Exploring digital business models with a focus on AI


The development of digital platforms, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality will change the business world in a fundamental way.

New technologies allow companies to offer innovative products and services and explore new business areas. To remain competitive, established companies and future entrepreneurs must understand the potential and the challenges associated with these developments. Thanks to generous financial support, the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) of WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business) is now stepping up its research activities on these topics as part of its Digital Strategy Lab course.

The Digital Strategy Lab course focuses on the digital transformation in the context of industrial automation and education. It places great importance on combining theory and practice to solve real-world, innovation-related problems. Led by a project team consisting of Klaus Marhold, Caroline Fabian, and Shtefi Mladenovska, several groups of students work to develop novel digital business models and explore business opportunities that result from technological developments related to digital platforms, AI, and virtual reality. Scientific theories are combined with existing research to identify key business implications. All this is possible thanks to the financial support provided by one of WU’s major supporters: Festo, the global market leader in automation technology and technical education solutions.

Linking technology and management

The E&I Institute has been working with Festo very successfully for more than eight years now. At its core, the partnership is all about bringing together technology and management – an important interface, and a field where Austria has long been lagging behind and needs to catch up. The Digital Strategy Lab course is aimed at WU students who want to prepare for future professional challenges through work that combines direct practical relevance and proven academic methods. “The students work on concrete problems and future-oriented projects, which allows them to gain valuable insights and apply their theoretical knowledge in practice,” says WU Professor Nikolaus Franke, head of the E&I Institute and project leader overseeing the partnership. Festo also rates the cooperation with WU very highly. Oliver Niese, management board chairman at Festo Didactic SE and head of Digital Business at Festo SE & Co. KG, says, “This cooperation is very valuable for us because of the research results it produces and the creativity of the students working on our projects. We get a lot of strategic impulses out of this partnership, and it also shows us practical ways of improving our products further.”

Long-term support cannot be taken for granted

Especially in times of tight budgets and difficult financial challenges, public universities also depend on the support of sponsors and private donors to be able to advance cutting-edge research and implement projects of this kind, among other things. WU Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger says, “Long-standing and generous support, like that provided by Festo, is something very special for WU, particularly because in Austria we unfortunately don’t have a strong tradition of supporting universities through donations. It’s good to see such long-term support for WU’s research activities.”

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