New Research Fund Promotes Responsible Leadership for the Next Century

Faculty grants spur momentum in Business, Government, and Society initiative

April 05, 2024

| by Margaret Steen

Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin (second from left) hopes to catalyze new research aimed at addressing specific problem areas.

From tackling climate change to expanding economic opportunity, the world faces challenges requiring new, cross-disciplinary thinking and research. The Business, Government & Society (BGS) Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business — which brings together academics, practitioners, and policymakers from across disciplines to explore solutions to these problems — is in its second year of awarding research grants from the BGS Research Fund to advance these solutions.

The initiative seeks new approaches to societal problems centered on five priority issues:

  • Business & Sustainability: the economic transformation and new business models and technologies necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • Business & Beneficial Technology: the opportunities and risks new technologies pose to organizations, government, and society.
  • Business & Free Markets: new approaches to capitalism, including a competitive and innovative private sector and the relationship between firms and governments.
  • Business & Economic Opportunity: the reinvention of firms, markets, and governments in a way that expands economic opportunity and social mobility.
  • Business & Health: the opportunities and challenges presented by the biomedical revolution and needs of global population health.

“There are pressing and significant problems under each of the five BGS issue areas that confront business leaders at present — yet the answers remain elusive. Research and teaching for the future will involve tackling many of these problems,” says Amit Seru, the Steven and Roberta Denning Professor of Finance at Stanford GSB. “The fund hopes to serve as an accelerant — to spur research activity that is targeted to address these specific problems.”

The projects are quite varied in their focus, from market design to human behavioral incentives to AI algorithms.
Maria Frantz

The $10 million BGS Research Fund, funded by donations from alumni and friends of Stanford GSB, is meant to strengthen connections across academic areas and between the GSB and other parts of Stanford. The fund awarded two grant rounds in December 2022 and December 2023. More than 50 faculty members are engaged in more than 65 projects.

“The projects are quite varied in their focus, from market design to human behavioral incentives to AI algorithms,” says Maria Frantz, director of the Business, Government & Society Initiative.

The diverse research topics share a big-picture goal: to envision responsible leadership for the next century.

“It’s not only about maximizing shareholder value,” Frantz says. “Today’s leaders have to also navigate issues around sustainability, disruptive technology, and trust in capitalism in general. How do we prepare them for this environment?”

Because many of these issues are cutting-edge, research is essential to finding new approaches, frameworks, and solutions. The BGS Research Fund was launched to help seed new research ideas, produce research papers and conference presentations of interest to both academic and policy-oriented stakeholders, and create teaching materials for the management education curriculum.

Of the current projects, over one-third are cross-disciplinary within the GSB, and almost half involve PhD students at the GSB or students from other parts of the university.

“It’s bringing an issue-focused lens to an institution that is typically siloed by academic areas,” Frantz says. “If you think about sustainability, for example, you need good science, but you also need management expertise to be able to implement it and scale it effectively. Not surprisingly then, many of our sustainability research projects are a partnership between faculty from the GSB and other schools on campus.”

“The BGS Research Fund — unlike the funds allocated to faculty in their research accounts at GSB before — hopes to help fund research on specific problems and also help catalyze cross-collaborations,” Seru says.

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