​Christian Sandström’s research is about how technological transitions affect established companies. Kodak is one of many companies that have experienced problems under conditions of technological change.
​Photo: Christian Sandström

Technological Transitions and Entrepreneurship

​​Christian Sandström, Associate Professor at Center for Business Innovation and the Division of Innovation Engineering and Management at Chalmers, is popular in the Swedish public debate.
Tell us about your research!
"I am currently studying, among other things, the interplay between technological transitions, entrepreneurship and institutional change. Some of this work concerns the privatization of the Stockholm Stock Exchange and the telecommunications agency Televerket/Telia in Sweden and how new actors such as Optionsmäklarna (OM), an entrant firm brokering options, managed the process of change. By studying the strategies enacted it becomes possible to analyse, for example, what happens in the Taxi industry today, where entrants such as Uber influence both the business and the institutional framework. Historical studies in combination with theory development may add to our understanding of contemporary phenomena."

Within CBI we are eager to create value outside the academic society, that is to say, not only talk to other researchers, what is your opinion?
"It is in the interaction with companies and decision makers that new ideas are born and refined. In fact, several of my more theoretical articles about disruptive innovations and business model innovation initially come from real problems that I have seen in industry that existing theory could not account for. Teaching has also become more relevant by being more externally oriented. Around a year ago I was contacted by the tourism industry in Norway who were interested in, for example, how AirBnB affects the hotel business. In my masters course last autumn the students had the opportunity to study these questions within the frame of their projects, something that was much appreciated."

You are very popular in the media and the public debate, is this really the right thing to focus on as a researcher?
"Research and teaching have top priority. However, as a researcher it is important to have your ideas tested against reality to see if they are meaningful and relevant to the surrounding world. Sometimes we should also publish writings that are not only aimed for an academic audience. The challenge is, of course, to always do this while maintaining academic rigor."

Do you have a particular example in mind?
"Based on a degree project last spring my students and I published a report this winter about how online education affects the university sector. Based on theory of technological innovation, industrial transformation and a study of leading American online-actors we were able to shed new light on the question. In Sweden the discussion has very much dealt with MOOC:s, we instead argued that the coming transition is more profound, that new technology eventually will change the pedagogy as well as how the universities are organized."

Interview by: Sofia Börjesson
Translation by: Louise Rönnestad
Photo of Christian: Labe Allwin

Published: Fri 12 Jun 2015.