emotions between top-down and bottom-up negotiations

This dissertation focuses on the role that emotions play in the negotiations between top-down cultural policymaking and bottom-up cultural practices. The two key case studies are The EU Creative Europe programme, with its Audience Development (AD) priority, and the city of Naples, with its season of the commons. In both these settings, various forms of cultural participation and civil engagement are scrutinized. Starting from the performing arts sector, I explore the mutations of these participatory practices within a heterogeneous cultural ecosystem during the period of significant global change from 2008 to 2020.

An abductive methodology (by also adopting qualitative research techniques such as autoethnography) was used, which gradually enabled the close observation of the cultural, policy, and political actors’ behaviours in the field of inquiry. It revealed the key social, political, and transformative function of emotions in power relations; in formal and informal spaces of policy negotiations; in decision-making procedures, and in the transversal alliances between top-down and bottom-up actors. I have opted to call emotional clusters these temporary informal value-driven groupings I witnessed throughout my journey, where personal issues converge, aiming to critically react to the regeneration of neoliberalism and to co-imagine the pluralistic development of cultural policy or political programmes. Emotional clusters look like a form of social adaptation which constitutes the bases of unknown and renewed spaces of resistance that perform between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic realms. Emotional clusters have demonstrated the extent to which emotions can provide us with an innovative key to analyse cultural, policy and political processes. They can be seen as a symptom of a new phase, i.e., a post-global condition which I addressed through an empirical lens, focusing on the friction between global interconnections and hyper-localisms.

This thesis is divided into four main chapters and has been inspired by, and dedicated to, all those who still believe that battles over the ‘quality of (daily) life’ are necessary, timely, and unavoidable. This means re-politicizing the public realm, to actively collaborate in the co-creation of pluralistic democratic narratives and conceiving the cultural policy process as a lively and political matter. This dissertation shows that emotions are an intrinsic part of these processes.

20 March 2023 - Mauricio Gamez Alban (Department of Engineering Management)

Mauricio Gamez Alban

  • Monday 20 March 2023 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Trijntje Cornelissens & Kenneth Sörensen
  • The defence takes place at the W. Elsschot room, Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp
    Please contact to inform him whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Thursday 16 March 2023

Scattered storage assignment optimization: towards more efficient order fulfillment in e-commerce warehouses

27 March 2023 - Patrick Allmis (Department of Economics)

Patrick Allmis

  • Monday 27 March 2023 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Bruno De Borger & Luca Merlino
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7,

    2000 Antwerpen. Please contact Mr. Allmis ( whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Thursday 23 March 2023.

Heterogeneity in social networks and implications for economic outcomes

Past PhD defences 2022

Expanding social heath protection in the Kingdom of Cambodia - Robert John Kolesar (25/01/2023)

Robert John Kolesar

  • Wednesday 25 January 2023 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Guido Erryegers & Wim Van Damme
  • The defence will be held online - through MS Teams. Please contact Mr. Robert Kolesar  ( to receive the link to attend the online PhD defence, before Monday 23 January 2023.

Expanding social heath protection in the Kingdom of Cambodia

Social health protection and the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC) directly contribute to Cambodia’s highest-level strategic goals of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Advancing reforms that promote UHC is the smart thing to do to achieve economic prosperity. Moreover, economists have called on policy makers to prioritize a pro-poor pathway to UHC as an essential pillar of development.
Over the past several years, Cambodia has made substantial progress with increasing enrollment in its social health protection schemes. However, major gaps remain along the three dimensions of UHC, particularly among vulnerable groups. Coverage of the non-poor informal sector population remains a serious challenge. In addition, user fees constitute a barrier to access; and, coverage by a social health protection scheme does not necessarily result in financial risk protection as most people seek care from private providers. This contributes to large gaps in financial risk protection for health as out-of-pocket spending accounts for at least two-thirds of total health spending. This thesis focuses on supporting an evidence-to-action process to inform and advance decision making and policy to expand social health protection and advance UHC in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Optimization methods for on-demand planning of public buses - Ying Lian (24/01/2023)

Ying Lian

  • Tuesday 24 January 2023 - 2 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Kenneth Sörensen & Flavien Lucas
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.
    Please contact Mrs. Ying Lian ( whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Friday 20 January 2023.

