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Organization and Society: Profile of Business Studies at Freie Universität Berlin

Today, business studies’ traditional focus on firms in markets is no longer sufficient. Firms are developing new network type, digitalized structures, are often project-based and globalized, that connect to market uncertainties in new ways. Furthermore, classic business firms co-exist with other alternative forms of organization in civil society, labour unions, or the public sector. Even more importantly, organizations are not only embedded in markets, but also part of society as well. Firms influence society with their creative innovations in positive ways, but sometimes also in negative ones. Conversely, organizations are shaped by societal dynamics in ways that do not necessarily obey market logic. As a result of political processes and regulation, corporations face substantial demands for social legitimacy. The impact of firms and interfirm networks on society has undoubtedly grown even further with globalization, digitalization and resulting forms of uncertainty. And in turn, societal groups have increased pressure for firms and other organizations to address a widening set of social responsibilities.

Business research and teaching at Freie Universität Berlin makes an important contribution to understanding of how organizations and society interact. Beyond the individual interests of our professors and associated researchers, Business Studies at Freie Universität Berlin is concentrated in four main cross-departmental research areas:

(1) Interorganizational relations (IOR)

(2) Corporate Governance and Accountability (CGA)

(3) Taxes (TAX)

(4) Digitalization (DIG)

In each of these research areas, we conduct research on the highest, internationally visible level. This is evidenced by our publications in leading international academic journals, as well as service as journal editors and editorial board members. In addition, our research projects and partnerships are supported by renowned sponsors such as the German Research Foundation, federal and state ministries and various other foundations.

Our teaching is research oriented and focused particularly in these three core areas and follows the approach customary in US business schools of being internationally oriented and interdisciplinary. In particular, we draw on the disciplines of economics, psychology, sociology and law.

(1) Inter-organizational Relations (IOR)

In the research area IOR, we examine relations between organizations of various types with respect to strategy, organization, marketing and information systems (see diagram). Interorganizational relations between firms are at the centre of our research. Interorganizational relations may be market-based or hierarchical in nature. Our main focus, however, lies with interorganizational relations having a cooperative quality, such as in strategic alliances and networks. The Department of Management, Department of Marketing, and Departments for Information Systems are involved in this area of research.

These publications give an impression of the themes we are concerned with.

(2) Corporate Governance and Accountability (CGA)

In the research area CGA, we examine the social responsibility of firms and other organizations. In addition, we attempt to answer the question how organizational structures and/or legal frameworks can strengthen accountability and social responsibility. Corporations do not always act in ways that are beneficial for society. There are many examples for this, such as the natural disaster that British Petroleum caused through leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico, non-compliance with building codes, the manipulation of testing software, fraudulent financial reporting, and tax avoidance practices. Firms’ behaviour is not always illegal, but it is often seen as illegitimate or as not socially accepted.

At the centre of our research is corporate governance – the strategic objectives, management and control of firms and the rights and responsibilities of various stakeholder groups. This research area focuses on the concept of accountability, which entails three linked elements: (1) the provision, examination and publication of relevant information about firm behaviour, (2) the justification of this behaviour vis-à-vis various stakeholders and (3) the possibility of sanctioning by stakeholders in a given legal context. The FACTS Department and Department of Management are involved in this research area andalso the professorships Drenkhahn, Engert and Momsen from the Department of Law.

A selection of international publications provides an impression of the subjects examined in this area.

(3) TAX

In the research area TAX, we examine questions regarding taxation. This research area relates to Freie Universität Berlin’s geographical proximity to politics in the capital city of Berlin. As taxes influence individuals and households as well as firms, and are highly important from an economic perspective, the research area TAX encompasses both Business Studies and Economics. We also have links to legal scholars in areas such as constitutional law, administrative law, tax law, commercial law, corporation law and competition law.

The research questions in TAX are extremely diverse. They encompass the effects of individual, household and firm characteristics and behaviour on taxation as well as the effects of taxation law (tax rates, tax bases, tax collection, tax fairness) on individual and firm behaviour, as well as macroeconomic variables. Economics research at our faculty examines the macro perspective on taxation (particularly in cooperation with DIW Berlin), while our research in business studies focuses on the micro perspective. The methods we use reflect the diversity of our research questions and range from normative analyses at the intersection with taxation law to analytic models (e.g. business valuation), to empirical archival research, to experiments and to qualitative case study research.

The FACTS Department, Department of Management and Department of Economics are involved in this research area. Taxation-related research questions are examined in business studies related to business taxation (e.g. experimental analysis of deferred taxation, empirical analysis of business tax factor allocation), finance (e.g. business valuation and taxes, model analyses of the influence of interest rate caps on investments) corporate accounting (e.g. effects of individual taxes on capital structure), auditing (e.g. deferred taxes according to IFRS), and labour politics (e.g. the association between corporate social responsibility and tax aggressiveness). This research area is reflected in our teaching through the connection of the MSc program in FACTS with the MSc program in Public Economics, which is the only program with this focus in all of Germany.

