Business and Economics

Phd defences Faculty of Business and Economics

Forthcoming PhD defences and past PhD defences in the archive

Forthcoming PhD defences

8 December 2021: PhD Defence John Laurence Esguerra (Linköping University/Faculty of Business and Economics - Department of Engineering Management)

John Laurence Esguerra

  • Wednesday 8 December 2021 - 9 a.m.
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel, Joakim Krook & Niclas Svensson
  • Linköping University, Sweden (Room C3, A-building, Campus Valla)
    The PhD defence can also be attended online through Zoom.
    The confirm your attendance or to receive the link to attend the online PhD defence, please send an e-mail to Mr. John Laurence Esguerra ( john.laurence.esguerra@liu.se ) before Monday 6 December 2021.

Developing strategies for improved economic performance and reduced climate impact of landfill mining in Europe

Landfill mining refers to the re-circulation of resources from the previously deposited wastes–integrating resource recovery with traditional site remediation. Several resources that can be recovered include scrap metals, combustibles, and inert materials. In addition, land can be recovered or landfill void space can be liberated for future wastes. At present, landfill mining is still an emerging concept with few project implementations. Consequently, the assessments of its economic and climate implications are case study-specific, limiting the understanding of its potential in a wider geographical scope.

This thesis aims to assess the economic performance and climate impact of landfill mining in Europe towards the development of sound strategies for implementation. Different project setups are assessed in relation to varying factors at the site level such as waste composition and landfill settings, and at the system level such as policy and market conditions and background material and energy. In doing so, a factor-based method is developed and applied to generate multiple scenarios (531, 441 scenarios per project setup) and determine the underlying important factors and their interrelations that drive the results. Such understanding is used to develop and discuss strategies for improvement by addressing relevant questions for specific stakeholders, including project investors (i.e., which landfill sites to prioritize?), landfill mining practitioners(i.e., how to set up such projects?), and policymakers (i.e., which policy instruments can effectively support such projects?).

Results show that landfill mining is preferable in terms of climate than economy. Possible improvements are shown by internalizing thermal treatment of combustibles and extending fines residue utilization as construction aggregates. In relation to the choice of project setups, preferable site and system-level conditions are identified in general but it is also discussed that the plausibility of finding such conditions may be difficult at present. This steers the development of more tailored strategies on what can be done now by the landfill practitioners in terms of setting up projects under current policy and market conditions in specific regions, or what can be done by the policy makers in terms of implementing various policy instruments that can drive such changes at the system level. Through this thesis, the future of landfill mining research is guided towards addressing key challenges and potential solutions for improvement. Furthermore, this thesis highlights the role of assessment as a tool for learning and guiding the development of emerging concepts such as landfill mining.

8 December 2021: PhD Defence Geert Haerens (Department of Management Information Systems)

Geert Haerens

  • Wednesday 8 December 2021 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisor: Herwig Mannaert
  • Wetenschapspark Universiteit Antwerpen, Gebouw Darwin, Galileilaan 15, 2845 Niel (because of Covid-19 regulations a face mask and a Covid Safe Ticket are mandatory for participants).
    The PhD defence can also be attended online through MS Teams.
    To confirm your attendance or to receive the link to attend the online PhD defence, please send an e-mail to Mr. Geert Haerens ( geert.haerens@engie.com ) before Wednesday 1 December 2021.

On the Evolvability of the TCP-IP Based Network Firewall Rule Base

Cybersecurity is a clear and present danger. Our highly interconnected world brings many advantages but also many threats. The technological stack on which corporate networks and the Internet are based, includes different kinds of devices that allow the securing of network traffic. The TCP-IP network firewall is one of the most fundamental security devices. It allows the filtering of traffic that goes over the network, based on the source of the traffic, the destination of the traffic and the purpose of the traffic. Firewalls contain a rule base, an ordered set of rules against which all traffic that goes through the firewall is checked. This rule base can become large and complex as rules in the rule base may overlap, contradict or mimic each other. The result is that the addition and removal of rules, which are natural evolutions to adjust the firewall to an ever-changing environment, can have unforeseen side effects, resulting in either unavailability of network resources or the unwanted exposure of resources on the network. Neither are desirable from a cybersecurity and business continuity point of view. The firewall seems to have evolvability issues.

In this doctoral thesis, we investigate the evolvability issues of the firewall by means of the Normalized Systems theory (NS), as NS provides the necessary conditions for a system to be stable under evolution. We find that the configuration space of firewalls is enormous and underestimated. We also conclude that firewall vendors offer no protection against bad configurations. This doctoral thesis defines a self-imposed firewall configuration method that eliminates the evolvability issues. Such a method is ideal when you have the luxury of setting up a completely new firewall with an empty configuration as starting point. Reality is that we would like to convert existing, evolvability-issues containing rule bases, into rule bases that follow our self-imposed configuration method, such that they are cured from the evolvability illness. We present, proof and demonstrate a tool that will exactly do that: cure the firewall from his evolvability-disease. This tool is an essential component in a conceptual solution to turn firewalls from non-evolvable devices into evolvable devices, which reflect a deliberate cybersecurity policy, to allow what is required and deny what is not.

23 December 2021: PhD Defence Lissa Melis (Department of Engineering Management)

Lissa Melis

  • Thursday 23 December 2021 - 4 p.m.
  • Supervisor: Kenneth Sörensen
  • Frederik De Tassis room, University of Antwerp, City Campus, Hof van Liere, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp (due to Covid-19 regulations, there will be limited seats. A face mask and a Covid Safe Ticket are also mandatory for participants).
    The PhD defence can be also be attended online through MS Teams.
    Please contact Mrs. Lissa Melis ( lissa.melis@uantwerpen.be ) to inform her whether you wish to attend the PhD defence physically or online through MS Teams before Monday 20 December 2021.

The on-demand bus routing problem: towards a more performant public transport system

Local public transport - defined as the collective scheduled transport of passengers - is one of the backbones of urban mobility. It is needless to say that a high-quality public transportation system is important in any modern city. However, traditional public bus systems, which follow predefined routes and timetables, lack the flexibility to answer to the real transportation needs of passengers. Even after meticulous analysis and planning, predefined routes can only be a crude approximation of the optimal routes, bringing passengers from where they are to where they want to be with the least amount of travel time.

Therefore, in this thesis we introduce a novel optimization problem to support the planning and routing of on-demand buses in an urban context. We call this problem the on-demand bus routing problem. In an on-demand bus system, bus routes change constantly, because they are completely determined by the passengers' demand for transportation. The aim of the on-demand bus routing problem is to (1) assign each passenger to a departure and arrival bus stop within their walking distance and (2) develop a set of bus routes to fulfill each request within its time window while minimizing the total travel time of all users. The first decision is called bus stop assignment and distinguishes the on-demand bus routing problem from existing optimization problems.

Firstly, we provide an overview of the literature regarding real-time on-demand public bus systems. This overview allows us to pinpoint the literature gap, later filled by our studies on the on-demand bus routing problem. Secondly, we propose heuristic algorithms to solve both the static and real-time variant of the problem. In addition, we analyze the performance of an on-demand bus system compared to a traditional fixed-line approach. Furthermore, we determine to what extent the solution quality deteriorates when allowing requests to be sent just-in-time. Finally, we integrate the on-demand bus routing problem with a high-frequency metro-network and investigate under what circumstances this integration results in performance improvements.

