To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Dedicated business model innovation units: do they work? A case study from Germany

Gina Rennings (ESCP, Paris, France)
Michael Wustmans (University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany)
Martin Kupp (Jean-Baptiste Say Institute, ESCP Business School, Paris, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 11 January 2021



Business model innovation (BMI) provides enormous opportunities to multinational corporations (MNCs). Consequently, some MNCs have created dedicated BMI units. Yet, research only provides limited guidance and lacks empirical evidence on the implementation of BMI processes in a corporate environment through dedicated units. Accordingly, the main goal of the research is to shed light on understanding the role (s) of a dedicated BMI unit and how it interacts with the existing businesses to help them identify, evaluate or implement new business models.


This work adopts a case study approach as a research design (Yin, 2015). In particular, the study is set up as a single in-depth case study in a holistic design (Yin, 2013). The data consists of a total of nine extensive interviews with employees of Bosch’s BMI unit, as well as project team members the unit has worked with. Of the nine interviewees, six are working within the BMI unit (internal perspective) and three are members of two project teams, i.e. customers of the BMI unit (external perspective). Archival records serve as an additional source of evidence aimed at enhancing internal validity.


This research is the first work to determine the explicit roles of an MNC’s dedicated BMI unit throughout the BMI process. Through derivation of roles from the tasks and responsibilities of Bosch’s BMI unit in each process phase, six overarching roles have been identified, namely, process owner, executor, enabler, challenger, networker and connector. Simultaneously, this work has suggested the existence of process-independent roles, namely, knowledge intermediary and trainer.

Research limitations/implications

The case study approach underlying this work allowed an in-depth investigation of the BMI process and the BMI unit of Bosch but the results are still based on a single case study. In this regard, limitations that occur for qualitative case study approaches are also relevant for this study, i.e. although careful analysis to reveal the stage-gate such as the design of BMI processes or the roles of a dedicated BMI unit was performed, a certain degree of subjectivity remains.

Practical implications

The results underline that a dedicated BMI unit within an MNC constitutes a way to allow for managing the cross-functional and complex tasks of BMI by giving projects the necessary flexibility to develop while remaining aligned and benefitting from the organizational setting. This paper further observes that a dedicated BMI unit expresses an opportunity to define responsibilities for corporate BMI processes that are described in the literature (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017; Tesch, 2019; Wirtz and Daiser, 2018). Thus, the results may be used by practitioners working in MNCs to understand some of the issues related to the implementation of BMI processes in a corporate context, i.e. how to organize and structure BMI (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017; Winterhalter et al., 2017) or where to locate and how to interlink BMI with existing corporate functions (Chesbrough and Rosenbloom, 2002; Cortimiglia et al., 2016).


The outcomes of this work are twofold. First, building on existing literature, a process model for BMI through dedicated BMI units is proposed. Second, based on findings from the in-depth case study, eight overarching roles a BMI unit can hold have been identified. Thereby, this work constitutes a starting point for intensified research on the value and the implications of dedicated BMI units in the context of BMI and BMI processes.



Rennings, G., Wustmans, M. and Kupp, M. (2021), "Dedicated business model innovation units: do they work? A case study from Germany", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited