Innovation Project

Dr. Tima Bansal (Ivey Business School), Dr. Joel Gehman (University of Alberta), and Dr. Marie-France Turcotte (Université du Québec à Montréal) have been awarded $2.5 million from the Government of Canada to research business-driven innovations for sustainable development.

Tara Hadler - 02 November 2016

This article was original posted on the Network for Business Sustainability.

Dr. Tima Bansal (Ivey Business School), Dr. Joel Gehman (University of Alberta), and Dr. Marie-France Turcotte (Université du Québec à Montréal) have been awarded $2.5 million from the Government of Canada to research business-driven innovations for sustainable development. Here's how you can be part of it.

The core engine of a company's success is its ability to generate and implement new and valuable products, processes and approaches. In a dynamic and uncertain world, there is more pressure than ever on firms to take into account stakeholder needs and other factors when desiging new approaches. By tweaking a firm's innovation process, companies can systematically produce innovations with value for business and for society.

Most companies want to do this, but don't know how.

Join the Innovation Project. A diverse, world-class team of researchers will guide your company through a systematic innovation process to solve some of your most intractable challenges. We will apply sustainability levers, such as long-term thinking and nested complexity, to design thinking and the best innovation research. Through our collaborative processes and peer-to-peer learning, we empower you to solve similar challenges long into the future.

How it Works

This new research program aims to improve the efficiency and efficacy of firms' innovation processes. We will work with participating firms to build capacity, bringing to bear the best research and insights in the change process. Specifically, we will provide concrete recommendations that address how businesses can systematically innovate to improve performance and reduce costs, while creating value for society.

Baking sustainability into the innovation process gives firms the fuel for long-term success.

We are looking for companies committed to action research and shared learning. Action research ensures that companies apply and contribute to new research through the interventions and observations made by the team. Shared learning enables companies to reach a higher level of performance than acting alone.

Apply Best Practices that Work

The research program for each company will be co-designed with the research team to best meet each organization's needs. However, the broad steps are:

  1. Observe and map current innovation processes to document what's happening - and what it means for your company's innovation outcomes.
  2. Identify opportunities to create more shared value based on leading edge global research, our team of researchers and advisors, and our work with other firms.
  3. Recommend changes to these processes, which the firm can review to identify those that best fit with strategy, culture and priorities.
  4. Observe the efficacy of those changes on innovation and sustainability outcomes (optional Phase 2).
  5. Apply, amplify and accelerate the learnings through peer-to-peer sharing of non-competitive among participating companies. Peer-to-peer meetings will involve leading innovation researchers and innovators from around the world.

Amplify through Peer-to-Peer Learning

Participating companies will be invited to join a peer-to-peer learning group. Innovation is a social process that requires continuous involvement and feedback from stakeholders. Peer-to-peer learning creates continuous improvement in sustainable innovation processes. The benefits of peer-to-peer learning include:

  • Participation in a safe, high trust environment in which those engaged share learnings about approaches that have - and have not - contributed to innovations.
  • Co-creation of world-class tools that will help implement and optimize innovation processes throughout your company and be shared worldwide.
  • Collective problem-solving within a community of practitioners from a range of industries that are tackling the same issues as you.

Deliver Real Benefits

Value-Enhancing Innovations: Participating companies will address their present challenges - even those viewed as 'purely financial' - by developing innovations that create value for the firm, society, and the environment.

Innovation Capabilities: Participating employees, teams and firms will develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle future problems. This unique approach provides companies the ability to take charge of their own 'ah-hah' moments.

A New Way to Lead: Companies involved will demonstrate thought leadership, impacting sustainability and innovation among students and businesses worldwide. This university partnership will generate non-proprietary learnings and materials that contribute to knowledge in the public domain.

Innovation Successes: How Arauco Created $1 Billion in Shared Value

Dr. Osorio has run through versions of this project in different contexts including Arauco, a Chilean forestry and timber company. Arauco owned native forest that could not be farmed, cost the company millions each year.

Applying the proposed framework, Arauco consulted more than 150 stakeholders including social groups, scientists, local food producers. These stakeholders transformed hundreds of thousands of acres of native forest into multi-million dollar assets of non-timber forest products.

Products included an anti-oxidant rich maqui berry beverage, a mono-floral honey, and a natural rainforest reserve. Potential business value of the resulting projects was estimated to be nearly US$1 billion.

Research Team

Dr. Tima Bansal

Bansal will guide the development and execution of this research initiative including recruiting postdoctoral researchers, planning and executing research, and mobilizing results. Bansal brings expertise in research, management and strategy, and has contributed substantially to sustainability research. She has been recognized with a Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability and is a professor at the Ivey Business School. She has developed more than 40 peer reviewed academic publications, published in Canada's major newspapers, and co-edited two books on business and the natural environment.

Dr. Joel Gehman

Joel Gehman is Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Organization at the Alberta School of Business and a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2015, Joel received the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award, the University of Alberta's most prestigious early career award. He has published extensively and is the creator of, which provides information on over 2 million wells in Canada and the United States. In 2014, the Government of Alberta appointed him to the board of directors for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta). Before becoming a professor, Joel spent 13 years in industry. He graduated from Cornell University (BS) and the Pennsylvania State University (PhD).

Dr. Marie-France Turcotte

Marie-France Turcotte directs the Réseau entreprise et développement durable, the Francophone office of the Network for Business Sustainability. She has lead a number of research projects on various topics related to advancing sustainability. Her early research assessed the outcomes of stakeholder engagement related to organizational learnings and innovations. Turcotte published about 30 articles in peer reviewed academic journals and 44 book chapters. She also published or edited 7 books, 5 proceedings, and several special issues in academic journals.

Project Advisors

Dr. Robert D. Austin

Robert D. Austin is a Professor of Information Systems at the Ivey Business School at Western University. His prior appointments included the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and the Harvard Business School (HBS). He has taught extensively in Executive Education, and for nearly a decade chaired the HBS executive program for Chief Information Officers (CIOs); more recently, he was a founding faculty member in a primary care management program at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on management of innovation processes, especially in creative companies. Professor Austin has published nine books and many articles in academic and professional venues, such as Harvard Business Review, Information Systems Research, Management Science, MIT Sloan Management Review, Organization Science, and the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Carlos Orsorio

Carlos Osorio heads the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academic Unit at UAI in Chile. He also founded the Master in Innovation program, which was recently ranked third among the best masters in innovation management worldwide. He holds a PhD and MS from MIT, a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University, and BS in Engineering from the University of Chile. Carlos has consulted on innovation for companies in biotech, energy, mining, information technology, finance, forestry, including some Fortune 100. He has been visiting scientist at MIT Medialab, faculty associate at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, among others. His research focuses on innovation processes and methods, and in how to enable learning to innovate.

Dr. Andrew Van de Ven

Andrew H. Van de Ven received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1972, and taught at Kent State University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania before his present appointment. He teaches courses on the management of innovation and change, organizational behavior, and engaged scholarship. Van de Ven directed the Minnesota Innovation Research Program that tracked a wide variety of innovations from concept to implementation during the 1980's and 1990's. Since then he has been studying changes unfolding in health care organizations. He has co-authored of 12 books, including: The Innovation Journey (1999, 2008), Organization Change and Innovation Processes (2000), Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation (2004), and Engaged Scholarship (2007) which won the 2008 Terry best book award from the Academy of Management.