25 January 2022: PhD Defence Seyed Abolfazl Moshseni (Department of Transport and Regional Economics)

Seyed Abolfazl Moshseni

  • Tuesday 25 January 2022
  • Supervisors: Thierry Vanelslander & Edwin van Hassel
  • Room Willem Elsschot, University of Antwerp, Hof van Liere, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp.

Past PhD defences 2021

Integrating perspectives on organizational change: Essays on transformation in organizing, managing and strategizing - Bart De Keyser (1/12/2021)

Bart De Keyser

  • Wednesday 1 December 2021
  • Supervisors: Koen Vandenbempt & Alain Guiette

Abstract

As the world of business becomes increasingly volatile, organizations need to become increasingly proficient at changing. With new developments in technology, socio-cultural beliefs and geopolitics having seemingly accelerated over the past few years, it has become critical for organizations not to excel at any given moment, but to instead work towards staying nimble at all times. Now, more than ever, the old proverb holds true: that the only constant, in fact, is change itself.

However, while this understanding seems to have rallied a large number of scholars and managers to explore the topic of organizational change in earnest, the acknowledgement and interaction between often diverging point of views has been marked limited at best. Eventually, this has come to result in people talking past each other, when dialogue between them could be beneficial; eventually, this has caused our body of knowledge on change to become dispersed and fragmented, with insights no longer stimulating our dealings with change in practice.

This PhD dissertation highlights how perspectives on organizational change, however different, may work to complement and enrich our understanding of transformation in an organizational setting. Drawing on reconceptualization as well as studies conducted in the industries of IT consulting, diamond trading, container handling and cooperative banking, this dissertation advances five dedicated essays on organizational change, ultimately constructing a scaffolding of different views on the topic as it is.

In doing so, this dissertation delivers three major contributions. First, it lays bare how those dealing with organizational change may advance our body of knowledge by occupying different theoretical positions. By unveiling how different core assumptions may inspire distinct understandings of change, this dissertation allows further work on change to become more interwoven while staying diverse. Second, this thesis showcases how change ultimately requires a complex array of competences from organizational leaders, hereby shedding light on the varied actions that leaders can practically advance in order to outperform their competition. Finally, this dissertation highlights the different onto-epistemological streams of thought that have over time been established with regard to organizational change, thus supporting those teaching change to instruct their students in the eclectic and varied way that the topic ultimately deserves.

The added value of Smart Product-Service Systems to real estate developments - Michaël Peeters (30/11/2021)

Michaël Ursule Joseph Peeters

  • Tuesday 30 November 2021
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel & Tine Compernolle

Abstract

This PhD examines how (smart) product-service systems can contribute to the sustainability of real estate. The term smart indicates that the services added to a product have a predominantly digital character. Sustainability is defined as the impact that real estate has on an economic, environmental and social dimension. In the research, various classic building-technical installations (hot water boilers, reservation systems and fire alarm systems) are enriched with digital services. The impact of this enrichment on the different dimensions of sustainability is evaluated. The work also links to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) factors. For investors, the evaluation of investments according to ESG dimensions is an obligation. From the research conducted, it can be concluded that enriching technical installations with (digital) services can positively impact the ESG criteria and the sustainability of the property.

Towards a more nuanced understanding of the firm-level determinants of radical drug innovations - Ingo Stiller (26/11/2021)

Ingo Stiller

  • Friday 26 November 2021
  • Supervisors: Bart Cambré & Arjen van Witteloostuijn

Abstract

Radical drug innovations have contributed to an important increase in life expectancy globally during the past 100 years. One well-known example of a radically innovative drug is the first antibiotic Penicillin, which was discovered in 1928. Since then, millions of lives have been and are still saved by antibiotics. However, there are currently still many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and various types of cancer, that have a high prevalence and an enormous unmet medical need because there are neither disease-modifying nor preventive pharmaceutical drugs available for them, despite massive investments in relevant research and development (R&D) areas. Thus, more radically innovative drugs are needed. However, the rate of radical drug innovation has been declining since the second half of the 20th century, despite increasing investments in pharmaceutical R&D.

Understanding the firm-level determinants involved in successful radical drug innovations is key to increasing this type of output in the future. Research to date has not provided a solid understanding of why so few firms succeed in developing radical drug innovations while many others do. In addition, research results have not offered any conclusive evidence about which factors are critical for the successful development of radical drug innovations (versus incremental ones).

The current research takes up this challenge by focusing on the following four research gaps identified in the current literature on radical drug innovation: 1) definitional ambiguity, 2) unvalidated measures, 3) limited understanding of firm-level determinants, and 4) oversimplified conceptualization of the relationship between some firm-level determinants and radical drug innovation. More specifically, a definition of radical drug innovation based on novelty and therapeutic impact is introduced. Moreover, empirical evidence of the limitations currently associated with radical drug innovation measurement is provided and discussed. Given the identified limitations with the current measures of radical drug innovation, a new method based on the German health technology assessment (HTA) approach is offered. We argue that this validated measure will enhance our ability to understand radical drug innovation and its firm-level determinants, to compare results across studies, and to stimulate additional research on the topic. Second, in Chapter 3, we present the results from our search of the literature for key firm-level determinants of radical drug innovation. Following a systematic literature review approach, we considered more than 4,100 peer-reviewed journal articles and PhD theses, 38 of which were included in the narrative synthesis. From this review, we offer a conceptual framework of critical determinants of radical drug innovation and highlight managerial and research implications. Third, in Chapter 4, through semi-structured interviews with pharmaceutical R&D experts from the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Germany, the current knowledge about firm-level determinants of radical drug innovation, at a more granular level, is further extended.

Airline strategies to shape industry structure in flight ticket distribution: analyses through an industry architecture lens - Sebastian Ulrich Stabenow (26/11/2021)

Sebastian Ulrich Stabenow

  • Friday 26 November 2021
  • Supervisors: Sascha Albers & Koen Vandenbempt

Abstract

Firms may shape the evolution of the division of labor in an industry over time by promoting change or stability of the current structure through their actions. In recent years, airlines have been increasingly empowered to challenge the traditional industry structure in flight ticket distribution and to promote change of the “who does what”-arrangement among industry segments and individual firms.

This thesis analyzes how airlines (may) shape structure in the flight ticket distribution industry and, more precisely, aims to unveil the concrete realized and potential strategies airlines (may) use in three specific industry settings. First, it investigates airlines’ realized strategies, emerging from their series of actions over time, to enhance their general industry positioning in light of the technology-driven opportunity for alternative flight ticket distribution models. It analyzes the performance effects associated with such strategies and finds that change-oriented actions negatively affect investor’s expectations of future cash flows of the action-initiating airline. Further, it compares action repertoires over time and across airlines and identifies patterns and mechanisms that characterize airlines’ realized strategies. Second, this dissertation conceptualizes a set of potential airline strategies that shape airline as well as industry value appropriation at the industry-customer frontier in light of the technology-driven opportunity for flight offering personalization. It argues for a new theoretical perspective on what defines firm value appropriation in customer transactions, outlines firm strategies and their contingent effectiveness and suggests an overall tendency of firms to move towards strategies centered on offering personalization. Third, this dissertation proposes potential strategies airlines may use to defend or enhance their industry positioning vis-à-vis direct product market competitors in light of the rise of the long-haul low-cost airline business model. It outlines a set of strategic options incumbent airlines may use, discusses their potential long-term effectiveness as well as firm mobility barriers towards each strategy and suggests the move towards a market-winning, hybrid business model as most promising and at the same time most challenging airline strategy.

