Prof. Dr. Nils Madeja

© DWIH Tokyo / Prof. Dr. Nils Madeja

Our new series “Connecting East and West – A Short Interview with …“ presents people involved in German-Japanese research collaborations – and their insights on how and where to cooperate successfully!
This week we welcome Prof. Dr. Nils Madeja, Professor for Business Administration at the University of Applied Sciences Mittelhessen (THM) in Germany.

Prof. Dr. Madeja is the project leader of the Digital Manufacturing Research Initiative (DIGIMARI), a research network of the “Future of Work” campaign by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
DIGIMARI promotes the digital transformation of small and medium manufacturing companies and connects researchers and practitioners from the German state of Hessen and the ‘industrial heart of Japan’ in the Kansai region around the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe.

1. What kind of research makes you excited, and why?
I think that practical research that leads to realizable results and offers people or companies concrete assistance, such as recommendations for action, is exciting. In terms of content, I am interested in digital business models and digital transformation. At its core is the question of how companies can use data not just as a tool, but as a basis for business. Even though there are some prominent examples of success in this regard, there is still a considerable need for clarification for many – especially small and medium-sized – companies.

2. What is your connection to Japan?
Over the past 2 years, we have been able to establish several new relationships with Japanese scientists and industry experts as well as expand some existing relationships as part of our DIGIMARI research marketing project. We now have a network in which we can pursue exciting Japanese-German research projects.
My personal connection with Japan goes back to my time as a scholarship holder in the – then still 2-year – DAAD program “Language and Work Experience in Japan” more than 20 years ago.

3. Where should Japan and Germany cooperate more?
Japan and Germany should cooperate more in the field of digital transformation, research and the development of data-driven business models. Both countries are leaders in the industrial production of physical goods – for example in mechanical and electrical engineering. However, the economy or value creation is increasingly determined by digital information goods. Here, both countries still have potential and are in danger of falling behind other countries such as the USA or China. It is therefore a question of securing the future together.

4. What is your winning formula for research cooperation?
I do not have a universal formula for success, and it probably does not exist at all. But there are certainly several success factors: First, a common set of interests and objectives. Closely linked to this is a fair division of investments and outcomes, i.e. a genuine partnership. This in turn requires solid and reliable financing on both sides.
In addition, there are also so-called hygiene factors – i.e., general conditions that must be met in principle, but unfortunately do not in themselves contribute to success. Trust between the partners plays an important role here.

5. What advice do you have for Japanese researchers looking for joint projects?
Please contact us! Japanese researchers are held in high esteem by their German colleagues. Despite cultural differences, we share essential basic values and can work well together. In many places there are already contacts and partnerships that you can build on. If you are looking for new contacts, use platforms such as DWIH or DAAD.

Prof. Dr. Nils Madeja

• Professor for business administration, especially digital business, Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen (THM), Germany
• Long-term experience as investment manager and partner in venture capital, also as management consultant
• PhD in business administration and information systems, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany
• “Dipl.-Ing.” degree (equiv. to Master’s degree) in Electrical Engineering, University of Kiel, Germany
• Alumnus of the DAAD program “Language and Work Experience in Japan”, 1999-2001

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