Business and Economics

Phd defences 2020

Attented a phd of find the archive of concluded doctoral research

A techno-sustainability assessment framework: indicator selection and integrated method for sustainability analysis of biobased chemicals - Sophie Van Schoubroeck (16/12/2020)

Sophie van Schoubroeck

  • 16 December 2020
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel, Robert Malina & Miet Van Dael


Biobased chemistry has gained interest and has the potential to tackle some of the sustainability challenges the chemical industry must endure. Sustainability impacts need to be evaluated and monitored to highlight the advantages and pitfalls of different biobased routes over the product life cycle. A better understanding of the potential sustainability of emerging biobased technologies and products is essential to guide additional research and further technology development.

This PhD thesis aims to develop a framework for a techno-sustainability assessment (TSA), while accounting for technological as well as economic, environmental, and social aspects in an integrated approach. First, a review of the state-of-the-art sustainability indicators for biobased chemicals was conducted and a gap analysis was performed to identify indicator development needs. Afterwards, a Delphi study was performed to select sustainability indicators specifically for biobased chemical assessment and to reach consensus among experts on a prioritization of these indicators. Next, the selected sustainability indicators were quantified while integrating technological and country-specific data with environmental characterization factors, economic values and social data. Finally, a stochastic, hierarchical multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) integrates the independent techno-sustainability indicators expressed in different units, taking into account stochastic and flexible method options. The developed integrated TSA framework was applied to a case for which a production and harvesting plant of microalgae-based food colorants is assessed.

The final aim of the integrated TSA is to compare the potential sustainability performance of different scenarios and to make better-informed choices between alternatives by evaluating environmental, economic and social sustainability impacts in one holistic model. Integrated TSA offers a novel framework where decision makers can assess sustainability already in early technology development stages by identifying potential hurdles and opportunities to guide R&D and make sustainable investment decisions.

Impact of river regulation on downstream socio-hydrologic systems in Ethiopia - Sofie Annys (11/12/2020)

Sofie Annys

  • 11 December 2020
  • Supervisors: Steven Van Passel, Jan Nyssen & Joost Dessein


In recent years, a renewed interest in large dams and large-scale irrigation schemes has developed, justified by the premise to make the agricultural and energy sectors climate-resilient. Despite this important climate effort, large dams and interbasin water transfers are controversial and have far-reaching impacts for river-dependent communities and the environments on which they depend. Since the year 2000, international standards on dam construction have been developed, but many dam projects currently still fail to meet environmental and social standards in practice as mitigation measures are not legally binding and a follow-up of impacts of large dams is not mandatory.

Drawing on GIS-analyses of remote sensing images, qualitative and quantitative empirical evidence from the field, this PhD dissertation has focused on the impacts of two large dams (Tekeze and Ribb) and an interbasin water transfer (Tana-Beles) on downstream socio-hydrologic systems, consisting of the strongly interconnected and mutually evolving environmental, agricultural and social sub-systems. The research results have indicated that (i) downstream hydrogeomorphic systems have drastically altered after river regulation and are developing a new hydrogeomorphic equilibrium, (ii) small-scale farmer-led irrigation systems have been more efficient in increasing crop productivities than several large-scale irrigation projects, (iii) the newly induced hydrologic regimes have strongly altered downstream social interactions due to impeded river crossing, and (iv) ill-prepared land redistributions and resettlements have left thousands of households with a high risk of impoverishment. With its extensive hydropower potential and ambitious dam building program, Ethiopia has been the perfect case study for this research.

Firm Disclosure Under Uncertainty - Fynn Gerken (13/11/2020)

Fynn Gerken

  • 13 November 2020
  • Supervisors: Kris Hardies & Wannes Heirman


Accounting scandals. A global financial crisis. The Brexit. Since the turn of the century, the capital markets have experienced several exceptional episodes. Today, the markets are yet again in turmoil as the world experiences one of the largest pandemics in human history. Uncertainty worries investors. Their lack of experience with these events increases their need for information. Therefore, managers’ effective communication with investors during these episodes is crucial to limit the negative impact. This dissertation uses archival methods and experiments to study managers’ disclosure behavior under uncertainty and how investors respond to this communication. The findings of three studies contribute to accounting theory on firm disclosure and offer practical guidelines to managers for their communication with investors.

