PhD scholarship funded research projects 2023

The Business School Doctoral Scholarship Selection Committee has selected a variety of staff projects to be awarded one University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship each in 2023.

Cooperation and Competition on Online Marketplaces

Supervisory team: Dr Xiaoyi Sylvia Gao (main supervisor – Marketing) and A/Prof Laszlo Sajtos (co-supervisor – Marketing)

Abstract: Online Marketplaces are vast and continue to grow. U.S. e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter of 2022 increases 6.2%, from $281.58 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021 to $299.12 billion, which is the highest growth in history. Among online marketplaces, peer-to-peer platforms have grown significantly and have become a global phenomenon. Airbnb’s revenue doubled globally in 2021. Etsy, focused on small business and artisans, has 96 million active buyers and 7.5 million sellers in 2021. The increasing adoption of these platforms needs further quantitative marketing research to understand online consumer behavior, managers’ marketing strategies and platforms’ policies. This project aims to use economic theories and quantitative techniques to study the innovation and value creation that occurs on online marketplaces. This research contributes significantly to the field of marketing and provides valuable insights for practitioners, policymakers, and academics.

Understanding Productivity under Disruption of Sharing Economy Platforms

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr Ying Zhang (main supervisor - Information Systems and Operation Management) and Professor Julia Kolartsky (co-supervisor)

Abstract: Recent years have witnessed a rapid growth of the sharing economy, an innovative business model that enables fee-based peer-to-peer sharing of under-utilised assets. Sharing economy platforms (SEPs) reduce asset ownership while enhancing access to numerous platform-based services by nearly any individual. Despite the growing popularity and economic success of SEPs, understanding disruptions in SEPs has gained little attention in the management and Information Systems disciplines. Of particular interest in this Ph.D. project is the flexibility and temporality of SEPs and the impact that these traits have had on SEPs providers’ service performance. Compared with employees of traditional businesses, independent providers that are operating via SEPs are more vulnerable to service disruptions, lack corporate training, and work in a rarely institutionalized environment.

Indeed, empirical research that investigates SEPs providers’ performances under disruptions is still lacking. To address this gap, we propose a mixed-method project that (1) develops applied econometric models to investigate the SEPs service providers’ performance and (2) unravels the underlying drivers of SEPs service providers’ interactions with SEPs and consumers, under the disruption conditions on SEPs. The supervisor team has skills in quantitative and qualitative methods to conduct mixed-method research on digital platforms in the context of sharing economy.

A Web of Lies: How to combat misinformation and improve decision-making outcomes in the digital area using economic theory and mathematical modelling

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr Simona Fabrizi (main supervisor - Economics), Associate Professor John Hillas and Dr Steffen Lippert (co-supervisors)

Abstract: Recent developments in technology have opened the door for information, used for decision-making both at the individual and collective levels, to be manipulated, distorted, and biased by a variety of means and agents, and to their detriment. Issues such as platform governance in domains where misinformation, hate speech, violence, and incitement, and coordinated harm are exacerbated, become prominent. Addressing these crucial issues, aligns well with Taumata Teitei, contributing to the enhancement of equitable and just societies and thriving economies based upon innovation. It also aligns nicely with two core strategic areas of the Business School, namely innovation and value creation, as well as providing robust institutions for leadership and governance.

The project explores novel ways to improve governance, specifically to shed light on how to prevent false information from altering people’s beliefs and, with those, potentially their decision-making more in general (e.g., from “whom to vote for” to “what to consume”). Examining the quality and trustworthiness of information, including during its transmission is key to that. To that end, we propose to use economic theory and mathematical modelling under a variety of information structures to assess it also depending on the characteristics of the network agents in the economy belong to.

Structured Financial Statement Forecast with Machine Learning

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr Helen Lu (joint main supervisor - Accounting & Finance), Dr Paul Geertsema (joint-main supervisor)

Abstract: The traditional approach to corporate financial statement forecasting relies heavily on historical ratios, with ad-hoc adjustments to reflect future plans and anticipated competitor responses, along with industry trends and expected economic conditions. However, the traditional approach struggles to accommodate the often-complex ways in which various financial variables interact to produce future financial results.

We propose to use machine learning (ML) to model the joint impact of economic, industry and firm-specific variables in determining the main elements of financial statement forecasts. In addition to improving the ability to forecast financial statement elements, this approach also allows for the identification of variables that are influential in driving specific financial statement elements.

