[BA/MA/PA] Developing an interactive tool for University Innovation Ecosystems


The concept of innovation ecosystems (IE) is used by scholars to describe highly interdependent business constellations (e.g. Iansiti and Levien, 2004;  Adner, 2016; Jacobides, Cennamo and Gawer, 2018). IE can be viewed as a industry-spanning structure based on a network of actors (Adner, 2016); For instance, based on geographical data (local industry clusters), based on technological interdependencies (e.g. the mobile industry), based on interests (research programs) and others. Universities tend to build such ecosystems around them; From local ones to global ones based on different factors and with a variety of intentions.

Research gap/Problem statement

The problem with such university innovation ecosystems is that they are quite complex and different facets of the ecosystem have to be visualised to obtain a structured overview. This overview can be used to to display important information or to systematically make changes to the ecosystem and discuss ways of integrating new members. However, it is unclear which information has to be displayed in which form to support actual decision making.

Subject of the thesis and directions for research

The task for this offering is to design a digital solution (artifact) that visualises the IE of universities. The basis are existing frameworks in the field of IE that provide the conceptual foundation for such an analysis.

This thesis takes an Design Science Research (DSR) approach (Hevner et al., 2004) to develop a solution (artifacts). A free course on DSR is provided online: Design Science Research – Essentials Series


This thesis offering is in the field of IS and requires business understanding, motivation to learn new applications to create the tool and interest in academic research. Coding skills are required, depending on the tool with which you aim to create the solution.


The thesis and application material can be submitted in English or German.

Call for action

Please apply to Julius Kirschbaum following the guidelines for thesis applications on our chair’s website.

  1. Apply for this thesis by sending an e-mail with a short motivational text, your CV and current transcript to julius.kirschbaum@fau.de
  2. Initial meeting to discuss the topic and get to know each other
  3. Drafting an exposé [2-4 weeks, registration of thesis after 2 weeks]
    1. Refine the problem statement
    2. Demonstrate the relevance
    3. Find your research question
    4. Build your research design and methodology
  4. Feedback meetings with supervisor during development
  5. Hand-in your thesis


Adner, R. (2016) ‘Ecosystem as Structure: An Actionable Construct for Strategy’, Journal of Management, 43(1), pp. 39–58. doi: 10.1177/0149206316678451.

Adner, R. and Kapoor, R. (2010) ‘Value creation in innovation ecosystems: how the structure of technological interdependence affects firm performance in new technology generations’, Strategic Management Journal, 31(3), pp. 306–333. doi: 10.1002/smj.821.

Basole, R. C. (2009) ‘Visualization of Interfirm Relations in a Converging Mobile Ecosystem’, Journal of Information Technology, 24(2), pp. 144–159. doi: 10.1057/jit.2008.34.

Hevner, A. R. et al. (2004) ‘Design science in information systems research’, MIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems, 28(1), pp. 75–105. doi: 10.2307/25148625.

Iansiti, M. and Levien, R. (2004) The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability. 1st edn. Harvard Business Press. Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/erlangen/reader.action?docID=5560206.

Jacobides, M. G., Cennamo, C. and Gawer, A. (2018) ‘Towards a theory of ecosystems’, Strategic Management Journal, 39(8), pp. 2255–2276. doi: 10.1002/smj.2904.