Meet the InnoLabbers: Dimitris Assimakopoulos


Image: “Here I’m at a beautiful Buddhist temple in Shanghai – I don’t remember which temple it was, but I sure felt ‘transcendental peace’ at the time!”

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Dimitris G. Assimakopoulos.

Drumroll! I’m honoured to announce the distinguished, uh…

I’m a Professor in Technology & Innovation Management with a senior faculty experience in both Grenoble Ecole de Management (2001-2016) and EM-Lyon Business School (2016-2021).  I also serve as the EDAMBA President-elect (2013-current), member of the EFMD European Quality Link (2014-current), and a Founding Chair and Faculty at the EIASM.

More recently I served as a member of the AACSB European Advisory Council (2019-2021); and as an adviser to the OECD, Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Cities and Regions (2019-2021); a visiting scholar twice in economic Sociology sponsored by Professor Mark Granovetter at Stanford University (USA), as well as a visiting Professor in several Russel Group Universities in the UK (Durham, Newcastle), and China’s top-10 Universities (Tongji, Sun Yat-Sen, Tsinghua) for the past 20+ years. I’ve been the Founding Director of global professional practice doctoral (DBA) programs in France, UK, China and Japan.

When I said distinguished I did not expect you to be that distinguished! Can you briefly outline what does a Professor and a President actually do? Asking for a friend.

On top of the traditional functions of teaching and research, I help to run the non-profit community-based association (EDAMBA) operating in 28 countries and five continents, including some of the best doctoral (PhD and DBA) programs worldwide. For the past decade, I‘ve led the EDAMBA teams in developing several major initiatives such as the EDAMBA Winter Academy on Doctoral supervision, the European Code of Practice, the EQUIS standard for doctoral programs, and a joint report with the AACSB International for the changing global landscape of doctoral education pre- and post-pandemic.

I’ve also developed a Latin American chapter for EDAMBA with the top PhD programs in Peru, Colombia and Mexico among others. Doctoral education is flourishing in this part of the world, and the European perspective on respecting and celebrating diversity and inclusion has made this a strategic priority in our community since 2014.

I have also supervised 19 PhD and DBA dissertations, contributing to both faculty development and policy and practice worldwide; led and/or participated in several multi-million euro projects with organizations such as CERN, Intel Labs, STMicroelectronics, CapGemini, Bayer, Tencent and Airbus.

I‘ve published 10 books and special issues in peer review journals; including 140 chapters, project reports and articles in scholarly and professional journals, such as Computers & Operations Research, Intl. J. of Production Economics, Intl. Small Business J., Regional Studies, and MIT Sloan Management Review.

That sounds very time consuming. Is it worth it?

I love learning across geographies and disciplines, and this was my initial motivation for moving from Greece to Sheffield in England, back in 1991. My first degree was in civil engineering but I gradually shifted my interests from architecture and urban sociology, town and regional planning (my PhD), in the European context of science policy (my post-doc) to the sociology and economics of innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging technologies, technological communities, clusters and innovation ecosystems.

My work demonstrates my vision to drive and enhance the global reach of a community building organization, across all its thematic portfolio of activities. Over the past 20+ years I have built successful emerging technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship research centers, including global partnerships at the highest level of joint and double-degree doctoral programs in the UK, France, China, and Japan. I have also led the largest dedicated global association of doctoral program directors from five continents for more than a decade.

You sound like you thrive when you have a lot on your plate. What brought you to InnoLab?

My tenure at the top-10 global French business schools of Grenoble and Lyon, since 2001, provides a record of successful leadership in leveraging synergies across leading research centres, impactful policy and practice. The InnoLab position offers a unique opportunity to take this to the next level and deliver cross-disciplinary research for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. My personal connection with InnoLab’s Director, Martin Meyer, goes back several years, when Martin was the Dean of the Business School at Kent University and hosted our EDAMBA Annual Conference.

In the past five years, I have worked as a Professor of Information Systems, Technology and Innovation Management (50%), and as the Founding Director of the Global DBA (50%) at EM-Lyon business school. Now I am looking for a new challenge, while alo continuing in my position as the re-elected President of the EDAMBA. We can certainly capitalize on my experience, for example in contributing to InnoLab’s research impact and creating the Vaasa University’s DBA program. We can do that by linking up several of Vaasa’s current areas of excellence, which address grand societal challenges across the world and by so doing raise both the quality and impactful scholarship of Executive Education degree programs.

With the Vaasa DBA, we can create a unique program that will address the praxis – knowledge and skill gaps and leverage the alumni for philanthropic causes and hosting high profile events for further enhancing the global reach and impact of the institution.

Imagine you run into a group of prominent politicians, business leaders and media moguls at your favourite pastime. This is your chance! What kind of an idea do you pitch?

Collaboration and networking are my primary areas of interest, and the role of new communities and innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems is key for a sustainable and competitive future in Europe and beyond. Grand challenges in global health, the environment and so on can only be dealt with the management of collaboration and networking across all kinds of boundaries.

My professional connections with world leading academic institutions in innovation research could help us build additional international strategic partnerships in thematic priority areas with partners across the globe. Such initiatives may open new vistas for strengthening the ongoing outreach efforts of the University of Vaasa to foster global engagement and drive research, responsible innovation, and management of emerging technologies for a sustainable and peaceful future.

So, more outreach and collaboration, better societal impact? You gave them some valuable ideas and they reward you with any one ticket or admission of your choice – where do you go and what do you do?

The current geopolitical situation is tricky for higher education within a European (and Sino-Finnish) perspective. Building an open and diverse “global village” for a professional practice doctorate, engaging with some of the most innovative regions in Europe and China, is both a challenge and an opportunity! Still, for me the place to go is China, India, and more broadly the emerging South. Latin American and South African institutions such as the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth come to mind. We already have in our community some great connections, so this would be a great starting point for extending the reach of the impact of research for the University as well as leveraging some additional resources for InnoLab’s unique capabilities.

Spoken like a true visionary, a ticket well spent. Can you recommend me something – anything?

What remains closest to my heart is seeing and sharing something free, the sunlight over the Cyclades, say in Santa Irene, looking across to the big blue and towards the island of Amorgos and the Cretan countryside, where my grandfather cultivated his olive groves and vineyards. May I suggest that you take a look into Elytis’ Axion Esti, or even better start with Cavafy’s Ithaca, and as the Great Alexandrian poet tells us, hope that the journey will be long, full of discoveries…

In the words of Dimitris’ coworkers: What makes you appreciate him as a colleague?

“Dimitris is a kind and generous scholar. He is collaborative in all aspects of the academic process, including co-authoring top quality published articles based on joint research.”

“Dr. Assimakopoulos is an outstanding academic with a record of innovative cross-disciplinary research in many fields. He has demonstrated remarkable intellectual leadership across the French-English border, and founded and led innovative, unique, collaborative, dual-degree doctoral programs around the world.”

“Dimitris is great at building bridges, facilitating the exchange of knowledge both within the academic community and between academics and practitioners. He is enthusiastic and passionate: he never gets bogged down by problems and always faces them with a positive attitude.”

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