on August 20, 2022
  • Research

Published on August 20, 2022 Updated on August 20, 2022

Innovation, entrepreneurship and institutions, focus on the research work of Professor Raffaele Conti

Since 2018 CY Initiative has launched ten Chairs of Excellence to further strengthen the attractiveness and competitiveness of the initiative's research. These chairs help to develop scientific potential and visibility, attracting very high-level researchers on cutting-edge themes. We had the pleasure of speaking to Raffaele Conti, holder of the Senior Chair of Excellence in Strategy and Innovation and professor at ESSEC Business School, about his career, research and work.

Can you tell us more about yourself and your career?

After studying political science, I did a master in economics at Fabra Pompeu University and then a PhD in management at Bocconi University. In 2011 joined Catolica School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, Portugal. In 2021, I joined the management department of ESSEC Business School where I continue my research work and where I have the pleasure to teach innovation management to students of several programs, including the Master in management programme and the Global MBA. I am also Associate Editor of Management Science and of the Strategic Management Journal.
My background is rich and varied with one strong element that links my different experiences: my interest in institutions. My goal has always been to understand the role and place of institutions, which I define as the rules of the game that define what we can or cannot do. My research focuses on how institutions can affect innovation, entrepreneurship and, more broadly, the economic behavior of individuals and organizations.

Let's focus on your research work. What are these institutions and what role do they play? And what is their impact on innovation and entrepreneurship in particular?

Institutions can take many forms: formal institutions such as regulations and laws and informal institutions such as culture. 
So far, I have been mainly focusing on how formal institutions shape individual and organizational behaviors related to innovation and entrepreneurship. What I find particularly interesting is that sometimes laws and regulations have unintended consequences on innovative or entrepreneurial outcomes. For example, in a recent research, we focused on the unintended effect of LGBT antidiscrimination employment laws on entrepreneurship. These antidiscrimination laws are designed, in principle, to reduce discrimination against the minority employees. However, we found that these laws might also have an effect on entrepreneurship. Indeed, if employees feel happy in the workplace as their employer does not discriminate against them, they will be less inclined to start a new business, unless they have a very good entrepreneurial idea. So this type of law will tend to decrease the quantity of new ventures but increase their quality. 

What are the future projects and developments in your research?


I will continue to work on institutions, even if possibly from a different angle, as I have been increasingly fascinated by the role played by informal institutions (social norms and culture). For example, I have been studying how formal and informal institutions together shape entrepreneurships in traditionally stigmatized industries that have been recently legalized (e.g., the marijuana industry). Another research project I have in mind is to understand the cultural basis of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. IPRs are formal institutions designed to create economic incentives for innovation. However, this basic economic conceptualization might not be enough to explain why similar IPR laws have quite different effects across countries. This heterogeneity might stem from different cultural beliefs.
Also, from a methodological point of view, I would also like to move my research towards lab and field experimentation. I usually work with archival data that I collect from publicly available databases. Whereas this approach has several advantages, it has some shortcomings too. This is the reason why I am trying to complement it with experimentation. The objective is to confront what we observe based on large archival databases with what we observe in an experimental setting. Also, given the problems with experimentation that you do in a lab, I would like to conduct field experiments, involving companies or public organizations.

How do you fit your research into the problems of society or the business world?


This is an important element for me, as the overarching goal of my research is to make policy makers and managers aware of the consequences of their decisions on innovation and entrepreneurship, and, more broadly, on society. 
For instance, in a recent research project I am studying what policymakers could do to increase the share of women working in new ventures as employees. Previous research shows that only a tiny minority of new ventures are founded by women, but another equally important (and less studied) gender gap in the startup economy is that women also constitute a minority of startup employees. There are several possible reasons for this. We propose that founders of start-ups might be skeptical about employing women because they perceive a mismatch with the entrepreneurial setting. Hence, before hiring female employees they would like to verify their fit. More flexible labor market institutions–which gives founders the opportunity to test an employee before committing to a long-term employment position– can therefore reduce the gender gap among startup employees. 
I hope that my research will have an impact, by providing a deeper understanding of how institutions can achieve the social goals we deem as worthy. 

To know more about Raffaele Conti's research