The thesis adds to an enhanced understanding of how airlines (may) drive the evolution of structure in the flight ticket distribution industry and thus helps airline enthusiasts to decrypt principles of the industry as well as strategic management scholars to further develop a comprehensive perspective on how firms shape industry structure.

Supporting the process of transport infrastructure decision-making: an instrument to identify the combinations of conditions under which project objectives can be achieved - Eleni Moschouli (24/11/2021)

Eleni Moschouli

  • Wednesday 24 November 2021
  • Supervisor: Thierry Vanelslander

Abstract

Decision making is part of our everyday life, from simple things such as deciding what clothes to wear till more complex issues as deciding about very expensive transport infrastructure (TI) project investments. For simple decisions, we can use our intuition but for the complex decisions humans need decision support tools that will help them make a decision as rational as possible.

The present doctoral thesis comes to support the TI projects’ decision making process throughout the different phases of the TI projects’ lifecycle, from the early stages of planning and evaluation till the construction and operation phase, by identifying the combinations of factors that affected the performance of past TI projects. The performance of projects is defined based on four key project objectives in the present thesis, the cost, time, traffic and revenues. Thus, a TI project is considered successful, if it is delivered on the cost and time that have been initially estimated (or with less cost and in less time) and with the traffic and revenues initially forecast (or with higher traffic and revenues). A new decision support tool was developed, called ’Project objectives’ achievement compass’’ (POAC). POAC is simple to be used and understood and does not only inform its users about the  likelihood that a TI project will be delivered over budget, delayed and with traffic and revenues less than they have been initially forecast but it also shows the reasons behind this failure, allowing them to try to improve the factors that have been found to be the reason of failure.

The readers of the thesis, aside to getting themselves familiar with the new decision support tool, will be shown the exact steps they should follow so as to apply it. They will be also introduced to an overall background knowledge relevant to the thesis’ topic. They will also acquire knowledge for the overall sample of cases used in the analysis and for the reasons that caused cost and time overruns, traffic and revenue underruns in each of them. In addition, the readers will be able to gain knowledge about a new indicator that has been developed in this thesis, so as to be used as one of the independent variables in the analysis and also about the fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) of different sub-samples of the overall sample of the 51 TI European projects. Thus, not only the readers will see how fsQCA method works and how its results are interpreted but they will also take overall conclusions out of the fsQCA results, showing the combinations of conditions (i.e. factors) under which project objectives can be achieved. The output of the present thesis can be useful for analysts, decision makers, financiers and in general for all the stakeholders that are involved in TI planning, delivery and operation and academic scholars working with similar scientific topics.

Exploring the internationalization of China's SMEs - Fabian Hänle (5/11/2021)

Fabian Timo Athos Hänle

  • Friday 5 November 2021
  • Supervisors: Stefanie Weil & Bart Cambré

Abstract

China’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have developed into one of the most important players in world trade. They contribute more than 60% of China’s GDP and more than 70% of its technological innovations. In recent years, they have increasingly started to invest in developed economies. However, in contrast to rich strands of research on Western firms, less is known on the internationalization of Chinese SMEs. Important questions need to be answered: Why are they not first investing in close-by markets but directly in far-distant developed economies? What do we know about their international expansion, and which areas are still unexplored? Which role does the Chinese state play in this, and how is OFDI to developed economies related to the bigger picture of China’s economic development and its future?

This dissertation first offers a systematic literature review that considered more than 5,700 peer-reviewed journal articles to gain an overview of the field, highlight advancements, and synthesize potential avenues for future research. As a next step, the thesis conducts a comparative case study of seven Chinese privately-owned SMEs to shed light on the underlying strategic motives that drive Chinese SMEs to invest in the German economy and on the role China’s institutional environment is playing in this context. Elite interviews with business owners, senior executives, and global industry experts provide unique insights. Applying Germany as a case study, the dissertation subsequently examines China’s overseas governmental institutions and their supporting mechanisms for the OFDI of its SMEs.

The design of management control practices in Vietnam: an analysis of antecedents and subordinates' perceptions - Luong Thi Cam Tu (29/10/2021)

Luong Thi Cam Tu

  • Friday 29 October 2021
  • Supervisors: Ann Jorissen & Ine Paeleman

Abstract

The thesis is inspired by an increase in the need of organizations to have well-designed management control (MC) practices and MC packages that help managers to make decisions, to implement strategies, to guide employee behavior and activities consistent with organizational objectives. Therefore, this thesis analyzes design choices related to management control practices and their consequences with respect to subordinate’s perceptions of those design choices in Vietnamese firms. The first paper examines how differences in ownership characteristics between state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and non-state-owned enterprises (non-SOEs) influence the scope the performance measurement system (PMSs) in place in the company. We find that a higher share of state ownership in a firm’s ownership structure is significantly related with more governmental duty indicators and significantly less economic outcome-based indicators (ie., financial indicators, customer indicators, and internal business process indicators) are included in the firm’s PMSs. The presence of sustainability performance indicators in a firm is not influenced by the type ownership.  The second study investigates whether ownership differences between SOEs and non-SOEs moderate the relationship between a low-cost strategy and the design of MC practices related to cost and efficiency-based PMSs, efficiency-based compensation and rewards, and the tightness of the cost and efficiency-based PMSs. We find that the relationship between a low-cost strategy and the presence of efficiency-based compensation and rewards is weaker (or stronger) for firms with a higher level of non-state ownership (or with a higher level of state ownership) in their ownership structures. The last study delves deeper into whether a subordinate’ age influences his/her perception of the enabling character of the PMSs, and whether this relationship is moderated by the subordinate’s cultural background (i.e., collectivism and individualism). The findings reveal a significant relationship between a subordinate’s age and his/her perception of the enabling character of the PMSs. Specifically, older subordinates perceive the PMSs as more enabling (i.e., more reparable, more internally transparent, more globally transparent, and more flexible) in comparison to younger subordinates. Besides, we also find the effect of a subordinate’s age on his/ her perception of the repair characteristic of the PMS in the company, is stronger for the group characterized by a more collectivistic cultural background than for the group coming from a more individualistic cultural background.