Optimization methods for on-demand planning of public buses

One possible trend of the public bus services is a large-scale shift to on-demand transport. That is, instead of passengers adapting to the fixed routes and schedules, buses travel along routes that are completely determined by passengers' demand. Owing to the development of smartphones and their applications, it is possible and common for people accessing services in daily life. Account-based ticketing, global positioning system and communication system via the mobile devices make it effortless for passengers to send in their travel requests, including their origins and destinations, preferred departure and/or arrival time. In addition, the advanced development in automatic vehicle location and internet of vehicles contribute to more intelligent management of a bus fleet, as well as real-time communication between buses and passengers. In this way, the aforementioned mismatch of demand and supply in public bus transport can be reduced. To achieve this, optimization algorithms are required to determine the bus routes and schedules such that passengers are served with high quality. This is the primal aim of this thesis.

The impact of a company’s (big) data analytics capability on firm performance, decision-making and management control - Pieter De Rijck (23/01/2023)

Pieter De Rijck

  • Monday 23 January 2023 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Ann Jorissen & Eddy Laveren
  • The defence takes place at the F. de Tassiszaal - Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp, City Campus,
    Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp
    Please contact to inform him whether you wish to attend the PhD defence before Thursday 19 January 2023

The impact of a company’s (big) data analytics capability on firm performance, decision-making and management control

Today's business environment is characterized by increased uncertainty as well as an explosion in data creation. It has increased the adoption of (big) data analytics which has been a top priority for CIOs for the last two decades. However, neither the exponential growth of data availability nor the purchase of information technologies ensures success because data has no intrinsic value without context or analysis and IT (infrastructure) can easily be copied by competitors. (Big) data analytics implementations are associated with an enormous complexity posing a variety of challenges to companies. We propose the development of an organization-wide (big) data analytics capability (BDAC) as a solution to bridge the gap between all data analytics-related challenges and the value that an effective data analytics-driven organization could bring. A company's BDAC refers to a unique blend of its tangible, human, and intangible resources that result in a unique – difficult to match – capability.
In this dissertation, we studied the impact of a company's (big) data analytics capability on performance, management control, and decision-making. We explored this overall research purpose throughout four empirical chapters (chapters 3 – 6). We did so using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. In chapter 3, we studied the entanglement of BDAC resources. We found that BDAC resource complementarity is critical in maintaining BDAC strength. In chapter 4, we unraveled the relationship between a company's BDAC and financial performance. We found both a positive direct and an indirect effect through the performance of a company's operations management process. Aside from a few methodological contributions, we primarily contributed to the BDAC value chain literature. In chapter 5, we studied the impact of BDAC improvements on decision-making and management control (both design and use) through an information quality lens. We found that information quality (across multiple dimensions) can be a powerful catalyst in both domains. We primarily contributed to previous traditional ERP studies. In chapter 6, we showed that dashboard adoption increases the presentation quality of a company's Performance Measurement System (PMS). We showed a positive association between PMS presentation quality and both diagnostic and interactive PMS information use. We observed a subsequent positive effect of interactive PMS information use on strategic performance. We introduced PMS presentation quality as a new PMS design characteristic and primarily contributed to the broader literature on the antecedents and outcomes of PMS information use.

The Governance of Organizational Networks - Steven van den Oord (18/01/2023)

  • Wednesday 18 January 2023 - 4.30  p.m.​
  • Supervisors: Bart Cambré and Patrick Kenis
  • The defence takes place at the Antwerp Management School - Boogkeers 5, 2000 Antwerpen

