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‘Designing digitisation in such a way that everyone benefits’

Business data processing specialist Professor Jan Krämer and innovation researcher Professor Andreas König talk about their plans concerning a research training group at the University of Passau on the subject of ‘Cyber Economy and Management’.

[Translate to English:] Prof. Dr. Jan Krämer (links) und Prof. Dr. Andreas König im Gespräch.

Prof. Dr. Jan Krämer (left) and Prof. Dr. Andreas König.

You are currently writing a proposal for a research training group with the title of ‘Cyber Economy and Management’. What is it about?

Andreas König: It’s about a very exciting spectrum which extends from data-led business models of the digital platform economy and transformational processes, which virtually every established organisation must run through as part of digitisation, to the question of what impact digitisation has on socio-economic welfare. This applies not just here but also in developing countries. Participating in the project are nine colleagues from economics, cultural studies and computer sciences who have already worked together on the excellence cluster proposal ‘Cyber<>Spaces’ which, despite the ultimate rejection, was very beneficial. We are now building upon this preliminary work.

The focus of the planned research is on economics. Why?

Jan Krämer: Our basic idea is that profound changes to digitisation are not necessarily of a technical nature since they are elicited in particular by the impact on and influence by central economic players in the digital economy, in organisations and in the private socio-economic sector. It is therefore important that the subject is also understood from an economic and not just technical standpoint. This requires researchers who have an open mind to correctly judge digitisation. The research training group will, however, not be about delivering new talent for the tech companies to make these even richer or to provide them with greater access to data. In Passau, we want to develop a digital vanguard with an interdisciplinary way of thinking which is in a position to explain digitisation and economically shape it in such a way that everyone benefits from it.

Andreas König: Behind this is also the idea that we cannot just let the digital revolution come to us. We and academic and social leaders can and must ourselves also become active. However, to do this, we need people who understand the overarching context of digital transformation – and it is precisely those people who we want to bring to Passau.

How do you want to achieve this?

Andreas König: With the help of a highly motivated, very dynamic team. We don’t think in terms of hierarchy and can still put ourselves in the position of emerging talent. We are a group of scientists who are still young academically but who are very distinguished. 

Jan Krämer: We grew up with digitisation and grasped from early on that this process is not one which can only be understood on a disciplinary level. This mix is first of all done by the School of Business, Economics and Information Systems, particularly across Germany. We are also very well connected internationally. The research training group will be in English language. This opens us up well beyond country borders.

'A love of detail'

In the video (German): Professors Jan Krämer and Andreas König report on their own careers in academia and what shaped them significantly. In Krämer’s case, it involves a research training group and in König’s case it has to do with music. 

Your group consists of seven male and two female academics. How do you intend to enthuse women for the subject?

Andreas König: The problem is not how to find the female doctoral candidates. We are already on top of that. The difficulty is often the transition: Too few female doctoral candidates decide on an academic career. In the research training group, we are planning specific assistance measures to convince emerging female talent to continue in academia. Female habilitation candidates and post-docs will also be on board as role models.

Jan Krämer: An academic career is the main goal of the research training group but it is not the only route. We also prepare graduates for leadership roles in other areas.

What is important for you when it comes to supporting emerging talent?

Jan Krämer: I no longer see my postgraduates as employees who do my preliminary work for me. I see them as colleagues with whom I advance academic projects. Of course I have a little more experience and of course I give instructions, but basically this tends to happen as part of a discussion.

Andreas König: What is also important for us is to involve the young people in the academic process quickly. This requires guidelines, a degree of instruction, such as which subject to choose or how to formulate. The postgraduates also often work together. All those involved in working on the proposal for the research training group see science as a team effort, both within the group and internationally, such as by participating in conferences.

'No academic advances without failure'

In the video (German): Professor Jan Krämer and Professor Andreas König speak about why academics can draw strength from the process of failure.

The team working on the research training group proposal are part of the group of academics who applied as part of the Excellence Strategy. What impact did the Cyber<>Spaces collective have within the university?

Andreas König: Before Cyber<>Spaces, there was a lot of upheaval and fewer centralised structures to bring us together across faculties. There were numerous amazing interdisciplinary projects including the Privacy and Digitalisation research training group, the BMBF project SKILL, excellent projects in digital humanities and other research plans. But we were looking for a project where all faculties could unite to develop commonalities in top research. 

Jan Krämer: We led lots of discussions with colleagues. This resulted in the creation of comprehensive personal links; bridges were built which had not been there before. This formed the basis for lots of new projects to get off the ground, including the entrepreneurship programme or emerging talent groups, which are positioned interdisciplinary manner. The research training group that we would now like to initiate is also part of this. The structures have been professionalised. Such a major research project requires a strategic vision, and means the university must make a name for itself. We are convinced that some of this is what Cyber<>Spaces initiated.

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