Unraveling the employee-customer satisfaction chain: the role of human relationships - Chris Wuytens (23/10/2020)

​Chris Wuytens

  • 23 October 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Bart Cambré and Prof. Ans De Vos
  • Joint defence UAntwerp - Antwerp Management School 


In an economy dominated by the service industry, customer centricity offers a competitive edge to service-providing companies. These companies strive towards increasing customer satisfaction, an ambition in which frontline employees play a pivotal role. In term, customer satisfaction is influenced by the work-related satisfaction of these frontline employees. However, employee satisfaction itself is pressured by rapid organizational changes, evidenced by increasing burnout and long-term sickness. Fulfilling the basic employee needs of autonomy, belonging and competence positively influences employee satisfaction, part of a concept termed self-determination theory. Together with the job demands-resources, self-determination theory influences employee satisfaction. While the effect of these drivers on employee satisfaction are extensively proven and documented, the relationship between employee- and customer satisfaction.

Evolution of Air Navigation Service Provider Business Models within the Single European Sky - Sven Buyle (29/09/2020)

Sven Buyle

  • 29 September 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Hilde Meersman, Prof. Wouter Dewulf and Dr. Evy Onghena


Air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are an essential part of the air transport value chain. The growth in air traffic, fragmentation of airspace, the environmental impact of aviation and the development of new disruptive technologies challenge the current setting of the European air navigation services (ANS) industry. The policy answer to these challenges is found in the Single European Sky (SES) initiative of the European Commission. This initiative increases the pressure on ANSP cost and revenue structures and plans to introduce more competition in the current geographical monopolistic market setting.

This doctoral research determines how existing European ANSP business models can evolve to respond to increased competition and technological challenges induced by the SES initiative. To do so, it assesses the existence of economies of scale and cost complementarities in the exploitation of ANS, analyses the consequences of possible consolidation and links ANSP business models with ANSP performance.

The results suggest that it are mainly the smaller and Eastern European ANSPs that produced at economies of scale in the period from 2006 to 2016. This implies that most of the functional airspace blocks (FABs) are unable to generate cost savings other than those that could be achieved via improvements in cost efficiency. Certain other merger scenarios, however, could lead to significant cost savings. The results furthermore suggest that ANSPs can profit from increasing their level of corporatisation and outsourcing, anchoring their business locally by setting up close collaborations with local airlines and airports and should invest in and gain experience with new technologies to build a competitive advantage in a liberalised ANS market.

Air Cargo Competitiveness and European Airports: Markets and Strategy - Thomas Van Asch (28/09/2020)

Thomas Van Asch

  • 28 September 2019
  • Supervisors: Prof. Eddy Van de Voorde, Prof. Wouter Dewulf and Dr. Franziska Kupfer


For decades, air cargo was considered a by-product of passenger services in air transport. Both airlines and airports paid little attention to the air cargo segment. However, the declining yields in the passenger segment as well as the improved cargo payload capacity of new aircraft types, have resulted in air cargo becoming a logical way for airlines and airports to expand their portfolios. Therefore, most airlines and airports have nowadays created their own cargo strategies as both were looking for additional sources of revenue. This PhD has further investigated the competitiveness of European airports with respect to air cargo, and hence, which strategy an airport could apply to improve its competitive position in the market.