The Governance of Organizational Networks

In my dissertation, I study how organizational networks govern themselves and what conditions explain the governance of organizational networks. Organizational networks are groups of three or more organizations working together to achieve not only their own goals but also a collective goal. As an organizational form, they have become pivotal in various sectors because an organizational network provides policy planners and managers with an alternative strategy to deal with issues, solve problems, or produce products and services that are too broad in scope and too complex for any organization to handle. For organizational networks to be an effective organizational form, however, some mode of governance is imperative to ensure that they act as a goal-directed system of coordinated action. Despite their rising popularity, we still need more theoretical understanding and empirical evidence on under what conditions a mode of network governance varies and how networks use institutions and structures of authority and collaboration to govern themselves. This dissertation aims to help remedy the mismatch between practice and theory by enhancing the contingency theory of network governance by Keith Provan and Patrick Kenis. The findings show that organizational networks govern themselves differently, considering that they vary regarding environmental conditions and their structural pattern of relations. Furthermore, the results indicate that organizational networks use a range of institutions and structures of authority and collaboration to allocate resources and coordinate and control joint action across the network. Based on leveraging insights from a systematic literature review, two single case studies, and a network game simulation—network governance is explained, and the need to rethink its dimensions, perspectives, and research methods on the governance of organizational networks is addressed. 

Sustainability Integration Essays and reflections on the integration of sustainability and the SDGs - Jan Beyne (19/12/2022)

Jan Beyne

  • Monday 19 December 2022 - 6 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Luc Van Liedekerke and Wayne Visser
  • The defence takes place at the Antwerp Management School - Boogkeers 5, 2000 Antwerpen.

Addressing sustainability integration implies intervention in, inter alia, the social and physical dynamics of business activities (Epstein & Buhovac, 2010). Physical dynamics entail the processes needed for the production of services and goods and their physical impacts on the environment (Baumgartner, 2009; Hahn et al., 2015). The social dynamics on the other hand focus on the interactions within the company and its outside impact with the world (Vermeulen & Witjes, 2016). Today, more than ever, integrating sustainability into organizations is important to futureproof business. However, organizations around the world are realizing that to do so, they should plan for. In this thesis, we focus on the social dynamics with an emphasis on the interactions within organizations; how they plan sustainability integration, how they enable sustainability intelligence, how they define their material topics, and how they report on sustainability issues.

This dissertation contains six chapters that investigate organizational sustainability integration from various perspectives and theoretical lenses. They are the outcome of several independent research projects conducted between 2018 and 2022 at Antwerp Management School and the University of Antwerp. The chapters represent a collection of essays that have been published as articles in various academic journals.

By aiming to provide an informed answer to the research questions, this dissertation hopes to make an academic contribution and be of value for organizational practice by introducing the ‘sustainological feedback loop’ in the final chapter. In order to pursue the integration of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we use this ‘loop’ as a way to illustrate the importance of both the inputs and outputs as important parts of a system in which a part of the system's output is used as input for future actions or movements. Our ‘loop’ has four stages. During the first stage, insight on sustainability is initiated. During the second stage, a dynamic with internal and external stakeholders is activated. By initiating and activating sustainability integration, organizations are able to create a clear framework with purposeful strategic goals in stage three. During the fourth stage, the understanding gained from the previous stages is used to contemplate and make better decisions.

A constitutive view on Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA). Towards a conceptual framework - Hans Vanoorbeek (28/11/2022)

Hans Vanoorbeek

  • Monday 28 November 2022 - 1 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Eddy Laveren and Miguel Meuleman
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.

A constitutive view on Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA). Towards a conceptual framework.

The purpose of the thesis is to analyze the phenomenon of “Entrepreneurship through Acquisition” or ETA. An ETA transaction as opposed to a buyout is defined here as a smaller and more entrepreneurial version of the classical leveraged management buy-in. Previous research on entrepreneurship and transitions into entrepreneurship, have always been predominantly focused on start-up entrepreneurship. ETA is a relatively widespread phenomenon and an alternative way to become an entrepreneur. The main focus here lays on the study of the middle-aged senior (nascent) ETA entrepreneur.
Besides making a typology of the nascent and actual ETA entrepreneur, the influence of different forms of entrepreneurial capital and the likelihood of ETA entrepreneurial entry has been analyzed in the first part of the thesis. While work and/or managerial experience, prior start-up or shareholdings and parental background do not have a significant impact on the likelihood of becoming an ETA entrepreneur, self-employment, the higher the amount an ETA entrepreneur is prepared to invest and a certain age do increase the odds of acquiring a company.
A second part of the thesis analyzes the investment criteria of an ETA manager, while comparing them between nascent and actual ETA managers and comparing them with the IC of other types of similar investors like private equity (LBO and MBI), venture capital, business angels and search funds. The latter and the MBI investors being the most similar. “Potential market growth”, “professionalization and improvement potential”, as well as “stable demand and recurring customers” were found to be the three most important investment criteria, showing little differences, except for “location” and “technology”, between the nascent and actual ETA entrepreneur. Three criteria, i.e. “potential market growth”, “technology” and “sales turnover” have the strongest significant influence on whether a company finally gets acquired or not.
A third part of the thesis measures the social identities of the (nascent) ETA entrepreneurs and their impact on the nascent-active gap. Using the framework of Fauchart & Gruber for founder identities measured by the scale developed by Sieger et al., the Darwinian founder social identity is the predominant social identity of the (nascent) ETA entrepreneur. On the other hand, no significant relationships between one of the social identities and the likelihood to actually become an active ETA entrepreneur in a given time period compared to when they do not have this identity, was found.