Technological interdependencies and competitive behaviour

Supervisory team: Dr Grigorij Ljubownikow (Management & International Business), Dr. Denis Odlin and Associate Professor Maureen Benson-Rea

Abstract: Recent years have seen unprecedented growth in the technology sector. Within the sector, there is a dynamic emergence of firms that push new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchains, yet, at the same time, are large established firms that operate in the same technological spaces. In addition, most established firms that operate in these spaces seem to pursue similar technologies and applications of these technologies. For example, New Zealand firms like Soul Machines and Replikr compete against firms like Meta and their Reality Lab or Alphabet and their Google Assistant. This project uses multimarket contact thinking and logic to analyse what the overlap of firms in these technological spaces may mean for firm behaviour and market outcomes. Market interdependencies and their effect on competitive behaviour have been analysed extensively, yet, interdependencies in technological spaces, especially emerging technologies, and how these may influence competitive behaviour have received far less attention.

The hybrid workplace – a study of the impact of remote work and co-location on team dynamics in the corporate office sector.

Status: Awarded

Supervisory Team: Dr Raewyn Hills (Main supervisor - Property) and Professor Deborah Levy (Co-supervisor – Property)

Abstract: Although the Covid-19 lockdowns compelled employees to become more adept at using technology to communicate and collaborate with each other, the core characteristics of collaboration suggest that such activities are more effective face-to-face, in person, within the office environment. Many organisations have embraced the flexible ‘hybrid model’ - employees can work remotely on individual tasks, communicate digitally, and have in-person time with colleagues at the office.

Whilst working from home can afford individuals a sense of control over one’s work environment, being in the physical workplace can provide a feeling of camaraderie with one’s colleagues which is critical to collaborative work, learning and team culture. The preference for specific modes and places for communication may differ across gender, age groups and roles.

Using boundary and territoriality theory as the suggested framework, the research will shed light on the state of play regarding remote work, co-location and proximity and lead to new theoretical insights into employee behaviour and team dynamics in the physical and virtual space in the corporate workplace environment. The results could provide some innovative ways for people to design and use physical space that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of property assets in the corporate office sector.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and SME sustainability

Status: Awarded

Supervisory Team: Professor Ilan Oshri (joint- main supervisor - Information Systems and Operation Management) and Dr. Antje Fiedler (joint-main supervisor – Management and International Business)

Abstract: Societal values have shifted from focusing on economic growth to more complex goals considering the needs of diverse stakeholder groups and the planet. There is a long tradition of research on how technology enables disruptive innovation to enhance economic growth. However, scholars have also recognised that technology can support sustainable innovation, such as business models that address social and environmental business practices. More specifically, we are currently experiencing an increase in business models supported by artificial intelligence (AI). While AI has great potential to be used to find new solutions to environmental issues, such as climate change, there is still a dearth of knowledge how existing SMEs incorporate AI.

New Zealand businesses traditionally have embraced sustainable business practices but lag behind when it comes to the adoption of AI. The aim of this project is to understand how SMEs are using AI to achieve more sustainable business practices, as well as the challenges to increasing the adoption of AI. We aim to conduct qualitative interviews with AI experts and sustainable SMEs to understand the following questions:

  • How can AI assist NZ companies in meeting sustainability goals?
  • What are the key barriers and enablers to the adoption of AI?

Organising for innovation through design-led thinking to mitigate ecological damage

Status: Awarded

Supervisory Team: Dr Lisa Callagher (main supervisor, Management and International Business), Dr Yat Ming Ooi (co-supervisor, Management and International Business) and Dr. Charlotta (Lotta) Windahl (co-supervisor, Marketing)

Abstract: Calls to better organise for innovation grow as institutional and social pressure to mitigate harmful ecological practices intensify. Design-led innovation is proposed as one of several methodologies more sympathetic to the broader system of actors involved in the innovation process. Design-led principles increasingly inform the generation of more user-centric innovation at the level of the new product development unit, yet our knowledge of how such approaches account for non-human actors, such as “Earth”, and inform broader organising processes, is only just emerging.

Inductive process models have the potential to reveal how organising for innovation attempts to achieve ecology-centric and user-centric outcomes. ‘Leading transition to sustainable ecosystems’, one of four priorities in Taumata Teitei, demands new ways of organising. This project provides the opportunity to examine attempts to align two strategic themes - Innovation and value creation and Productivity and sustainable business. Specifically, the project aims to reveal the underlying mechanisms of a design-led approach that enables organising for ecology-centric and user-centric innovation. As well as theory development, it promises practical implications for organisational decision-makers. This is a new research project suitable for a PhD thesis in the new ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ subject.

