Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Clarissa Sia-Ljungström

Clarissa Sia-Ljungström defended her thesis “Connecting the Nodes – an interactive perspective of innovative microenterprises in a mature industry” 21st September. Below you can find out more about Clarissa and her research, described in her own words.

I first came to Sweden in 2007 when I took a break from working life in Singapore. I graduated from National University of Singapore in Business Administration in 1999 and I have over ten years of working experience accumulated from various roles in customer relations and education, sales, and marketing communication in the Asia-Pacific region in logistics, telecommunication, online information and publishing industries. My last role in the information and publishing industry allowed me to interact with both business users and academic researchers when I was providing customer education. This inspired me to pursue my interest in research work. I furthered my studies among the pioneer batch of students in the Master’s programme ‘Managing People, Knowledge and Change’ in 2007 at Lund University School of Economics and Management, and subsequently took up a PhD position there when I moved to Lund permanently.

Being involved in a European Union Framework 7 project – NetGrow – during the first years of my PhD studies was valuable experience as it provided me the opportunity to work with colleagues from European institutions, and also collaborate on a number of publications that have been presented to academic audiences at conferences in Europe, Australia and China. My research interests are in the areas of international and industrial marketing, inter-organizational business relations and business-to-business (B2B) networks with a focus on innovation and small-and-medium sized enterprises. I also developed an interest in how companies in B2B sectors engaged in digital marketing and networking in their innovation process.

My PhD thesis Connecting the Nodes – an interactive perspective of innovative microenterprises in a mature industry captures not just the innovation journeys of four microenterprises but also my own personal journey as a PhD student in the Swedish academic environment. Through crafting the stories of each enterprise I encountered when I conducted interviews with them during the EU project, not only did my Swedish become better, I also got to know more about the innovation landscape of the Swedish food sector. While this sector may be considered by some as being traditional with little innovation and matured technologies, I found that not only is it full of creative innovation in terms of processes and products that we neglect to observe in our daily life, it is also filled with passionate entrepreneurs and small business owners. These microentreprise owners take pride in their innovation and keep on going in spite of the challenges they encounter in the innovation process. I am filled with admiration for all these people and hope I have captured the passion they have for their work in my research work. Their sharing helped me craft an understanding of how microenterprises, which are increasingly credited with contributing to innovative output, pursue their innovating process through interacting in networks to access external resources as a way to make up for their lack of resources.

The thesis documents and analyses how challenges faced by microenterprises differ in scope from those of the general population of SMEs, and has an emphasis on the importance of external actor bonds, resources ties and activity links during their innovation process. These innovating microenterprises can be seen as playing a role in renewing the mature industry landscape through how they address the barriers to innovation each in their own way, utilizing and developing capacities through interaction in the network. The findings from the thesis recommend microenterprises that while there is a need to build up the networks to gain access to external resources, it should be accompanied by an awareness of the types and quality of external resources. An on-going audit and evaluation of the internal capacities that microenterprises have and how they can continue to develop integrated capacities from external sources should be carried out during the innovation process. This involves considering a strategic combination of actor bonds, resources ties and activities links that will connect the synergy between the capacities of both past and present nodes in the network to help overcome barriers in the innovation process for microenterprises.

The PhD journey at Lund University has been both challenging and rewarding. As I continue to engage in teaching and research work in both Sweden and Singapore, I hope to extend the insights I have gained from my thesis and to be able to apply them to in a practical manner in the relevant research contexts in my future academic career. I am also happy to say that I am beginning to discover the joys of weekends again.

Clarissa Sia-Ljungström

Photo: Anna Löthman