Essays on the determinants of Vietnamese household saving rates - Xuan Hua Thanh (28/10/2021)

Xuan Hua Thanh

  • Thursday 28 October 2021
  • Supervisors: Roselinde Kessels, Luca Paolo Merlino & Guido Erreygers

Abstract

Household saving plays a crucial role in the economic growth and social development of a country. Especially in poor and developing countries, household savings are an important financial source for families to overcome difficulties, reduce poverty, stimulate wealth creation, and increase their quality of life. Calculated as household savings divided by household income, the household saving rate shows us how much households can save compared with their income. In this dissertation, we use the dataset VHLSS 2010 and 2012 to investigate the determinants of household saving rates in Vietnam, a developing country in South East Asia. In Chapter 1 we set the scene: we review influential saving theories and provide a general overview of the Vietnamese economy. The following chapters are devoted to empirical analysis. In Chapter 2 we apply conditional quantile regression to determine the effect of household characteristics on household saving rates. We find evidence that household and household head characteristics have significant effects on family saving rates. Particularly, the marginal propensity to save of households at the low quantiles is higher than that of those at the high quantiles. Since household characteristics and household saving rates between urban and rural families tend to be different in Vietnam, we examine in Chapter 3, using unconditional quantile regression, whether these differences in household characteristics between the two areas can help explain why urban households save more than rural families. We find that the urban-rural saving rate differences are low at the high quantiles. In addition, the higher income and smaller size of urban households allows them to save more compared with rural families. In contrast, the differences in ethnic structure and education between the two areas tend to reduce the urban-rural saving rate difference. Finally, in Chapter 4 we examine the influence of remittances on saving and consumption behaviour by using the technique of propensity score matching. We observe that remittances have a positive impact on household savings by increasing both saving rates and saving amounts.

Online reviews and how to manage them: effects of eWOM and webcare on consumer responses and business performance - Ana Isabel Loureiro Lopes (15/10/2021)

Ana Isabel Loureiro Lopes

  • Friday 15 October 2021
  • Supervisors: Patrick De Pelsmacker & Nathalie Dens

Abstract

Sharing our opinion about a product, service or brand is part of our experience as consumers. Online reviews are, therefore, an essential element of businesses' day-to-day interactions with consumers and are gaining territory in influencing their decisions. Using multiple research methods (conjoint analysis, experiment, systematic literature review and a machine learning approach), this thesis focuses on understanding the influence of different online review characteristics on consumer responses and the effects of webcare strategies (responding to online reviews) on consumer responses and business performance.

Looking into which cues influence the perceived usefulness and credibility of an online review, we find that argument strength is the most important and star rating the least important review characteristic influencing perceived credibility of an online review. Given the importance of review arguments, the second study focuses on finding if and when positive reviews can overcome the impact of negative ones. An experiment testing the nuances in the negativity effect shows that even when most reviews are negative, consumers still make positive brand evaluations if the positive reviews focus on different arguments (versus repeating the same argument) and are on a ratio of at least 4 positive reviews out of 12. Considering the importance of online reviews in influencing consumer decisions, this dissertation also proposes a framework for webcare to be used by practitioners and in further research by analyzing the literature published on the topic over the last 20 years. Finally, we find that engaging in webcare positively influences hotel bookings. After analyzing review and booking data and testing different machine learning classifiers to identify webcare strategies, we find that the webcare strategies that have a positive effect on bookings are directing reviewers to a private channel, being defensive, offering compensation and having managers sign the response. Webcare strategies to be avoided are apologies, merely asking for more information, inviting customers for another visit, and adding informal non-verbal cues. Expressing gratitude, personalizing, and having staff members (rather than managers) sign webcare does not impact future hotel bookings. These findings can help hotel managers to optimize their webcare strategy for better business results and develop automated webcare.

Customer engagement across social media platforms: a uses and gratifications perspective - Cristian Alejandro Buzeta Riquelme (30/09/2021)

Cristian Alejandro Buzeta Riquelme

  • Thursday 30 September 2021
  • Supervisors: Nathalie Dens & Patrick De Pelsmacker

Abstract

The rise of social media has dramatically impacted how individuals experience the digital world. They interact, express, share and create content about anything on social media, including brands. Social media are used by brands to engage consumers through several activities. Drawing on the consumers’ online brand-related activities (COBRAs) typology, a vast stream of research has examined the drivers of consumption, contribution, and creation of brand-related content in social media. Nevertheless, it is necessary to further examine why people use different social media and how these motivations affect the way users interact with brands. We study this influence of motivations on brand-related outcomes across different social media types.

Based on the uses and gratifications (U&G) theory, this dissertation connects motivations for social media use -as crucial antecedents of differential media selection- to effects on various brand outcomes. Across five empirical chapters, this work focuses on two different aspects of how individuals’ use of different social media can affect brand outcomes: (1) the drivers of COBRAs across different social media platforms and (2) the role of social media content and style, along with the cultural context, on the studied brand outcomes.

Overall, this dissertation finds relevant evidence supporting the crucial role of motivations as critical antecedents of consumer brand engagement. Further, we find this evidence for different brand outcomes, social media platforms, and cultural contexts. Consistent with more recent views in the U&G theory, individuals’ motivations should be understood as essential ingredients of brand management, considering they determine (social) media exposure, directly impacting the effectiveness of brand communication. Moreover, Remuneration and Empowerment represent the two most critical motivations influencing brand outcomes at all COBRAs levels, viral behavioral intentions, click intention, and brand purchase intentions. These findings contrast with a more limited influence found in prior research. Further, we highlight the relevant role of the social media content and style, along with the cultural context, affecting how customer engagement is produced across different social media platforms.

Brands using social media for their marketing activities can benefit from a better understanding of individuals’ motivations to use these platforms and how they differ and affect brand outcomes across different social media types. Managers are advised to identify which motivations for social media use to tap into for specific social media types. Their facilitation and encouragement will likely lead to increased performance of brand outcomes. Depending on the goals for each campaign, managers are advised to select the best platform fitting those particular objectives, as each platform can produce specific user experiences and, thus, engagement.

Optimizing the Time Factors in Portsand Consequences for Externalities - Masoud Moharami Gargari (17/09/2021)

Masoud Moharami Gargari

  • Friday 17 September 2021
  • Supervisors: Thierry Vanelslander & Kenneth Sörensen​

Abstract

Real-world container terminals usually consist of several quays with different water depths which are time-varying parameters based on the tidal conditions. However, most of the existing techniques in literature were designed for a single quay terminal, considering the water depth as a fixed parameter. Tides always have an impact on terminals operation in container ports, specifically during the arrival and departure of the vessels. By scheduling and reducing the tidal impacts on different aspects, the terminal operators are able to manage the vessels’ mooring time and increase terminal productivity. While some quays can accommodate all sizes of vessel, others are able to allocate only ships with the lower drought. Drought limitation is one of the main factors impacting on the decision to allocate a quay to a ship alongside the berth. If a ship’s drought exceeds the acceptable level for both arrival and departure, then it is not possible for the ship to be moored in terms of under-water tidal limitations. In that case, such vessels have to wait for permitted sea level conditions or will be redirected to other quays where water depth is not a restrictive element. Moreover, on-the-water tidal limitations affect quay crane assignment and scheduling processes. As tide conditions can cause a significant variation in real drought alongside the berths, assigning and unmooring of the vessels in the quays will be affected by tidal conditions.  