The Ins and Outs of Professional Skepticism. Insights into the Effects of Professional Skepticism Traits on the Inputs, Process, and Outputs of the Audit - Sanne Janssen (25/09/2019)

Sanne Janssen

  • 25 September 2019
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Kris Hardies and Prof. Dr. Ann Vanstraelen
  • Joint defence UAntwerp - School of Business and Economics (Maastricht University)


The objective of an external audit is to provide assurance to the users of financial statements on the quality of the reported information. A quality audit is therefore essential for the functioning of capital markets. The exercise of professional skepticism is often described as a key attribute for a quality audit. However, despite its alleged importance, the concept of professional skepticism is not well understood. This dissertation advances our understanding of professional skepticism by investigating professional skepticism traits as input factors, and as drivers of process and output factors of the audit. Results of this dissertation show that professional skepticism traits of auditors are significantly affected by personality traits and other individual differences, and differ significantly across ranks. Further, it shows that professional skepticism ultimately affects audit quality as professional skepticism traits are significant drivers of certain audit process and output factors. The holistic approach used in this dissertation allows me to provide recommendations for practitioners to enhance the exercise of professional skepticism.

Balancing the creative business model - Walter Johannes van Andel (23/09/2020)

​Walter Johannes van Andel

  • 23 September 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Annick Schramme and Prof. Dr. Koen Vandenbempt


The environment in which many creative organizations operate is highly complex and volatile. Moreover, SME creative organizations are often faced with a multitude of different (conflicting) interests, and are therefore often faced with many tensions that can endanger their potential for reaching long-term sustainability. This dissertation focuses on deconstructing and understanding the business model solutions that creative organizations employ that help them deal with such issues into separate components. At times, this dissertation takes on a specific focus on the sector of architecture. In recent years, the broader construction industry has been undergoing several significant trends that seemingly have led to a decrease in architects’ professional autonomy in projects. From a strategic point of view, different responses from architectural firms can be seen that attempt to address this. Most architectural firms decide to focus even more on the original core premises of architecture: the act of designing a building (and/or the broader built environment). A second response is of a smaller group of architectural firms that try to reexamine their role by expanding it. These organizations - as experts in aesthetics and socio-spatial solutions to contemporary challenges - attempt to take on a larger role in projects by either initiating the projects themselves and/or by taking control of the construction phases. These two different responses can be witnessed not only in the architectural sector but also in other creative fields where organizations often experience a similar marginalization of their role within larger value chains with the power balance shifting towards capital-rich players.

In five separate studies, this dissertation takes this strategic dichotomy as a demarcation to further explore the relationship between contextual influences and specific business model responses. Using a qualitative approach, 25 creative organizations, including 14 architectural firms were analyzed. Overall, two major themes emerge from the analyses. The first theme focuses on the act of acknowledging and understanding the (often-times quickly altering) complexity and how it influences the organization’s ability to achieve long-term ambitions, as well as on the act of devising specific activity sets that help reduce the complexity or help to order the complexity in a manner that yields positive outcomes. The second theme is that of challenging the present institutional order. Several of the organizations studied actively challenge the norms and institutional logics in their field by going above and beyond the defined role of the creative producer. These individuals and organizations have concluded that the current complexity leaves them unable to fulfill their essential mission, and therefore actively break with existing rules and practices, and have designed specific activity sets and tactics to deal with the consequences of that approach.

Leading Entrainment in Organizations. An Exploration at the Individual and Group Level - Danny Sandra (10/09/2020)

Danny Sandra

  • 10 September 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Koen Vandenbempt, Prof. Dr. Jesse Segers and Prof. Dr. Sharda S. Nandram


