Business London Imperial College

Principal InvestigatorProfessor Erkko Autio

Researcher: Dr William Wu

Partners: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Computing.

Funder: CISCO

Duration: March 2013-June 2015

With emerging technological advances reshaping the global marketplace, organisations find there is as much value to gain from developing innovative business models as from new technologies. Technological innovation leads to efficiency and effectiveness of core processes and functions only when organisations implement appropriate business models to take advantage of the business opportunities opened by technological advances.

Business model innovation (BMI) focuses on remodelling organisational activities to realise the firm’s potential for value creation, delivery and capture. In spite of widespread practitioner interest, rigorous academic research on Business Model Innovation is scant. The domain of BMI is theoretically and empirically fragmented, lacking a common conceptual base as well as a consensus in the definition. Moreover, conventional research studies emphasise  effectiveness and performance implications of BMI, there is much less research-based guidance on what is the process of implementing BMI in highly dynamic and networked environments.

This project conducts theoretical and empirical studies on business model innovation in the context of ICT Innovation fostering smart city initiatives. Massive transformation is underway in health, education, transport, and built environment sectors in the UK. Among them, ICT innovation is an enabler of efficiency and function gains only when an appropriate process of innovating new business models is implemented. Cisco International Limited, one of the world’s largest IT companies and the market leader in enterprise networking solutions, has announced its objective to realise the “Internet of Everything”, connecting intelligent buildings, factories, cities and cars to networks to enable new applications while saving energy and money. Working with Cisco, the project explores how the organisation innovate its existing business models by creating multiple inter-industry partnerships to form new ecosystems in order to create and capture new value. Adopting a longitudinal research method, the project also investigates the barriers constraining the process of BMI in an ecosystem context.

The expected outputs of this project include several academic and at least one practitioner journal paper, as well as empirical insights and methodologies for the collaborating company.

Key Research Questions

  • A conceptual base of business model and business model innovation (Systematic Literature Review and case study)
  • How incumbents create new business models by adopting ecosystem creation strategies? (in-depth interviews and case studies)
  • What are the barriers for business model innovation (BMI) in incumbent organisations and how do they impact on the process of BMI? (longitudinal process study)


  • One of the outputs of this project has been Imperial’s contribution to Cisco’s practical and innovative projects, acknowledging input from the Imperial-wide research team and with a foreword by Dr. William Wu. Read Cisco’s published report.
  • Based on this report CISCO subsequently won a Rail Exec Club Award for ‘The Most Interesting Approach to the Train Operations‘. Imperial’s role in the project’s development and award win was acknowledged by Innovation Technology Manager Ersel Oymak, who thanked “all our StaaS consortium partners (Cisco, Abellio, Telent), co-funders (Innovate UK, RSSB), observers (Network Rail, BTP, Transport Systems Catapult, TRL) and academia (Imperial College, UCL) for their invaluable contribution and support to the success of this research project.”
  • Gareth Macnuaghton, Head of Innovation Strategy said ‘The project would have been impossible so far without a concerted cross CISCO effort to deliver for our transport clients and the government’ and went on to mention the work of I&E researcher Dr William Wu and Jacek Pawlak. The project ran until June 2015 and delivering in-depth interviews and case studies and led by  Professor John Polak and Professor Erkko Autio.
  • In late February 2015 Cisco launched the CREATE IoE Innovation Centre in Hackney which acknowledged Imperial’s research and aims to provide a facility for collaboration between industry partners, start-ups, academia and the public sector.
  • In May 2015 CISCO published the white paper Setting the Context for Stations as a Service: A Review of Current Policy, Legislation and Standards in the UK Rail Industry  more widely within the industry. The report was originally published in 2014 with contributions from the research team at Imperial College London.