Due to higher complexity of the integrated problems of the BAP, QCAP, and QCSP, most of the existing techniques were used to tackle these problems individually. In order to overcome the mentioned limitations and drawbacks, this research presented a new model (named TMB-CAS model) for the BAP in multi-quay terminals under tidal restrictions (TMB) considering quay crane scheduling and assignment problems (CAS). In the proposed TMB-CAS model, not only under-water restrictions (for mooring vessels without accident by the ground), but also on-the-water restrictions (for loading/unloading different bays of vessels by quay cranes) were taken into account. Moreover, the TMB-CAS model considers the impact of real-time weight of the vessels on the drought and free space. In order to solve the proposed TMB-CAS model, a combined heuristic-metaheuristic algorithm based on Heuristic information and Knowledge Based Simulated Annealing (named HKBSA) was proposed. The proposed methodology has been successfully tested on a set of numerical instances systematically generated from close to real-world container terminals, as well as on the Port of Shahid Rajaee, Iran. The obtained simulation results for the real case study for the Port of Shahid Rajaee clearly demonstrate the performance of the proposed method to be applied for the berth allocation and scheduling in real ports. According to the obtained results, the proposed HKBSA algorithm results in improvement rates of 42.5%, 59%, and 33.5% in the waiting cost, delay cost, and the total objective function, as compared with the real allocation and scheduling decisions at the port of Shahid Rajaee.

Landfill Mining – Implementing the missing link to a Circular Economy: An Evaluation of the Societal Sustainability - Paul Valentin Einhäupl (15/09/2021)

Paul Valentin Einhäupl

  • Wednesday 15 September 2021
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel & Karel Van Acker

Abstract

One of the main objectives of implementing a circular economy system is the reuse and recycling of resources. Closing material cycles and renewable-based electricity and fuel production are essential to such systems. To achieve a high degree of circularity, waste streams have to be rethought and integrated from a cradle-to-grave to a cradle-to-cradle approach. However, today’s circular economy strategies mostly focus on current waste streams, while past waste streams, buried in landfills, could play an important role when recovering resources and energy. Hence, a well-thought-out circular economy strategy should include the re-integration of past waste streams. A grave-to-cradle approach is needed. Landfill mining (LFM), i.e. the excavation and processing of formerly buried waste to energy and materials, aims at utilizing these past waste streams. Doing so could bear potential economic, environmental, and societal burdens and benefits. Originating from landfill remediation projects, landfill mining has been further developed towards resource recovery. Today, using up-to-date technologies and following the most stringent environmental and social criteria, the concept is also known as enhanced landfill mining (ELFM). 

Throughout the relevant scientific literature, most attention is given to advances in technological development for (E)LFM, as well as its techno-economic and environmental assessment. Societal assessments of LFM projects are rare and treat societal impacts only selectively or from unilateral societal perspectives. If stakeholders are included in societal (E)LFM assessment, only industrial actors, like landfill operators, and governmental actors are asked to participate. A holistic stakeholder assessment for (E)LFM is missing. Moreover, the diverse societal impacts - ranging from socio-environmental benefits through the mitigation of health risks, over socio-economic benefits through land reclamation, and social benefits through community engagement, for example - are either only studied selectively or evaluated as one, entangling various societal effects. A holistic and specific assessment of societal factors affecting (E)LFM implementation is also missing. 

This thesis uses an anticipatory approach to tackle these challenges. This approach aims to integrate stakeholder values and include uncertainty through the use of multiple social perspectives and prospective modeling tools. In-depth interviews were conducted to develop a typology of (E)LFM stakeholders and to elicit the most important stakeholder needs. Stakeholders were selected along an extended quadruple helix framework, including industrial, institutional, scientific, and community actors. Furthermore, using system dynamics tools, namely causal loop diagrams, societal systems of (E)LFM could be visualized and analyzed. Finally, a discrete choice experiment was conducted to evaluate a set of societal factors representing the conversion of a landfill into a public park for recreational use. 

The in-depth interviews included landfill operators, technology providers and incubators, local governments and governmental institutions, as well as researchers and community members. To structure the diverse perspectives of stakeholders on (E)LFM, five stakeholder archetypes were developed: The Entrepreneur, the Engaged Citizen, the Visionary, the Technology Enthusiast, and the Skeptic. The archetypes capture important characteristics and opinions approaching (E)LFM implementation. They differ in risk perceptions, knowledge basis, influence on (E)LFM’s systemic and project implementation, and their main concerns and motivations. 

Furthermore, 18 stakeholder needs were derived from the interviews. This includes societal, environmental, regulatory, and techno-economic needs. The needs are put in relation to the affected stakeholders and sustainability dimensions. Uncertainties that could potentially be reduced through the fulfillment of each need are qualitatively assessed. Quantitatively, stakeholders were focusing on societal, regulatory, and techno-economic needs, whereas qualitative emphasis was given to environmental needs, especially the avoidance of impacts from primary resource production. When meeting stakeholder needs fairly, inner- and inter-dimensional trade-offs have to be considered as different perspectives can lead to different and sometimes contradicting implications for (E)LFM implementation. To conceptualize societal systems of (E)LFM, causal loop diagrams were developed following system dynamics methodology. The visualizations show how (E)LFM is embedded in its societal context. Variables comprising the societal impact were analyzed, and mechanisms affecting the public project acceptance and the market acceptance of (E)LFM products worked out. Leverage points were identified, helping (E)LFM practitioners and policymakers to minimize potential risks and maximize potential benefits. To these count technological choices, stakeholder involvement, the after-use, quality standards, and LFM regulation in general, amongst others. 

To disentangle and evaluate societal impacts of (E)LFM, a discrete choice experiment was conducted deriving the utility of five distinct attributes: the size of a landfill, the project duration, job creation, disamenities, and climate impacts. To determine the willingness to pay, perform scenario analysis, and model policy simulations, a sixth attribute was added representing a cost factor for project implementation. Environmental considerations are most important to the sample, while project duration and disamenities also play a significant role. The scenario analysis and policy simulations show that taxing households for (E)LFM implementation is a viable option, especially for environmentally beneficial projects. Nonetheless, a favorable combination of the remaining attributes can compensate utility losses for environmentally questionable projects. 

In conclusion, potential societal benefits are likely to outweigh the societal burdens of (E)LFM. As risks of classical landfill management practices are likely to grow with an updated evaluation of after-care periods lasting up to 100 years and more, positive effects of (E)LFM become even more noteworthy. A mix of policy measures is recommended to push a major part of potential (E)LFM projects from being environmentally beneficial and economically inefficient to being societally, environmentally, and economically favorable. Overall, more research is necessary to integrate (E)LFM into circular economy strategies and build a sensible grave-to-cradle approach.

How Irrigation Water Impacts Ethiopian Agriculture: An Applied Economics Study - Markose Chekol Zewdie (8/09/2021)

Markose Chekol Zewdie

  • Wednesday 8 September 2021
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel, Jan Nyssen & Daregot Behihun Tenessa

