Festival of Ideas 2018 - an overview

By Hannah Preston and Dr Charlotte Stephenson

About the author

Hannah Preston and Dr Charlotte Stephenson organise the Festival of Ideas annual conference and are co-editors of the Research and Innovation Blog.

On Wednesday 28 February, Leeds University Business School hosted its first Festival of Ideas – a one-day conference with a full programme of events that showcased the breadth and quality of the School’s research, encouraged academic progression and connected researchers from across disciplines.

Despite the “Beast from the East” causing chaos across the country, researchers and business professionals made their way through the snow to the Festival, to find out more about the School’s variety of research and the impact it has on businesses, policy and society.

Professor Lisa Roberts (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation) and Professor Timothy Devinney (Pro-Dean for Research and Innovation, and University Leadership Chair in International Business at Leeds University Business School) opened the event by welcoming delegates and giving a brief overview of the School’s research agenda, what the Festival of Ideas was about, and the importance of interdisciplinary research.

Defining the City of the Future

Cities of the future was the theme of the opening session. The idea of ‘future cities’ originated in the Future City Catapult initiative of Innovate UK, a branch of UK government that focuses on encouraging economic growth through innovation. The idea is to find ways to implement ‘smart city’ concepts on a wide scale.

The idea of ‘smart cities’ represents a challenge – how can we live together in peace and prosperity, in communities where every person's voice is valued, by taking advantage of – and not being victimised by – advances in technology?

The opening plenary began with a keynote address by Tom Bridges, Director of Cities Advisory at Arup, discussing some of the key developments in old and new infrastructure that are transforming the way we live. His talk drilled down into what cities such as Leeds need to be doing in terms of skills, innovation, and digital and data transformation to permit their residents and businesses to be more productive and more prosperous. You can read more about Tom’s keynote presentation via his personal WordPress blog.

Professor Gary Dymski, co-director of the University of Leeds cities theme and professor of applied economics at Leeds University Business School, discussed how using themes and platforms at the University of Leeds can unlock the ‘systems of systems’ logic of future sustainability.

Tom and Gary’s talks were followed by a panel discussion, focusing on how we can make our cities a better place to live and work. The panel featured the keynote speakers, as well as Dr Louise Ellis (Director of Sustainability, University of Leeds), Martin Farrington (Director of City Development, Leeds City Council), and Prew Lumley (Partner at Squire Patton Boggs and Chair of Leeds BID). You can watch the opening plenary in the video below.

Morning sessions

 The morning sessions focussed on two key themes in business research:

  • corporate social responsibility
  • emerging markets

The emerging markets session saw presentations from Dr Surender Munjal, Dr Kausik Chaudhuri, Professor Yingqi (Annie) Wei and Dr Muhammad Moshfique Uddin and was chaired by Timothy Jarvis (Squire Patton Boggs). Presentations included the internationalisation of emerging country multinationals; broadband adoption and firm performance in India; economic diplomacy at work in China; and mobile banking and social inclusion in rural Bangladesh.

Professor Costas Leonidou, Professor Timothy Devinney and Dr Effie Kesidou led the presentations and discussions for the corporate social responsibility session, focussing on how personal values explain sustainable attitudes; ethical vanities; and environmental management systems. Presentations were followed by a discussion around what the imperatives are in ethical business. You can watch the full session in the video below.

Postgraduate research

A number of our postgraduate researchers were involved in the Festival of Ideas, discussing their research in the lunchtime poster session. Posters included:

Afternoon sessions

The afternoon sessions focussed on two more key themes in business research:

  • technology and innovation
  • entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurship session saw presentations from Professor Elizabeth Rose and Dr Alex Kevill and was chaired by Carly Gulliver (Squire Patton Boggs). Presentations included international entrepreneurship; and affective foundations of a capability development, followed by a discussion on whether entrepreneurship is the missing ingredient in the recipe for business success.

Professor Krsto Pandza, Dr Hakan Ozalp, Professor Tyrone Pitsis and Dr Murod Aliyev led the presentations and discussions for the technology and innovation session, with topics on how to manage in the age of digital disruption; competition in platform-based ecosystems; design thinking; and distant knowledge search, institutions and their impact on firm performance. You can watch the full session in the video below.

Building a Sustainable Supply Chain

Supply chains now span the globe and involve millions of factories, farms, fields and forests. They create huge economic value but they also generate growing social and environmental challenges too including human rights, climate change, deforestation and waste. We need to create supply chains that work in a way that balances economic, social and environmental need - supply chains that are sustainable.

The closing plenary began with an introduction from Professor Peter Moizer (Executive Dean, Leeds University Business School) before a presentation on supply chain sustainability by Professor Chee Yew Wong (Director of the Centre for Operations and Supply Chain Research). The event closed with a panel discussion with Professor Wong, Jon Bumstead (Director, Nisomar) and Simon Garbett (Squire Patton Boggs) considering whether the UK can lead the way on sustainable and ethical supply chains. You can watch the full closing plenary in the video below.

The Festival was a great way to celebrate our researchers’ work and to show colleagues, students, and business professionals what we are doing, what we are passionate about, and how it all feeds in to the wider community and society.

Details of the Festival of Ideas 2019 will be announced shortly.

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