The role of the board of directors in governing digital transformation - Laura Caluwe (14/09/2022)

Laura Caluwe

  • Wednesday 14 September 2022 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Steven De Haes & Tim Huygh
  • The defence takes place in the Graduation Hall - Cloister of the Grauwzusters, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Building S, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.

The role of the board of directors in governing digital transformation

Digitalization has a profound impact on organizational strategy and risk exposures. As both strategy and risk are key concerns of the board of directors, researchers are increasingly calling for boards to be more involved in IT governance. Indeed, studies show that board-level IT governance is positively related to organizational performance and IT risk management. However, figures from practice indicate a lack of board attention to IT-related topics as well as a lack of board IT competence to adequately carry out IT governance duties. This research focusses on this knowing-doing gap by investigating how boards of directors can take up accountability and responsibility for governing digital transformation.

We examine the current state of board-level IT governance literature and practice, gain a better understanding of board roles when IT governance is exercised as part of corporate governance, and focus on the board's IT strategic roles. Our findings suggest that, in order for boards to truly assume responsibility for governing digital technologies, IT governance should be regarded as an essential component of corporate governance. Furthermore, the board's IT expertise is a critical mechanism for carrying out IT governance responsibilities. Finally, the CIO plays an important role in increasing board involvement in IT governance.

Showing that IT governance should be an integral part of corporate governance is critical to move the board-level IT governance literature forward. Second, we lay the groundwork for future research by presenting a conceptual model for board-level IT governance, as well as a research agenda. Furthermore, we demonstrate the utility of various theoretical perspectives in addressing governance issues. Third, we open up the black box of board-level IT governance in practice through case study research. Finally, we add to the corporate governance literature by providing insights on digitalization, which creates both strategic and risk-related challenges for governing organizations.

For practice, our findings demonstrate the value of the board’s contribution in governing IT. Furthermore, we detail six roles that boards can take up to perform their IT governance duties and outline various governance mechanisms to implement them. We take a deep dive into one of these mechanisms, i.e., board-level IT governance committees, and a subset of these roles, i.e., the board’s IT strategic roles. In doing so, we hope to inspire boards of directors on how to shape their involvement in digitalization.

Rule-based explanation methods to gain insight into classification models using behavioral data - Yanou Ramon (8/09/2022)

Yanou Ramon

  • Thursday 8 September 2022
  • Supervisor: David Martens

Rule-based explanation methods to gain insight into classification models using behavioral data

Every step we take in the digital world leaves a record of our behavior; a digital footprint. Think about the pages we visit on the Internet, the songs we listen to on Spotify, or the online purchases we make on Amazon. The recent field of predictive analytics on these data demonstrated that fine-grained digital records of our behavior harbor much potential to improve decision-making in business and society. However, we still face challenges related to these technologies, among others, the black-box nature of prediction models that restricts users to answer why-questions about predictions, that is our central research focus.

