Sustainability Research Institute

Report from 10th ETH PhD Academy on Sustainability and Technology

19.06.2017 - 13:25

ETH PhD Academy 2017 group in front of the Kaubad hotel. Credit: Suzana Matoh.

Swiss cheese fondue. Credit: Suzana Matoh.

Views hiking. Credit Suzana Matoh.

Suzana Matoh participated at the 10th ETH PhD Academy on Sustainability and Technology on the topic: “Ensuring a Sustainable Future: Technological, Organizational and Institutional Change”. The Academy took place from May 29 to June 3, 2017 in Zürich and Appenzell, Switzerland. Suzana was among 13 PhD students and postdocs from 8 countries who were selected to participate and present their research projects at this year’s ETH Academy.

Academy began with a welcome dinner in Zürich where all the participants, organisers and academy’s faculty met each other. The next day started with an introduction to the ETH Academy and short presentations of the academy’s faculty which consisted of Dr. Kathleen Eisenhardt, Dr. Inês Azevedo and Dr. Volker Hoffmann. Later on that day Professor Kathleen Eisenhardt gave a talk titled “Weaving Strategic Decisions: Strategy Formation under Novelty, Resource Constraint and Complexity” at ETH Zürich, which was open to a broader public of the university. After the talk we traveled to Appenzell, hotel Kaubad, where the paper presentation sessions took place.

Paper presentations were divided into three groups according to the Academy’s theme: technological change, organizational change and institutional change. Each presenter was given a one hour slot. First 15 minutes were assigned for the presentation and after that a PGR discussant who was assigned prior to the beginning of the Academy, gave a 5 minutes feedback. Then, two members of the academy’s faculty gave an in-depth feedback of 10-15 minutes each. The rest of the time was used for a general discussion in which other participants were able to give comments and suggestions or ask questions. The presenting PGR was also given time to respond to any of the comments/suggestions or to clarify things. Suzana was a discussant for the paper “Greening industrialization: Understanding how a technology’s product architecture and use environment affect local low-carbon industry development” written and presented by Tyeler Matsuo from the ETH Zürich.

Suzana presented her paper titled “Linking business model innovation to material demand reduction”. She was linked with PGR Hendrik Thelken from the University of Groningen as her discussant and Professor Eisenhardt and Professor Hoffmann for the in-depth feedback. Suzana received very useful feedback regarding her project in which she is linking decision-making to business model change in the sustainability context of material demand reduction. The feedback, comments and suggestions from the discussant, professors as well as from other participants were very constructive and will help her move forward with the project.

Dr. Inês Azevedo gave a very interesting and dynamic presentation about the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and their projects related to energy systems, how are they likely to be shaped in the future and the energy efficiency in the U.S. There was also a round-table discussion where the professors answered questions and gave advice on how to build an academic career, how to approach publishing papers and how to communicate our projects effectively.

Overall, the ETH PhD Academy was really well organised. It is a great platform for PGRs to showcase their work and to network with other like-minded scholars. All the activities and sessions were well balanced. There was time for work and there was time for relaxation while walking in the beautiful nature surrounded by the breath-taking Swiss Alps, taking a dip in the swimming pool or joining the yoga session guided by the participant Nora. The family owned hotel in Kaubad was a perfect place to be, we were spoiled by a warm hospitality and delicious food in abundance.

We had fun during the breaks and meals where we have learned different fun facts such as how to approach eating a traditional Swiss cheese fondue.

ETH PhD Academy was a great experience and I would strongly recommend it to other PGRs at the School of Earth and Environment with a background in management, innovation studies, economics or political sciences to consider their participation next year.

More about the ETH PhD Academy here.