Markus Perkmann

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Our Global Online MBA has a core focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Programme Director Dr Paolo Taticchi and Markus Perkmann, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, set out the programme content for the Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship core modules, and explain its value to organisations and employees seeking to develop their innovative focus. 

What do students learn on the Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship core modules?

Professor Markus Perkmann, Head of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Markus: On the Corporate Innovation module, students learn how to do innovation in a corporate context. Innovation means developing new products and services that are commercially successful. This module covers both innovation strategy and innovation management. The former is about analysing the current position both within the company and the market, and taking action in order to generate the innovations which are the most promising. The latter, innovation management, is about preparing the context and taking action so this can be done successfully. In this way the programme covers anything from disruptive innovation, open innovation, intellectual property management, and lean/agile innovation.

Paolo: Business models change extremely quickly these days as a result of changes in technology, for example data, digital and sustainability, which has brought about the business model revolution. In that context, the work covered by the Corporate Innovation module on business models is key to success in the industry. The Entrepreneurship module is about taking ideas to market, and students learn different entrepreneurship methods and process, and the tools to explore and develop business ideas.

Markus: The Entrepreneurship module is dedicated to doing innovation in a small company content. It’s slightly different from a large company because it involves building a company from scratch at the same time with a small team and limited resources. In this context, it’s important not just to think about your product and be excited, but to go out and validate the need for the product so you are working on a product people want. Customer discovery is key as it is often not clear who the customers for a new product idea are. The Entrepreneurship module leads students through that process.

Why are Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship core modules on the Global Online MBA?

Paolo: We strongly believe in the development of an entrepreneurial mindset at Imperial College Business School – it’s in our DNA! Whether you aim to become an

entrepreneur or apply the mindset in the corporate environment, it’s relevant for all aspects of business from business development, to working in a global company, and working in industries that are fast-paced and changing. We attract a higher number of entrepreneurs onto our programmes compared to other Business Schools, who have a stronger focus on finance and consulting.

Markus: Here at Imperial, we have a particular strength in innovation and entrepreneurship. This is partly because we are linked to Imperial College London, a large science, engineering and medicine focussed university where we have access to a lot of projects where innovation is happening.

The Business School has strong capability in this field. We have a dedicated Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship which is very unique in the Business School world – and we leveraging this capability for the benefit of our MBA students.

Most Global Online MBA students work and study at the same time. Describe how programme content around entrepreneurship and innovation has real business application immediately.

Markus: Products that are less than five years old are responsible for 30% of the profits in a company. Any company, whether big or small, has to keep innovating because it keeps the company alive and running. Hence it is important for companies to know how to do it. 

At the same time, companies are moving to a model of lean or agile innovation, rather than traditional methods where money is invested into research and development. Now, companies are learning to be far more responsive to what the market wants, which means going out and interacting with companies earlier than traditionally used to be the case, and co-develop the product with potential lead customers.

We teach the most recent methodologies and approaches. Digitalisation offers a huge opportunity for innovation, even in traditional sectors, to turn the product proposition around and provide your core product in a new way using digital technology, by using mobile and online technology to support a new business model.

We give students the methodology and approaches that they need to go about this, and that applies across not-for-profit and public sectors as well, where products and services need to be updated all the time.

Paolo: The entrepreneurial mindset is extremely valuable for organisations that are in the face of change, and valuable for product development or technology. Students apply their learnings from the Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship modules on the Capstone Business Game at the end of the Global Online MBA. Capstone is a business simulation exercise that focuses on taking ideas to market and introducing innovation in an established industry.

How do you ensure that the programme content on entrepreneurship and innovation is relevant and up-to-date?

Markus: Two Business School academics who work on our modules were included in Hot Topic’s 100 leading professors in the field of entrepreneurship and provide a benchmark on the quality students can expect. The Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship has created the Entrepreneurship Imperial forum, which brings together our Entrepreneurship professors, the Imperial Enterprise Lab and a select Entrepreneurial Advisory Board. Together, we’ve done a benchmarking exercise with other world-class schools that teach entrepreneurship to ensure that we are at the forefront of entrepreneurship teaching.

Paolo: The Business Advisory Board brings together industry leaders to review and advise on all aspects of the Global Online MBA. They advise on how relevant the programme is to students and employers, lend specific expertise in marketing and recruitment, and support the development and delivery of the programme. Members include experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and private equity professionals – essentially a group of practitioners who work with entrepreneurship and innovation all the time. Learn more about the entrepreneurship and innovation expertise of the Global Online MBA Business Advisory Board

Why should companies sponsor employees to study the Global Online MBA at Imperial?

Paolo: The Imperial MBA covers general management and the professional development of a person. Students are taught a range of skills to analyse complex problems, build their credibility and learn a wider set of soft skills which fits well and serves their career paths.

Companies that sponsor employees on the Global Online MBA get exposure which is very valuable and can trigger innovation processes within their organisation. The knowledge from an MBA is something that employees can apply from day one, so they don’t have to wait for the programme to finish to see the impact of it in their company.

Markus: The Global Online MBA equips an employee with the necessary skills to become a senior manager and a future leader, progressing from a technical or junior position. The MBA is a jump in terms of both capabilities and knowledge to becoming a fully-fledged business person within the organisation.

That’s the bigger picture. Specifically, within entrepreneurship and innovation, it is crucial that some employees within an organisation or company know what constant innovation means and, more importantly, how to do it, so they go away with concrete recipes that they can use to make innovation happen.

What is the Capstone Business Game?

Paolo: The Capstone Business Game is an opportunity for Global Online MBA students to apply the knowledge they’ve developed over two years to analyse the innovation needs of a large multinational and develop a business case for the company to grow, alongside a series of lectures on innovation, design, and entrepreneurship. It’s a highlight of the programme and students visit our campus in South Kensington for a week to take part. Read: Global Online MBA students create innovation strategy for “UniBREW”

Is there extra-curricular support for students looking to move into innovation within their company or start their own business get?

Markus: Imperial has a culture and infrastructure of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. The Enterprise Lab, of which I am Director, is a college entity which provides extra-curricular support for students who want to validate a business idea or are looking for innovation support. The Lab organises pitch competitions, which includes mentoring as well as pitch coaching – and the support is available after they stop studying with us.

Another benefit is Imperial’s huge alumni network, which includes experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals, most of whom happily support the College by coaching students to success in their ventures.

Paolo Taticchi

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