Abstract

In recent decades, as crop production has increased in many areas where irrigation projects have been implemented, the global agricultural development community has promoted irrigation investments. However, due to the disappointing performance of irrigation farming in developing countries, irrigation intervention in Africa South of the Sahara including Ethiopia is an issue of debate. Moreover, several gaps exist in the Ethiopian irrigation farming literature. For instance, evidence about the direct and indirect effects of irrigation water on agriculture is not well documented. The irrigation farming literature has not disentangled the indirect effects of having access to irrigation water from the direct effect and the indirect effects have been underrepresented. Furthermore, most previous studies have applied either a quantitative or qualitative approach and have relied only on revealed data as main type of methodology, making studies that combine qualitative and quantitative research and that use both stated and revealed data underrepresented. In this study, different approaches have been applied to investigate how irrigation water impacts Ethiopia agriculture with special attention being given to disentangling the direct and indirect effects of irrigation water on Ethiopian agriculture. Using a structural equation model, a stochastic production frontier approach, and a discrete choice experiment, I drew evidence regarding the  direct and indirect effects of irrigation water on crop revenue of smallholder farmers, the technical efficiency of irrigation user farmers, and the farmers’ willingness to pay to improve poor irrigation schemes from field observations, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with farmers, and key informant interviews with the local agricultural agents from the Koga and Fogera Districts of Amhara Region Ethiopia. The results indicate that irrigation water in general has both direct and indirect positive effects on agriculture, and the indirect effect is mediated by both improved farm inputs and the type of crops produced. The results also show that - due to poor extension services and  backward agronomic practices, the mean technical efficiency of farmers in Ethiopia is very low, and that large-scale irrigation users are less technically efficient than small-scale irrigation users. Moreover, the results show that improving irrigation schemes shifts the frontier up, and smallholder farmers are strongly willing to contribute financially to the maintenance costs of irrigation schemes. The results offer relevant lessons for policymakers that providing irrigation water supply must be embedded in a comprehensive support package including access to extension services, improved input supply, and access to stable markets.

An Inquiry into the Market Acceptance of Circular Plastics - Loïc De Weerdt (7/07/2021)

Loïc De Weerdt

  • Wednesday 7 July 2021
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel, Tine Compernolle & Simon De Jaeger

Abstract

Closing material loops and reducing resource extraction is considered to be the foundation of the circular economy that delivers environmental gains. Today, certain materials with large environmental impacts, such as plastics, are placed high on the circularity agenda.

In this thesis, the market acceptance of circular plastics is analyzed. Firstly, the current – mostly linear – market for plastics in the European Union is analyzed. We find that market failure and uncertainties lead to postponed and scaled down private investments in recycling facilities for plastics. As a consequence, we conclude the failing and uncertain market needs government intervention. Secondly, potential government interventions that alleviate the market failure and reduce the present uncertainties are analyzed. Government intervention can be either incentive-based or regulatory-based. The Flemish government already acts as an incentivizer. For more than two decades already, a tax is levied on the incineration of plastic waste. We find that this tax reduces industrial plastic waste generation, but fails to elicit investments in recycling facilities.  Regulatory-based policies are expected to gain in importance in the pursuit of a circular economy. Indeed, in the European Commission’s latest circularity action plan, a policy to mandate the use of recycled plastics is signaled. Mandating the use of recycled plastics can enable the circularity of plastics effectively. However, it would also generate a shock wave on the market, especially because, i.a. the implementation time of such a policy is uncertain. We investigate how firms can invest optimally in the use of recycled plastics under the presence of policy uncertainty.

We conclude that the European market will be able to successfully adopt circular plastics. However, stimulating policies, both incentive-based and regulatory-based, turn out to be essential in this adoption process. Therefore, there will be a need for a combination of policies in order to prevent the incessant mass single-use consumption of plastics, which harms the environment.

Unlocking lock-in: accelerating socio-technical transitions to sustainability - Amalie Bjørnåvold (29/06/2021)

Amalie Bjørnåvold

  • Tuesday 29 June 2021
  • Supervisor: Steven Van Passel

Abstract

Achieving global sustainability goals will require cleaner and cheaper technologies. Public policy is central to achieving these goals and, in turn, ensuring a quicker pace of change. A major obstacle lies in the fact that technologies cannot be considered isolated entities: they are embedded in a powerful social context of cultural, organisational and institutional systems. This intertwining of different elements is referred to as a socio-technical system.

This thesis discusses how socio-technical systems have, over time, allowed locked-in configurations to emerge, referring to a combination of systematic forces that perpetuate unsustainable infrastructures embedded in society. Such lock-ins can inhibit innovation and competitiveness of low-carbon and sustainable technologies, and this thesis looks to concrete solutions for unlocking them. Vital to this objective lies better understanding preferences, intentions, and behaviour of actors involved at each stage of technological development to improve public policy design. A discrete choice experiment – a quantitative non-market valuation method – was, therefore, a core method used to model preferences of key target groups. Target groups considered in the four components of the thesis include i) industry players, ii) policymakers, iii) farmers, and iv) the general public in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The thesis seeks to establish how both economic and regulatory instruments can be leveraged to overcome lock-in. One conclusion sees that implementing an efficient environmental tax regime – an economic instrument - requires balancing political feasibility and public acceptance considerations in line with tax and environmental policy. Results indicate that public acceptance for environmental taxation increases with earmarking. Another conclusion highlights the importance of taking behavioural and habitual considerations into account – both when considering policymakers’ investment decisions, and farmers’ decisions to adopting agro-ecological practices when responding to regulatory instruments. Overall, policy design should emphasise a more continuous and systemic approach to innovation and technology policy on the road to accelerating socio-technical transitions to sustainability.

Political behavior in the social media age: a data mining approach - Stiene Praet (18/06/2021)

Stiene Praet

  • Friday 18 June 2021
  • Supervisors: David Martens & Peter Van Aels

Abstract

​The storming of the United States Capitol in January 2021 dramatically illustrates the impact of social media on society and political outcomes. The new reciprocal relationships afforded by digital media have reshaped the way political information is produced and consumed, and challenge some of the established theoretical insights in political communication. At the same time, the digital revolution also offers new opportunities for empirical research. By leveraging the information captured in digital traces, we can expand our understanding of political behavior in a way that was simply unimaginable a mere decade ago.

In this PhD thesis, I collect and analyze social media data to explore the opportunities of data mining, text mining, and network analysis techniques for political research. The first part studies elite polarization with a large-scale comparison of political Twitter networks in 12 countries. In addition, a more in-depth study of party communication in Belgium is performed. In the second part, I analyze political polarization in non-political domains using Facebook-like-data in Belgium and the United States. I find that political polarization and partisanship are dependent upon the social network, institutional context, and individual characteristics. To mitigate polarization, I suggest lifestyle domains in which most cross-cutting interactions are present.

This thesis shows that social media data provide a unique and rich source of online behavior but also come with ethical, technical, and methodological challenges. Therefore, joint efforts between social and computer scientists are needed to convert the enormous empirical potential into valuable insights.

Socioeconomic and environmental impact of expropriation of agricultural land for urbanisation in Ethiopia - Wubante Fetene Admasu (27/05/2021)

Wubante Fetene Admasu

  • Thursday 27 May 2021
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel & Amare Sewnet Minale

Abstract

Globally, incorporation of agricultural lands into the urban boundary has been a common phenomenon. Governments use various alternatives to access the required land, including land expropriation procedures, which refers to the compulsorily taking of land from the landholders without their consent by paying compensation. In Ethiopia, the urban population is growing rapidly which resulted into an increase in the demand for urban land for housing construction, public services provision, and infrastructure developments. As the Ethiopian constitution prohibits sale of landholders, governments, at various levels, have been expropriating land from the surrounding farmers to meet the demand for urban land. The general objective of this thesis is to improve the understanding of the impacts of local land deals for urbanization on socioeconomics of farmers and the environment. The findings of this thesis revealed that there are gaps in the current practices of land expropriation for urban expansion that should be improved. The results showed that the compensation paid to the affected farmers is found to be economically inappropriate, i.e., not enough to restore the affected farmers’ livelihoods, in contrast with the land laws that allows a compensation amount that would put previous land users in a better or the same wellbeing as before the land expropriation. In addition, it is indicated that the land expropriation process does not take into account the value of ecosystem services, which are benefits obtain from the land, and important for the wellbeing of the society. We conclude that while land expropriation is an important tool to obtain land from the landholders when it is needed for public purposes, the practices in the study area show it is adversely affecting the socioeconomics of farmers and the environment.