In this PhD thesis, we study solutions to explain predictions driven by behavioral data, and contribute to the field of Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI), in which, up until now, the majority of research focused on methods suitable for data other than digital footprints. The first empirical part comprises two studies with theoretical advances in explanation methods to interpret predictions in our specific data context. First, we develop two novel algorithms to compute counterfactual explanations that explain individual predictions. Second, we propose a methodology to gain global insight into models by extracting rule sets that mimic the behavior of the model. The explanation rules aim to provide an accurate proxy for complex models, while at the same time being comprehensible to end users. The novelty lies in the use of higher level clusters of data (metafeatures) to extract explanation rules instead of the behavioral features on which the model was originally trained. The second part of the thesis includes two applied studies on model interpretability. In the first study, we demonstrate the use and importance of explanation methods in the context of psychological profiling, for which we use a real-world case study of predicting personality from financial transactions data. Lastly, in a final study, we show the potential of well-established experimental methods from the Marketing field to study people's preferences for explanations for algorithmic decisions.

Our research proposes novel rule-based explanation methods, and shows their potential to produce more trustworthy and explainable predictive technologies that use behavioral data. We hope the importance of XAI will be acknowledged by researchers and practitioners in fields beyond data science, who are discovering the possibilities of mining behavioral big data, and that more interaction will follow between XAI experts, marketeers, social scientists, and psychologists to tackle open questions about XAI, as to exploit the full potential of these data.

Efficient Prediction Markets - Jonas Vandenbruaene (30/06/2022)

Jonas Vandenbruaene

  • Thursday 30 June 2022
  • Supervisors: Marc De Ceuster & Jan Annaert


A core question in financial economics is whether markets are informationally efficient i.e., whether asset prices accurately reflect all available information. Although the empirical literature on market efficiency is vast, the subject is still heavily debated among academics and practitioners. A fundamental issue with informational efficiency is that it is virtually untestable in traditional financial markets. For example, in an ideal world, researchers would compare stock prices on stock markets with their true values to check whether they are aligned or not. However, as true values of stocks are never available, this is not possible. This untestability of market efficiency is referred to as the joint hypothesis problem. 

In this dissertation, we try to make an original, unconventional contribution to the market efficiency debate by studying prediction markets. Prediction markets are platforms where people can bet on the outcome of future events, like a presidential election or a football game. Prediction markets have many characteristics that make them interesting research labs. Their main advantage is that the outcomes of the events are exogenously revealed, the market prices collide with reality. This allows researchers to systematically compare market prices with terminal values to detect mispricing, which is not possible on stock markets and circumvents the joint hypothesis problem. 

This dissertation contains three empirical chapters. In the first, we review 40 years of literature on mechanical trading strategies in sports prediction markets. Many individual studies claim to have found profitable trading strategies which implies inefficient market pricing. However, when we consider the entire literature, the evidence is consistent with an efficient market where profit opportunities are chance results. Furthermore, we argue for more meta-scientific reflexes and put forward a hurdle rate of |z|>3 to benchmark the statistical significance of empirical results. 

The second empirical chapter studies the evolution of the UK fixed odds betting market between 2000 and 2018. This period is of particular interest as it coincides with the rise of online gambling. We find that over this period, transaction costs decreased very significantly, both statistically and economically. Furthermore, we document a decrease in the favorite-longshot bias, a persistent anomaly in prediction market research. 

The third empirical chapter tests whether time series momentum, a well-known irregularity in traditional financial markets, is also present in prediction market data. We find that a time series momentum effect is indeed present and by leveraging the prediction market characteristics, we show it is consistent with behavioral underreaction and not a rational premium for variance or skewness.

A techno-environmental economic assessment of a lignin-first biorefinery: a dynamic and prospective framework for emerging technologies - Maxim Tschulkow (29/06/2022)

Maxim Tschulkow

  • Wednesday 29 June 2022
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel & Tine Compernolle


Biorefining has gained interest and has the potential to tackle several sustainability challenges in our society. A lignin-first biorefinery process – reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) – is currently being developed to process wood into high-value end-products. However, the RCF process has not matured yet, holding a certain degree of technological, economic, and environmental uncertainties. Hence, an appropriate assessment method is needed to assess emerging uncertain technologies (e.g lignin-first RCF process).