The word entrainment originates from the French verb “entraîner” (to drag, to pull) and describes the natural adjustment of cycles to that of another. The main principle of entrainment in organization theory holds that naturally occurring cycles exist within individuals, groups, organizations, and their environment, positively influencing organizational outcomes. What is understood by entrainment in organizations, and how can it be fostered? These are the key research questions in this dissertation. Hence, the objective of this dissertation is to extend the current theory of organizational entrainment by clarifying this phenomenon in more detail, by proposing a leadership construct to drive entrainment in organizations; and by testing this construct in practice using a comparative research design. Besides several theoretical contributions to the theory of entrainment and spiritual leadership, this dissertation provides some managerial contributions. It extends the model of spiritual leadership supporting the current shift in the importance of particular values at the individual and organizational levels (e.g., well-being, making a difference, adaptability). The studies also highlight that elevated emotions – such as appreciation, care, nonjudgment – may positively influence change leaders’ actions impacting the emotions and actions of others through both organizational and emotional entrainment. Next, the proposed Integral Entrainment Matrix may help to identify how strategic change processes are interrelated and how change agents can make use of the temporal markers in leading organizational change. Finally, this dissertation invites to spend (more) managerial attention to aligning the shared vision, organizational values, and actions more coherently in practice.

Empirical essays on the economics of inequality, education and health - Bui Thi Kim Thanh (07/07/2020)

​Bui Thi Kim Thanh

  • 7 July 2020
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Guido Erreygers


The topic of economic inequality has received increasing attention in recent decades. We examine the issue of economic inequality through several approaches.

First, we develop a new method to decompose the change of income inequality into a forward-looking and a backward-looking progressivity component. This methodology allows evaluating the economic development process based on the viewpoints not only of the initially poor, but also of the finally poor. An evaluation taking into account both points of reference can yield insights different from those derived from a single point of reference.

Secondly, we focus on the evolution of economic inequality in Vietnam by evaluating the multidimensional inequality in consumption, education, health, and housing conditions. By going beyond income, our study aims to move towards a more comprehensive perception of economic inequality. It is interesting to see that multidimensional inequality in Vietnam tends to decrease while the country attains a consistently high rate of economic growth.

Next, the concern over the inheritance of economic inequality is considered by examining the case of intergenerational transmission of educational attainment in Vietnam. Specifically, the educational attainment of children is evaluated based on the educational attainment of their parents. The analysis shows there is a positive and persistent association between parents’ and children’s education. The children of parents with less education still have considerably lower educational prospects in comparison to children of more educated parents. This maintains the level of inequality of opportunity among children with different levels of parental education and lowers the social mobility in the country.

Finally, we explore the effect of income on health by means of two distributional regression techniques, quantile regression and GAMLSS. These methods allow us to examine the non-uniform nature of the income-health relationship along the distribution of health. As suitable data is required for this study, the analysis in this chapter makes use of data from a household survey in Australia. The findings suggest that the risk-lowering effect of income appears to be largest for those who are in poor health.

Essays on Household Economics in Sub Saharan Africa - Sahawal Alidou (13/03/2020)

​Sahawal Alidou

  • 13 March 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Marijke Verpoorten and Prof. Dr. Johan Swinnen


This thesis consists of a brief introduction (Chapter 1) and three substantive chapters.

Using a compilation of 86 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) rounds from 34 countries, Chapter 2 assesses the impact of household fertility on children schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Exploiting plausible exogeneity of twins birth to address endogeneity of family size, the study concludes that smaller families do not necessarily lead to more schooling for children in SSA.

In the wake of studies linking development outcomes to culture and social norms, Chapter 3 investigates how magico-religious beliefs affect parental investment in child human capital. To test this hypothesis, the case of twins which are venerated and worshipped as deities in Benin, is used. Based on DHS data collected over 1996-2017, the results pinpoint to a twins preferential treatment in parental investment in child health.

Finally, Chapter 4 uncovers cross-cultural determinants of women’s autonomy and their participation into household decisions, based on data from four West-African countries that include ethnic groups that practice(d) voodoo. It finds a more pronounced age-dividend in women’s autonomy in ethnic groups that practice(d) voodoo, and a menopause-dividend only observed among women from these groups. These dividends in women’s autonomy are explained by (historical) beliefs regarding the supernatural powers of post-menopausal women in voodoo.