Consumers Luxury Perception and Purchase Intentions in the Islamic Market - Nermain Al-Issa (19/04/2021)

Nermain Al-Issa

  • Monday 19 April 2021
  • Supervisor: Nathalie Dens

Abstract

Although the Islamic market offers a sizeable potential for luxury brands’ expansion, there is relatively little knowledge about Muslims’ motives to purchase luxury, in particular. A growing stream of research on Islamic advertising and marketing highlights the need for a customized approach to the Islamic market. Thus, this dissertation aims to assist global luxury marketers targeting this market to know what triggers Muslims’ luxury purchase intentions.

The dissertation first offers a systematic review of the existing literature on Muslims’ luxury perception and consumption, and the extent to which they are driven by religion or religiosity. An integrated framework of luxury buying intention antecedents is proposed. Stirred by the identified literature gaps, a cross-cultural study with 600 Muslims in Kuwait and the UK is conducted to contrast the impact of perceived luxury values on consumers’ purchase intentions between these two markets. Then, we zoom in on Kuwait, a potential under-investigated luxury market, to better comprehend the influence of religiosity and AGCC on Muslims’ perception of luxury values.

Muslims’ luxury purchases are motivated by luxury perfectionism, extended self, hedonism, materialism, and conspicuousness. In contrast, luxury uniqueness and sustainability discourage Muslims’ luxury purchases. Cultural differences in the importance of luxury values in Muslims' buying intentions are also observed. The impact of the perceived conspicuousness is greater in Kuwait than in the UK, whereas the effect of materialistic and hedonic values of luxury on purchase intentions is significantly greater for Muslims in the UK than in Kuwait. Across the two countries, perceived personal values exert a significantly greater effect on luxury purchase intentions than perceived social values. Besides, more religious consumers more strongly value luxury perfectionism, extended self, materialistic, conspicuous, and sustainable values. AGCC enhances Muslims’ perception of all luxury values understudy and as societies become more global, the value of luxury as an extension of the self should increase. The findings can help luxury marketers devise more effective (country-specific) branding strategies congruent with target consumers' identities.

Assessment of Electric Residential Microgrids in the EU Context. Role of energy storage, interactions with the main grid, and policy scenarios - Iolanda Saviuc (26/03/2021)

Iolanda Saviuc

  • Friday 26 March 2021
  • Supervisors: Herbert Peremans & Steven Van Passel

Abstract

As decentralized electricity generation plays an important role in the reform of the energy system in the EU, electric residential microgrids merit an assessment of their position and potential. The work on this dissertation focuses on the synergy between the development of microgrids that are powered by PV panels, and the adoption of energy storage, with the aim to identify shortcomings and propose solutions. Techno-economic assessment indicates that, for a microgrid that aims to maximize its self-consumption, the electricity pricing mechanisms that are current practice across the EU are detrimental to the economic viability of using energy storage. Case studies and simulations in Belgium, Greece, Denmark, Italy, Finland, Spain and Germany show conclusively how existing tariff structures (Net-Metering, Time-of-Use, Feed-in Tariff, with or without the option of a Capacity tariff) are suitable for stimulating renewable generation, but not storage. Another underlying reason that affects the economic viability of a residential microgrid in the current context relates to the technology losses, which cannot be compensated by electricity pricing mechanisms.

Having established the need for a different approach in order to improve the economic viability of microgrids with storage, this work investigated whether a form of direct support to the microgrid operator can be envisioned. A cost-benefit analysis revealed that the benefits coming from decentralized energy generation toward the main electricity grid can be compared with the cost of including and operating energy storage, and therefore a direct support from the network operator and the public can be justified in order to attain the economic viability of a microgrid with storage. This way, the electricity network can benefit from an increased number of flexible, enriched microgrids within the system, the microgrid operators are incentivized to include energy storage, and the society contributes towards a sturdier energy supply with more engaged prosumers and less polluting emissions.

Entrepreneurial diversity: a career motives’ perspective - Ilse Daelman (19/03/2021)

Ilse Daelman

  • Friday 19 March 2021
  • Supervisors: Ans De Vos & Wouter Van Bockhaven

Abstract

Even if non-economic motives are recognized as important drivers in the entrepreneurial process, the mainstream entrepreneurship literature still predominantly associates ‘ambition’ with economic motives, and measures ‘entrepreneurial success’ mainly by economic growth and profit. These are remarkable observations in an era where people increasingly take charge of their careers, looking for fulfillment of personal needs and motivations, while at the same time aspiring to contribute to sustainable value creation. Building upon career theory frameworks, this dissertation investigates the heterogeneity in entrepreneurial motives and assesses the potential associated with different entrepreneurial types.

In the first study, nineteen women business owners were interviewed with a view to generate new insights for the entire population. In order to measure the entrepreneurial career motives that were derived from the qualitative study, a new scale was developed in the second study. Validity and reliability of the scale were examined, and its dimensionality was assessed by conducting exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis on 1804 survey responses. In the third and final study, cluster analysis helped distinguish three types of entrepreneurs who are not primarily economically driven. These were subsequently compared with the traditional necessity and economically driven opportunity entrepreneurs in terms of career motives, ambition, entrepreneurial orientation, career attitudes and career outcomes. Interestingly, the largest group, labeled ‘Comfortable entrepreneurs’ were found to be less ambitious than the traditional necessity entrepreneurs. The second group of ‘Reliable entrepreneurs’, typically mature, showcasing solid entrepreneurial orientation and pursuing stable growth, hardly differ from the traditional, economically driven entrepreneurs when it comes to ambition and the will to invest in business growth. The highest ambition of all entrepreneurial types is demonstrated by the ‘Purposeful entrepreneurs’, who similarly outperform their peers in terms of entrepreneurial orientation. In addition to wanting to develop themselves and grow their company, these primarily non-economically driven entrepreneurs are highly concerned with making a positive contribution to society.

Based on these findings, a plea is made to embrace the richness in the entrepreneurial landscape, to further deepen our contextual understanding of entrepreneurial motivations and adopt a more integrated view on success and value creation.

Power, social values and their role directing 'the orchestra of heuristics' in social dilemmas - Loren Pauwels (22/02/2021)

Loren Pauwels

  • Monday 22 February 2021
  • Supervisors: Carolyn Declerck & Christophe Boone

Abstract

Understanding when and why people cooperate is fundamental to understanding many of the phenomena that characterize human societies – from unconditional kindness to corruption; from perfect compliance with the rules to a full-blown tragedy of the commons. One well-established way to study this core question in Behavioral Economics is to zoom in on social decision-making itself via controlled laboratory studies. Such research has shown that decision-makers often solve complex social problems by way of mental shortcuts, triggered for example by the presence of (irrelevant) social cues, or offered by individuals’ deeply rooted social values.