This dissertation aims to develop a dynamic and prospective techno-environmental economic assessment framework to assess emerging technologies from economic and environmental points of view. First, a techno-economic assessment (TEA) was performed to assess the economic feasibility of the lignin-first RCF biorefinery and to identify the most influential economic and technological parameters affecting the profitability. Afterwards, an analytical real options analysis (ROA) was performed taking market uncertainties and the value of flexibility into account in order to identify the optimal investment decision. Next, a consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed to assess the carbon emissions and the environmental consequences of the lignin-first RCF process and its products. Finally, the above-mentioned methods – TEA, ROA, and consequential LCA – were uniquely integrated within the newly developed integrated assessment framework. The framework has the aim to complement the shortcomings and combine the advantages of all three methods. It provides dynamic and prospective insights into the time-specific economic and environmental performances of the lignin-first RCF process implementation.

The newly developed integrated assessment framework offers decision support to several stakeholders of emerging technologies. Practitioners such as the technology developers, researchers, and policymakers can use the framework to evaluate emerging technologies that deal with high levels of technological, economic, and environmental uncertainties. The framework assesses emerging technologies on a detailed level to give decision-makers in-depth insights into the intertwined nature of the technological, economic, and environmental dimensions. It offers insights into the expected time-specific economic and environmental performances, potential, and challenges of the emerging technology to further improve the technology and direct R&Ds along the right path.

Unravelling complexity in digital servitization development: A multi-lens approach - Bieke Struyf (8/06/2022)

Bieke Struyf

  • Wednesday 8 June 2022
  • Supervisor: Paul Matthyssens


Since the launch of the Industry 4.0 concept in 2011, manufacturing firms have grown increasingly aware of the potential benefits digital technologies hold for improved efficiency, novel revenue streams, and enhanced competitive advantage. Despite promises made, however, firms continue to struggle with the realization of returns on digital investments made. For manufacturers to benefit from Industry 4.0 implementation, digitalization needs to be combined with servitization. Servitization refers to the creation of additional customer value through the offering of services in addition to the traditional product. Digital technologies can facilitate the creation and scale up of novel services. The transition toward digital servitization, however, entails a complex multi-actor, technological, managerial, and organizational challenge.

With this work, I aim to unravel digital servitization complexity and identify managerial approaches to it to support practitioners in smoothening their transitions and reaping the financial and competitive benefits of Industry 4.0 implementation. Comparative case studies are used to study the transitions of seven exemplary industrial firms. In applying multiple lenses to digital servitization journeys,  the dissertation provides insight into 1) novel digital servitization pathways, 2) internal and external tensions manufacturers, customers and value creating partners experience throughout the transition, and 3) key capabilities and effective managerial approaches that support digital servitization “champions” in dealing with the ensuing complexity.

The dissertation contributes to literature by taking a holistic approach to digital servitization in which the focal firm and the ecosystem perspective, intent and emergence, and ratio and emotion co-exist and merge together to determine the outcome of digital servitization journeys. Implicit assumptions underlying digital servitization literature are made explicit and are challenged illustrating the need for novel, more complex managerial approaches befitting the strategy’s non-linear, unpredictable nature. Finally, the work clearly illustrates the role emotions play in strategic change initiatives and extends a warm invitation to increasingly include the often-forgotten people perspective in future research efforts.

Efficiency and productivity in container terminal operation: A case study for the Hamburg – Le Havre range - Sisangile Nduna (18/03/2022)

Sisangile Nduna

  • Friday 18 March 2022 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisor: Thierry Vanelslander

Efficiency and productivity in container terminal operation: A case study for the Hamburg – Le Havre range

The container sector's significance dates back to the 1950s. Times of economic turmoil, such as the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2021 Suez Canal blockade, are recent phenomena where the importance of the maritime and port sector became visible to the general public.

As an exchange interface, terminals handle hundreds of millions of containers every year  to facilitate trade and globalisation. Efficiency and productivity at container terminals are highly driven by frequent port calls, resilient infrastructure and adequate accessibility through the hinterlands. Investments in the infrastructure and the superstructure by  terminals can save customers a large amount of costs.