Comparing business model configurations of internationalising SMEs between emerging and developed economies

Status: Awarded

Supervisory Team: Dr Denis Odlin (main supervisor – Management and international Business) and Prof Rod McNaughton (main supervisor – Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

Abstract: Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are important to the export performance of all countries, particularly emerging economies, where they can be pioneers of development and innovation (Anand et al., 2021). Business model configuration, the way firms interact with other stakeholders to create value (Leppanen et al., 2021), is fundamental to how SMEs internationalise (Hennart et al., 2021), and may change as an industry evolves (Odlin, 2019).

Significant contextual differences exist between emerging economies (such as Indonesia or Brazil) and developed economies (like New Zealand or the US). But we do not know how these differences affect the business models of internationalising SMEs and, thus, how these firms may internationalise differently. This has implications for firm success and government export development policies.

This project involves comparing business model configurations of internationalising SMEs between one emerging and one developed economy in the same industry, such as agriculture or software development, to begin answering the question, “How do the business models of internationalising SMEs differ between emerging and developed economies?”

Because causal links between economic context and business model configuration remain unexplored, the research design will likely be qualitative. Numerous shallow cases may be developed by collecting data on standard dimensions that describe business models, with the configurations identified and compared using a technique like fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (Fs/QCA) that allows for rich contextualisation and the emergence of unexpected themes while still comparing business model configurations systematically.

Sustainable energy transition to a net-zero carbon future in New Zealand

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr Le Wen, Professor Emilson Silva, and Dr Selena Sheng

Abstract: The New Zealand government has set a net-zero emissions target by 2050. To achieve a low carbon economy, a sustainable energy transition is urgently needed. However, the energy transition pathways that are technically and economically feasible have yet to be evaluated. Limited attention has been paid to how to design future energy transition pathways. Focusing on sustainable energy transitions aligns with two core strategic research themes of the Business School: (1) productivity and sustainable business and (2) leadership and governance. Also, concentrating on energy transition towards a low carbon economy is relevant to the supervisory team’s expertise and research interests.

The objectives of this project are to use economic, mathematical and econometric models to (1) quantitatively examine the carbon reduction effects of the energy transition; (2) examine influencing factors of the energy transition and investigate how to facilitate the energy transition; (3) design effective and feasible transition pathways for energy markets. The project will provide comprehensive insights into the design and implementation of policies aimed at facilitating a transition to a low carbon economy.

Geoeconomics, Friend shoring, and Values-based International Economic Policy

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr Chanelle Duley (Early Career Researcher; Main Supervisor) and Professor Prasanna Gai (Mentor Co-Supervisor)

Abstract: Description. In a recent speech, Janet Yellen has argued that free and fair global markets require shared values1. Making the case for “friend-shoring”, she noted that the US would favour supply chains with trusted countries that shared similar norms and values, particularly where key strategic products and technology were concerned. The production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is suggestive. Involving some 43 suppliers spread over 135 sites around the world, the wings were produced in Japan, the engines in the United Kingdom, the flaps and ailerons in Canada and Australia, and the landing gear in France. Whilst economic forces such as comparative advantage shape the location of these tasks, shared values about liberal democracy increasingly matter when establishing international outsourcing agreements.

This project will explore the issue of geoeconomics – situations where economic policy instruments are used to promote geopolitical interests. In this context, shared values and norms play a central role in economic relations and in sustaining institutions and international cooperation. The project will draw on advanced game-theoretic tools to understand how values shape international economic policy to shed light on how geoeconomics and geopolitics shape international trade and monetary affairs.

Small Island Nations and the Entrepreneurial Society: The role of small business finance in the Solomon Islands

Status: Awarded

Supervisory team: Dr. Antje Fielder and Dr. Benjamin Fath ( Management & International Business)

Abstract: Small island states, such as the Solomon Islands, face unique challenges and opportunities in nurturing entrepreneurial activities and promoting economic growth. We aim to investigate the interplay between the evolution of entrepreneurial finance mechanisms (both traditional to the Solomon Islands and newer approaches) and the emergence of entrepreneurial opportunities. The study will draw on three main theoretical traditions: the literature on small island nations; the literature on entrepreneurial finance; and the literature on policy support.

This research aims to contribute to the literature on small island states, specifically addressing their unique challenges in fostering economic growth and connecting to the global economy. Focusing on the case of the Solomon Islands, the study intends to provide empirical evidence and insights that can guide policy decisions and entrepreneurial support initiatives.