A list of selected publications is available here.

(4) Digitalization (DIG)

The research area addresses the digitalization of organizations and societies as part of the Core Research Area "Science of Digitalization" in the framework of the Excellence Strategy of the Berlin University Alliance from 2019 onwards. (https://www.berlin-university-alliance.de/).

Increasing digitalization and networking is changing structures that have grown at the micro-level (e.g. individuals, teams and companies), the meso-level (e.g. value chains, platforms and ecosystems) and the macro-level (e.g. markets, industries or (supra)national institutional frameworks). At the same time, digitalization and networking enable and promote the creation of new entrepreneurial and societal opportunities and risks. This makes it important to reflect on the economic and societal consequences of new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, business analytics, big data analytics, blockchain, micro-simulations, social networks, and the Internet of Things as well as the collection, evaluation and use of various data in real time) in a method- and theory-based approach that is design oriented and interdisciplinary. From this, conclusions can be drawn for business research: e.g. relevant mechanisms in a digitalized and networked economy, insights into practical solutions to entrepreneurial challenges, findings on information processing and transfer by consumers in decision-making situations or insights into societal changes, such as the effects of digitization on the world of work.

The research area is involved in digital spin-offs/startups from and with the School of Business & Economics.

Internationally ranked publications are based on mostly interdisciplinary and predominantly third-party funded research projects (e.g. through DFG, BMBF, the Einstein Foundation, VW-Stiftung). The focus is on areas such as mobility, healthcare, revenue management, platforms and infrastructures, entrepreneurship, educational services or the future of the work or explainable artificial intelligence.

Research projects / third-party funding (excerpts)

FU Berlin / Berlin University Alliance (Excellence Initiative / Excellence Strategy):

  • Research Forum: New Health: Ethical challenges through digitalization (https://research.forum.tu-berlin.de/) as part of the Core Research Areas „Global Health“ und “Science of Digitalization“
  • Research Forum project KIRA: http://kira-konsultation.de/
  • Focus Area DynAge (http://www.fu-berlin.de/dynage), incl. the junior research group „Health-IT and Business Model Innovation“ (2015-2021)
  • Postdocs-to-Innovators Network (Link) and Post_DocsVenture
      • Grand Challenge Initiative „Social Cohesion“: participation in four projects within Pre-Call Funding (10/2019 – 5/2020) (BUA-Link):

      • Social Cohesion and Medical Imaging

      • Social Cohesion and diversity (at Berlins‘ startup ecosystem)

      • Decision theatres facilitating dialogue on social transformation processes

      • Future of Living, Future of Work – A Transdisciplinary Approach to Increase Social Cohesion in Urban Peripheries


  • Robust integrated vehicle-, crew scheduling and crew rostering in public bus transit
  • E-Mobility in public transportation: optimal resource scheduling and charging infra-structure
  • Time-consistent estimates for the household finance and consumption survey – small area estimation in the panel context (TESAP)


  • Horizon 2020: DIGYMATEX - Establishing a comprehensive understanding and taxonomy of children’s digital maturity (2019-2024)

Einstein foundation:

  • Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF: (http://digital-future.berlin)
  • ECDF endowed professorships „Digital Transformation and Strategic Information Management“ and „Digital Transformation and IT-Infrastructure“

HEIBRIDS: Helmholtz Einstein International Berlin Research School in Data Science


  • Project BloG3: Blockchain-based health data management (2020-2023)
  • Project LEON: Exploring Data Literacy (2019-2020, Link)
  • Project BUERMa-iRad: Entwicklung und Test eines plattformbasierten Innovationsradars für den Bereich Additive Manufacturing (Verbund: Advanced UV for Life) (2019-2020)


  • EXIST IV: Entrepreneurial Network University (ENU)
  • EXIST V: Berlin Entrepreneurial University Alliance, Phase I
  • Various EXIST start-up scholarships, e.g. Inspirient, FrogoAD, Aivy, MindR, Re.adjustme/Aivar, famedly

Stifterverband der Deutschen Wissenschaft (Donors' Association of German Science):

  • Fellowship for Innovations in Higher Education „WoMenventures“


    • “Skills, Artificial Intelligence and Labour” (SKAIL). A project in the initiative “Artificial Intelligence and the Society of the Future” (Link).

Executive board FU Berlin – Transfer, Translation and Entrepreneurship:

  • Digital Entrepreneurship Hub (DEH) (since 2018: https://de-hub.org/)
  • W1-Professorship „Educational Service Engineering & IT-Entrepreneurship”
  • W1-Professorship “Digital Entrepreneurship and Diversity”

Publication excerpts here.


Organized Creativity
Garment Supply Chain Governance Project
Scientific Network on "Field-Configuring Events"
Microfoundations of Institutions
Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) /  W1-Stiftungsprofessuren am Department Wirtschaftsinformatik
Scientific Network “Temporary Organizing”