This thesis addresses the role of infrastructure and superstructure in evaluating efficiency in container terminals. The role of port competition is addressed to indicate implications of closeby terminals and ports to performance. The implications due to performancce can also be observed through costs, an element also investigated in this thesis.The methodological approach used for performance includes non-parametric and parametric methods to conclude. The analysis for productivity and efficiency is through the use of the Malmquist productivity Index (MPI) and the data envelopment analysis (DEA) (Charnes, Cooper and Rhodes (CCR) and Banker, Charnes and Cooper (BCC)). To evaluate the association of the external factors with the relative technical efficiency of the terminals, the Tobit regression and the Kruskal – Wallis models are used. The methods are applied in the Hamburg Le-Havre (HLH) context considering two periods, 2013 and 2018. For the costs analysis, only the terminals at the port of Antwerp are evaluated.

The emphasis in efficient handling of resources is identified as key in the functioning of the business. The external factors are recognised as additional major contributing factors to the container handling business. Through efficient handling of containers, terminal operators can save costs, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of the stakeholders. The outcomes indicate that relative efficiency is vital to evaluate especially in a business environment where competition is high. The HLH is found to maintain a positive trend of productivity and efficiency over the time measured. Scale inefficiencies contribute negatively to the overall efficiency in the region. The high efficiency and productivity in the region indicate proper management of resources by the terminal managers, which suggests that the capacity expansion investments are paying off. Although it is proven that environmental factors are not highly significant in terminals in close proximity, it is also emphasised that the external factors are generally substantial in shaping cargo flows, which is vital in determining efficiency.

In addressing the measurement and importance of terminal efficiency, this research provides insight to container terminal managers on effective ways to manage resources at their terminals. The research contributes by providing a holistic view of terminal handling to policymakers for large investment decision-making purposes. Research focusing on the terminal level, especially in a region with business operation characteristics such as the HLH, is limited thus this work helps to reduce that gap.

Digital technology acceptance during covid-19. An empirical study of data imperatives on digital acceleration - Mounir Boukadidi (25/02/2022)

Mounir Boukadidi

  • Friday 25 February 2022
  • Supervisior: Steven Poelmans


Covid-19 caused a global disruption demonstrated by unprecedented safety measures. The sudden change drove firms to accelerate digitalization as it was key to their business survival. In this thesis, I investigate on why and how covid-19 accelerated transformation of firms? and what lessons, if any, could firms learn for the future? This is relevant because decision makers and policy makers need to understand how firms can be more resilient.
Based on pragmatic interpretivist philosophy, using a mixed methods research, and following the dissertation analytical table approach, three research projects have been designed. I started with a systematic literature review that investigate on what empirical literature informs us on the construct of data and technology I contexts of decision making and crisis?
The second research is an inductive qualitative research conducted during covid-19, using semi structured interviews for data collection. The research yielded a consistent theoretical model that explains what explains digital acceleration. The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method is used for consistency check.
The third research is a deductive quantitative research that addressed the impact of trust and fear on digital acceleration with mediation of acceptance and use, and moderation of covid-19. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) technique is used for reliability, validity and significance analysis.
The SLR suggests that technology is linked to technology acceptance to supports firms' cognition through design and communication of information, while acceptance miss a cognitive, social, and a business perspective. The domain of technology and judgement still requires inclusion of dimensions of temporality & urgency in contexts of covid-19. The qualitative research yielded 4 categories that explain acceleration, forming factors for the next study. Each factor is composed of sub-categories representing indicators of the next study.
The quantitative research suggest that digital acceleration is explained by trialability, result demonstrability, attitude towards technology, and behavioral intention. Trust doesn’t affect digital acceleration; however, it affects positively technology adoption. Fear failed test of consistency, and acceptance is explained by advantage, outcome, usefulness, and intrinsic motivation. Covid-19 influence acceptance and moderates the relation between trust and acceptance.
This thesis provides empirical evidence on aspects of digitalization of firms while testing validity of many theories in the context of covid-19. The research addresses a technology problem from a perspective of social science. The research provides empirical evidence on how firms can survive covid-19 through digital acceleration and provides lessons for decision makers and policy makers.

Essays on Innovation Performance - Farid Mammadaliyev (11/02/2022)

Farid Mammadaliyev

  • Friday 11 February 2022 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Victor Gilsing & Koen Vandenbempt

Essays on Innovation Performance

Technological innovation is crucial for firms’ future success and highly depends on those firms’ ability to continuously discover, develop and commercialize new technologies. Developing new technologies does not only play a vital role in firms’ adaptation to changing competitive environments, but also revolutionizes incessantly the economic structure through destroying the old one. Research by economists and management scholars has long argued and empirically shown that technological innovation is positively associated with superior financial performance. Unsurprisingly, foremost innovative firms are also the most valuable firms by market capitalization.

