Campus - 19.12.2022 - 10:58 

HSG professor speaks at Ukrainian university about reconstruction

Recently, HSG innovation expert Oliver Gassmann gave a lecture to students at Ukraine's Odesa National Economics University on how the reconstruction of the war-damaged country could work. 

As a world-renowned innovation expert, HSG professor Oliver Gassmann regularly speaks to top managers and at international events. But the lecture he gave on 13 December to about 50 students from the Ukrainian University of Odessa left a deep impression on Gassmann: "At the beginning of the event, there was an alarm telling the students that they should seek safety in case of an air alert. There was also almost only women in the audience, as most of the men were busy with national defence."

He spoke to the group of business students at the Odesa National Economics University online from St.Gallen. The University of Odessa on coast of the Black Sea, is one of the oldest and most important universities in Ukraine, has completely switched over to online teaching because of the war. Power supply and security are not guaranteed in the University buildings. 

"It was immediately clear to me that I wanted to help"

Gassmann, who holds the Chair of Innovation Management at the HSG Institute of Technology Management, received a request from the Ukrainian university in autumn. They wanted additional material on the globally established St.Gallen Business Model Navigator for its teaching. "It was immediately clear to me that I wanted to support the Ukrainian lecturers and students in solidarity," says Gassmann. "I provided them with case studies and more. And I offered to present Navigator in a lecture to those responsible at the university, also addressing challenges in Ukraine."

Gassmann's lecture rounded off a semester during which students at the Ukrainian University of Economics had used the St.Gallen Business Model Navigator to design concepts for their start-ups.

Starting a business as a question of existence

Before the war, the Ukrainian economy had an economic power of around 200 billion euros. Due to the war, this output has plummeted massively. "For many people in Ukraine, setting up new businesses is also a long-term existential question," says Gassmann. Because the war has left many unemployed with a devastated economy.  

In conferences, the international community has already promised to invest hundreds of billions in the reconstruction of the country. "This new beginning can also be an opportunity for Ukraine to transform its economy," says Gassmann. Until now, he says, the country has mainly exported raw materials such as wheat, sunflower oil and iron ore. "A new Ukrainian economy could focus on more value creation at home." For this, he said, the interaction of the huge, internationally financed reconstruction plan and the business ideas of the Ukrainian people on the ground is needed.

"Ideally, the money should meet well-developed business models on the ground," says Gassmann. "For example, Ukraine is generally known as a country with a lot of IT expertise. Sectors such as IT and services should therefore grow during reconstruction." But in the area of physical goods, Ukraine also has some highly modern factories in the vicinity of Kiev. 

In his lecture, Gassmann presented the students with examples of successful business models - such as that of BillionBricks for sustainable and simple residential buildings in emerging countries, which are partially financed by the electricity from the solar panels on the roofs of the houses

This was followed by a 45-minute discussion during which students could ask questions. The lecture was recorded and will continue to be used in the start-up course at Odesa National Economics University in the future. Gassmann says he is happy if he can use it to help build Ukrainian start-ups. He felt a lot of drive from the young people. "I was impressed by how they continue to work on their future on site under the most difficult circumstances," says Gassmann.  

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