The Application of Real Options to Global Public Policy Interventions - Linda Peters (04/03/2020)

Linda Peters

  • 4 March 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Danny Cassimon and Prof. Dr. Peter-Jan Engelen


Real options analysis is based on the fundamentals of financial option theory for the valuation of investments. For this reason, real options is able maximize potential gains and minimize downside losses by capturing the value of flexibility in response to uncertainty whereas traditional valuation methods, such as net present value, are unable to do so. An important problem for real options is its complexity, and therefore, as a result, its use lags behind its potential with regards to applications in practice.

This study has the intention to contribute to close the gap between theory and practice by applying real options to a new field called global public policy (GPP). GPP interventions could be regarded as an investment. Real options is applicable from a financial perspective to determine the value of these interventions as well as from a strategic perspective to optimize the design of an intervention. Due to the uncertainty in the area of GPP, the power of real options will be accorded its full weight.

In three different fields, -mixed migration, neglected diseases and global warming-, an illustration is provided on the use and added value of real options. Prior to these applications, a typology is presented from which a practitioner is able to determine whether or not real options is of value. This study ends with an evaluation on how the application of real options to GPP interventions could be extended in the future.

Applying real options to a new field provides an insight to the reader on the necessary steps that should be taken with respect to the use of real options. This does not only highlight the added value of real options, but also addresses its limitations and demonstrates how to deal with these shortcomings. This provides a realistic picture on the use of real options and therefore has the objective to take away some of the hesitations to use real options in practice.

Port capacity investments under uncertainty: the use of real options models - Matteo Balliauw (24/02/2020)

​Matteo Balliauw

  • 24 February 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Eddy Van de Voorde and Prof. Hilde Meersman


Port operations are important for worldwide and regional trade and for the development of regions. Investments in port capacity are required to perform these activities. Port infrastructure and some superstructure investments involve large sums of money, are irreversible and involve a lot of uncertainty. In the literature, real options (RO) have been identified as a methodology to improve investment decisions with a flexible size and timing under uncertainty. Elements of existing RO models from other sectors, suited for port capacity investment analyses, are combined in a framework, together with specific port-economic characteristics. Based on this, new RO port models are constructed to meet this thesis' objective, which is to study how optimal port capacity investment decisions are influenced by different port- and project-related economic characteristics under uncertainty.

In the developed models, throughput level, timing and size of the investment are flexible. As an addition to the literature, the users' congestion costs are added to the RO models for port capacity investments. Next to a base case benchmark model, a second model adds the possibility of a partially or fully publicly owned port authority (PA), as well as the division of cash flows and activities in a landlord port model between the two investing actors: the PA and the port operator. A third model adds inter-port competition to the base case model: two new ports, competing in quantities, are constructed according to a Stackelberg leader-follower model. A final model considers port expansion of one service port, as well as the construction lead time.

If port customers are on average more waiting-time averse, new port investment projects need to be developed later, and their size needs to be larger as well. In the case of port expansion, such an investment should be made earlier, whereas the impact on size is limited. Uncertainty leads to later and larger investments. Increased public ownership leads to earlier and larger investments in new ports, whereas expansions projects are even more anticipated if the public share is larger. In landlord ports, the two investing actors can agree to follow the investment strategy that would be optimal under a service port configuration. Otherwise, the PA can use the concession fee to force the terminal operator to invest in the PA's optimum. Inter-port competition reduces the option value of waiting. This leads to earlier and smaller leader investment, compared with its unrestricted strategy. The follower however will invest later and more.

