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Digital Technologies & Business Transformation :

Capability Needs for a Sustainable Future

This track applies the theme of the R&D Management Conference: “Innovation in an Era of Disruption”, to the renewal and transformation of products, services, businesses, and organizations in the current era of unprecedented digital change. These technologies create the basis for new forms of marketing, organizing, and competing in almost all industries, from the automotive sector to media to healthcare, from finance to retailing to tourism. In many sectors, COVID-19 has accelerated this digital transformation and diffusion of them for example in education, entertainment, sports and other communication and meeting-intensive industries. 

Transforming the organization and the business model is vital for firms to exploit the opportunities and avoid the threats of digital technologies (Peter et al., 2020; Karhu, & Ritala, 2020; Warner and Wäger, 2019). Vial (2019, p. 121) defines a digital transformation as “a process that aims to improve an entity by triggering significant changes to its properties through combinations of information, computing, communication and connectivity technologies”. Firms need innovative business models to benefit from digital technologies, however, many incumbents focus more on the value-capturing aspect of their existing business than the value creation potential of a transformed business model (Teece & Linden, 2017). 

To respond to digitalization, incumbents need to retire, transform, redeploy or create new capabilities (Helfat & Peteraf, 2003) in order to launch new digitized products, services, business models, forms, and ecosystems. Firms have to transform existing capabilities as well as acquire entirely new capabilities and integrate them with their existing base (Berggren et al., 2011). This will require extraordinary forms of management experimentation and learning (Correani et al. 2020; Karabag, 2018;). However, existing routines, capabilities, models of innovations and regulation might be barriers for organizational adaption and sustainable future and create major challenges for managers and researchers (Sydow & Schreyögg, 2013; Zott, C. 2003).


This sub-track invites researchers who study how digital technologies erode existing capabilities and how private and public organizations struggle to innovate and form new capabilities in order to respond, adapt and prosper in a new digital era. The sub-track welcomes conceptual, empirical, and methodological contributions from several research fields, from micro-level studies of business functions to macro-oriented analyses of firms, organizations, and industries. Empirical studies of the digital capability transformation during the covid-19 crisis are particularly welcome.This sub-theme invites contributions that focus on one or more of the following issues:

•How digital technologies create capability challenges in various products-services, businesses, and organizations;

•How organizations manage barriers and constraints (e.g., old technologies, competencies, knowledge stocks, path dependencies) to support thinking, acting and knowing "outside the box” and the transformation of existing businesses;

•How organizations solve contradictions within and between established and digitized activity systems, and build capabilities for new business models, distribution and communication systems;

•How firms in emerging economies which operate in constantly changing political and technologically environments manage the capability building and innovation challenges. 

•How firms digitally transform their capabilities during the Covid-19 crisis and in what context they will sustain new capabilities.  

•If and how capability transformations of service firms in health, education, tourism industries are different from manufacturing firms. 


  • Solmaz Filiz Karabag 
  • Christian Berggren 

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