Yet, to this day many factors known to influence social decision-making are still mostly studied in isolation. Therefore, this dissertation set out to investigate the heuristic effects of several factors – power, eye cues and social values – on key facets of cooperative behavior, with attention for the possible interplay between these factors in steering social decision-making. Importantly, while power imbalances are such a prominent aspect of our social context, the impact of power on social decision-making remains grossly under-studied. Hence, a second prominent question in this dissertation is: how does feeling powerful influence the choices a person makes in social interactions? Moreover, a third important goal of this dissertation is to shed light on some of the underlying layers of the decision-making process that can offer invaluable insights: emotions (via objective FaceReader measures) and brain activation (via functional neuro-imaging techniques). The presented dissertation investigates these questions by combining multidisciplinary methods in 3 controlled laboratory studies.

One of the overarching findings of this dissertation is that higher subjectively experienced power has an overall negative main effect on several key facets of cooperative behavior (trust, reciprocity, costly punishment, and fairness preferences). Interestingly, one study revealed that power’s effect on fairness preferences also depends on a person’s social values – and that this finding is paralleled in differential brain activation. Yet, our studies also reveal that we should not expect the same interactions to hold in all situations, and that different mental shortcuts may operate in parallel at the same time.

Essays on explicit and implicit motives, entrepreneurial orientation, and behavior - Radityo Putro Handrito (21/01/2021)

Radityo Putro Handrito

  • Monday 18 January 2021
  • Supervisors: Johanna Vanderstraeten & Hendrik Slabbinck

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the relationship between motive dispositions and entrepreneurial intentions, orientations, and behaviors in an emerging economy. To do so, we collected data from 176 SME owners and 410 students in Indonesia during 2018 and 2019 and conducted four empirical studies. In four empirical studies, we examine how the entrepreneurs’ implicit and explicit motive dispositions are related to the internationalization of SMEs, the sustainability orientation of the SMEs, and the Long Term Orientation of the SMEs. In addition, we also tested how implicit and explicit motives of students are related to their intentions to establish a social enterprise. We used advanced methods, both to assess implicit motives and to analyze the data, including Tobit regression models for curvelinear and polynomial effects, surface analysis and simple slope analyses. Our results show that implicit and explicit motives explain a unique portion of entrepreneurial outcomes. They also provide novel insights into how Western entrepreneurship theories are implemented in a developing country.

The first empirical study focuses on the internationalization of SMEs. The study shows that an entrepreneur’s implicit need for achievement, in combination with her/his risk perception, plays an essential role in SME internationalization. More specifically, we found a U-shaped moderation effect of risk perception on the relation between implicit need for achievement and internationalization. That is, for entrepreneurs with a high need for achievement, the level of internationalization of their SMEs is at the highest when risk perception is either very low or very high. In conclusion, an integrated and complex view of the entrepreneur’s motives and risk perception are indispensable to better understand firm internationalization.

The second empirical study showed that the environmental orientation of an SME is simultaneously affected by both the implicit and explicit motive dispositions, need for power in this case, of the owners. Different from our hypotheses, the results depict that divergent levels of implicit and explicit need for power motivate entrepreneurs to orient their company toward more sustainable business practices.

The third empirical study confirms that entrepreneurs with a high implicit need for achievement tend to focus on the long term consequences of the behavior of their SMEs. Yet, we find that this long-term orientation only takes place if the achievement motivated entrepreneur beliefs that the country’s institutions are well regulated and supportive for entrepreneurial activities.

The fourth empirical study shows that students with a strong internal locus of control (ILOC) have higher intentions to establish a social enterprise. We also find that this relationship is even stronger for students with a low-level of explicit need for power.

Finally, the last chapter concludes that the implicit and explicit motives of the entrepreneur are the essential factors for understanding various types of entrepreneurship.

Economic Feasibility and Influence of Nanotechnology in Health: Cost profile of Nanomaterials - Despoina Gkika (14/01/2021)

Despoina Gkika

  • Thursday 14 January 2021
  • Supervisors: Genserik Reniers & Pegie Cool

Abstract

Impressive progress has been achieved in recent years in the field of nanotechnology and specifically in nanomaterials. However, the ever-growing number of nanomaterials poses a challenge in terms of financial, ethical and time resources. While the drive for nanomaterials improvements is present, a technology orientation is only a part of the answer. I acknowledge that the other part of the answer lies in the inclusion of the cost factor. Indirect costs of nanomaterials have never been assessed and this gap in knowledge can be perceived as a research opportunity and serve as the point of departure for this thesis.

Against this backdrop, a stepwise process was developed to study a group of health-related nanomaterials at a lab scale. The group will be further used to form a cost profile for the synthesis and physicochemical characterization processes, along with the accorded opinion of experts covering major stakeholder groups (academics, laboratories and policy makers). The process offers a comprehensive view of the knowledge management approach that was adopted, and addresses prominent issues of both financial and risk-related concerns, in an effort to improve strategic management and create a competitive advantage.

Reflecting from a technology science perspective, the first step consisted of searching granted patents from EPO and USPTO offices. Three attributes (title, abstract and claims) were extracted from the raw dataset during a 5-year period. The quantitative results revealed 23 health related nanomaterials in order to serve as a basis for further analysis.

Reflecting from an economic science perspective, the second step adopted the total cost of ownership (TCO) methodology, in order to trace the costs and create the cost profile for the synthesis and physicochemical characterization process from the aforementioned generated dataset. The process of TCO is discussed through three synthesis case studies and a physicochemical characterization one to support decision making. The quantitative analysis revealed that the most influencing parameters for synthesis are accident and labor cost. In contrast for the physicochemical characterization process where the most important determinant is labour cost.

Reflecting from a safety perspective, a cost benefit analysis for a safety investment was used to estimate corresponding costs and hypothetical benefits of financial losses due to nanomaterial related accidents during the physicochemical characterization process. The findings of this study offer a better understanding of the role of safety training in accident prevention and provide the theoretical basis to support manager’s decisions to invest in safety.

Organizational Learning in the context of IT Governance. An exploration of the Theory-Practice gap - Koen De Maere (4/01/2021)

Koen De Maere

  • Monday 4 January 2021
  • Supervisor: Steven De Haes

Abstract

“Why is it that, despite the large amount of studies on IT governance, many professionals still fail to put these theories into practice?”

Nowadays, Information Technology (IT) has become crucial in the support, sustainability and growth of many contemporary organization. In addition, a growing number of these organizations is going through a Digital Transformation which requires them to invest in developing skills which are necessary to implement and exploit new technologies. This includes the skills required to realize highly efficient and effective IT governance.

The goal of IT governance is to establish appropriate control over an organization’s current and future use of IT.  As such, it requires the implementation of practices which enable the creation of IT business value and appropriate management of IT related business risks. Unfortunately, many organizations still experience difficulties in their journey to implement IT governance. Therefore, disparities exist between the normative best practices related to IT governance and the actual state of practice in organizations. In the academic literature, this problem is known as the theory-practice gap. While organizational learning has been widely suggested as an approach to reduce a theory-practice gap in general, there is a lack of research about organizational learning in the context of IT governance. In response, this study examines the theory-practice gap through the lens of organizational learning and proposes a model that can be used to analyse and resolve the problem. Lastly, we also examine how some concepts of organizational learning apply to the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This includes the conditions which enable the CIO to create a learning organization.