Innovation in Inland Navigation, Failure and Success: The European Case - Edwin Verberght (10/02/2020)

​Edwin Verberght

  • 10 February 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Thierry Vanelslander and Prof. Dr. Edwin van Hassel


European inland navigation is generally regarded to be part of the solution to road congestion. It is also the transport mode with the lowest external costs. Therefore, a strong and competitive inland navigation can be a key element in achieving climate change objectives for the transport sector. In order to remain competitive and attractive, inland navigation needs to innovate in the midst of a rapidly changing globalized logistics chain. Innovation in inland navigation is both necessary to maintain the modal share or to grow in performance, and to keep the title of the most sustainable transport mode. Alternative fuels, innovative engines and propulsion, ship design, automation and digital business applications are just a few examples of possible innovations that could provide an answer that is attractive both for the investor (industrial-economic perspective) and for society (welfare-economic perspective). Private actors play a role in this; innovation is often a story of collaboration between public and private actors within a multi-layered network to create the best conditions for successful innovation.

This doctoral dissertation focuses on innovation in European inland navigation and takes the reader on a journey into a relatively unchartered world without avoiding relatively complex networks such as the (pan-)European institutional setting. The central research question is as follows: What are the factors that determine success or failure of innovation in inland navigation and what is the role of policy?

Four cases have been analysed in order to answer the research question. The cases concern the automated inland vessel, LNG as an alternative fuel for inland navigation, e-barge chartering instead of conventional chartering and the small barge convoy to reactivate small waterways.

After a detailed and updated institutional analysis of the European multi-level governance model for inland navigation policy, a combination of analytical methods is applied where meaningful and possible within a multiple case study framework. The system innovation approach allows for mostly qualitative analysis and shows if there are any patterns during the development phases of innovation and which conditions lead the innovation to success or failure. The (social) cost-benefit analysis framework was the main source of inspiration to develop a quantitative economic analysis that includes external costs and that fits the private cost structure of an inland vessel. Innovation can bring benefits for both private and public actors or for only one of them and has implications for both actors. Finally, the role of the various policy levels, tools and their impact are analysed. This study helps investors to decide if innovation is attractive and allows policy makers to judge whether and how innovation can be supported or not and by which policy level(s).

Aligning expectations and marketing communications for multi-stakeholder innovation networks - Bram Roosens (24/01/2020)

​Bram Roosens

  • 24 January 2020
  • Supervisors: Prof. Annouk Lievens and Prof. Nathalie Dens


Innovation is a key driver for growth and competitive advantage. Where companies have long strictly relied on their internal resources to steer the innovation process, the development of multi-stakeholder networks for innovation is securely growing in many industries and is considered as an important strategic asset for organizations. This dissertation zooms in on the role of communications within the context of multi-stakeholder innovation networks. Specifically, we focus on two communication perspectives throughout the collaborative innovation journey: (1) the internal communication process between different stakeholders within the innovation network and (2) the decisions that partners should make when developing external communications about their co-created innovation towards consumers.

In light of the internal communications process, this dissertation focusses on the role of expectations. It starts with developing a holistic framework of stakeholder expectations within innovation networks, where stakeholders´ collaboration and behavior are studied through the interplays between four types of expectations (outcome, process, relational & context). Furthermore, we argue that roles in such networks can be distinguished based on sets of expectations, distinguishing five types of stakeholders: collaborators, supporters, drivers, opportunists, and orchestrators. Next, we study the role of expectations throughout the innovation process, linking them to inter-organizational collaboration dynamics and network outcomes. Our findings imply that different network compositions in terms of expectations need different management and orchestration approaches. This dissertation underlines the crucial task of an orchestrator to try to understand and manage the expectations of the different stakeholders. Finally, we disentangle the potential positive and negative impact of conflicting expectations on successful collaboration in an innovation network.

In the second part of this dissertation, two experimental studies investigate how innovation partners should communicate about their joint innovation efforts. Our findings show that there is great potential for firms to positively impact consumers’ perceptions about their organization and products/services if they communicate explicitly about their alliance partners, and that they should engage their partner organizations to do the same. In doing so, organizations should also strongly emphasize their close collaboration during innovation processes when communicating about alliances. Nevertheless, they should make sure they are still perceived as independent partners. Firms and their partners can do this by sending out their own message, complementing the messages of other partners, and not just copy the same message content for all partners.