However, despite the fact that innovation is widely recognized as being crucial for firms’ overall organizational performance, firms still tremendously differ in terms of their innovation performance. Although previous research has endeavored to explain differences in innovation performance with firms’ unique internal organizational attributes (e.g., organizational structure and processes, governance and incentive systems) and environments’ unique characteristics (e.g., market structure, market and technological uncertainty), there is still a need to understand the behavioral perspectives of the variation in innovation performance across different firms. Therefore, in this dissertation we focus on the role of individuals in explaining how firms successfully transform innovation inputs into innovation outputs, which has only marginally been subject to inquiry in the literature until now. By focusing on the behavioral aspects of firms’ innovation performance, we propose and show that strategic choices at top management team level and knowledge recombination at individual invention level have strong implications for ultimate innovation performance.

This dissertation contains three empirical studies. The first study (Chapter 2) focuses on firms’ innovation performance aspirations formed by boundedly rational top managers and their influence on ultimate strategic choices in sourcing technological knowledge, which is important to resolve internal R&D difficulties. The second study (Chapter 3) examines how top managers’ education and experience affect their firms’ alliance portfolio diversity and how this diversity provides implications for these firms’ innovation performance. Finally, the third study (Chapter 4) considers the possibility that differences in innovation performance do not depend only on top managers’ strategic choices, but also on knowledge recombination of individual inventions at lower echelons. Therefore, it focuses on knowledge recombination patterns and endeavors to explain why certain inventions reach bigger audiences compared to others.

Sustainability of maritime supply chain; economic analysis to comply with environmental regulations and social issues - Majid (Seyed Abolfazl) Mohseni (25/01/2022)

Majid (Seyed Abolfazl) Mohseni

  • Tuesday 25 January 2022
  • Supervisors: Thierry Vanelslander & Edwin van Hassel


Maritime transport is considered the most significant transport mode in world trade and maritime trade have risen in recent years, which leads to economic growth. However, at the same time, it causes severe environmental effects that jeopardize the ecosystem and human health. The adverse impacts of the maritime supply chain (MarSC) are not limited to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution, but they include other significant issues such as the spread of invasive species via ballast water, oil spill, chemical and waste management, cargo handling, safety and security at the ports, and noise pollution.

The sustainability of this sector is a challenging issue for the stakeholders involved in this industry. Several aspects are indispensable to enhancing the sustainability of MarSC, grouped as economic, social, and environmental elements. In this thesis, some of the main significant issues in containerized maritime shipping are addressed economically, in which the main objective is to improve the sustainability of MarSC under environmental and social regulations. This Ph.D. covers different segments and stages of the MarSC, including hinterland transport, seawaters, maritime shipping, and port and terminal operations to improve the sustainability of the MarSC at regional, national, and global levels.

The main objective of this Ph.D. is to provide the economic assessment of the most selected and promising technologies and methodologies to overcome the negative impacts of the marine shipping and port industry and bridge some of the available shortcomings. Besides, it will enhance the sustainability of maritime shipping in terms of economic, environmental, and social perspectives concerning the current international conventions and legislations. The overarching research question is: What is the economic impact of sustainability issues on maritime shipping in various trade routes from different stakeholders’ standpoints?

This Ph.D. thesis is based on an application approach, and each one is researched in an independent chapter in which several methodologies are applied to fulfill the objectives and to respond to the key research question. Four main application studies are as follows: economic impact of the instalment of Same Risk Area (SRA) under the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC), economic evaluation of alternative technologies to mitigate sulfur emissions, enhancing the supervision of containerized cargo from an economic perspective and supply chain analysis in terms of dry and reefer cargo.

This Ph.D. supports the governments and policy-decision makers by providing the costs and benefits of selected cases of addressing the sustainability of MarSC. Moreover, the outcomes are beneficial for a large groups of maritime stakeholders including port authorities, terminal operators, customs brokers, shipping companies, shippers and academia.