Announcing IEMS Research Grants 2016


Research. Photo credit: Phlebotomy Tech via Flickr.

The Institute is delighted to announce the funding results of IEMS Research Grants 2015-2016. The response was tremendous and we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who participated in the process.

HKUST IEMS Research Grants support high-quality research that provides valuable insights into the challenges facing businesses and governments in emerging markets. The Institute encouraged collaborative proposals among HKUST faculty and with researchers outside HKUST.  Priority is given to collaborative research projects that are oriented around the Institute's focus research themes, as well as proposals that contribute to ongoing Institute’s research initiatives on the topics of Belt and Road and Digital Economy.


The Pearl River Delta: An Emerging Silicon Valley

Naubahar Sharif, Associate Professor, Division of Social Science

Governments, cities and regions the world-over have yearned to learn from Silicon Valley in the hope of transforming their own jurisdictions into regions that sustain innovativeness and propel economic development. While many have tried, almost all have failed. Recently, however, there has been good reason to believe that the Pearl River Delta (PRD), and more specifically the Hong Kong- Shenzhen-Dongguan axis in Guangdong Province may in fact be able to prove to be the one exception. Is the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region—traditionally known for its low-end, low-tech manufacturing prowess—evolving innovative capabilities that could make it comparable to Silicon Valley? This project investigates this broad question from two vantage points: descriptive quantitative information relating to traditional R&D input and output indicators—namely funding allocated to R&D, R&D personnel, and their training, as well as new products created and patents filed—and qualitative, in-depth case studies with business leaders, academics and government official to determine the existence of causal mechanisms and their relative importance. [More]


Morality in the Emerging Marketplace: How Cultural Mindsets Affect Consumer Responses to Firm Transgressions

Rashmi Adaval, Professor, Department of Marketing

Multi-national firms have often been accused of causing harm to consumers in emerging markets taking advantage of loose legal frameworks to exploit vulnerable consumers. Yet, judgments of culpability tend to range from mild to extreme. This research examines how cultural mindsets (chronic or situationally induced) within and across national boundaries affects how the morality of a firm's behavior is judged. Cultural mindsets are postulated to affect how people examine such transgressions. An individualist mindset disposes people to extract rule-based principles that are then applied irrespective of the context in which they occur. A collectivist mindset disposes people to think of connections between different aspects of the context. Ironically, the latter makes people not only more harsh in judging transgression that affect their own group relative to others but also makes them share the blame if the transgression comes from a firm that is categorized as belonging to the collective. [More]


Generically Modified: Effects of Consumer Beliefs about Food Constituents on Health

Anirban Mukhopadhyay, Professor and Associate Dean, Department of Marketing

The obesity crisis is growing worldwide, and has a total economic cost of US$2. trillion The prevalence and growth rate of obesity is highest in some developing countries, but most research on how people’s beliefs influence their food-related decisions is based in the West. We have previously found that many people are misled by corporate messaging to believe that poor diet is not the main cause of obesity, with significant adverse consequences for their BMI. We propose to extend this line of research to people’s beliefs related to other industry messaging, specifically, GMOs and organic foods. Preliminary results from a six-nation survey suggest that people who favor both GMOs and organic foods may be healthiest; the effect is strongest in India and does not hold only in South Africa. We propose to investigate these belief systems more thoroughly and understand how they, and their effects, vary across diverse emerging mark. [More]


The Effect of User-Generated Social Media on Product Demand

Wenbo Wang, Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing

Microblogging social media like Twitter and Sina Weibo has become increasingly popular among Internet users. It also becomes an important advertising tool in emerging markets. However one key question remains unclear: whether and how user-generated social media causally affects demand. In this research we will answer this question in the context of TV shows. We will use a natural experiment to examine the causal effect of microblogging on the demand of TV shows. Furthermore, we will examine what type of products (i.e., TV shows of polarized preference or unimodal preference) benefits more from microblogging. Finally, we will investigate which type of microblogging users (celebrities or ordinary active users) contribute more to the effect of microblogging on demand. [More]


Understanding Food Consumption in Developing Countries

Young Eun Huh, Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing

Once considered a problem of only high-income countries, obesity rates are also rising at an increasing rate in developing countries. As obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases and causes an upsurge in healthcare costs, urgent action is required to prevent obesity in developing countries. Most research on food consumption and self-control was conducted on US samples, food consumption behavior in developing countries, however, may differ in fundamental ways from consumption behavior in the US. To develop effective interventions, it is critical to understand how consumers in developing countries decide what to eat and how much to consume. We challenge whether current theories of self-control and consumption behavior apply to consumers in developing countries, and aim at developing a more accurate theory of self-control in food consumption that incorporates food consumption behavior in emerging Asian countries. The findings will offer important implications to policy makers and marketers. [More]


Does Accountability Deter Individuals from Serving as Independent Directors? Evidence from a Corporate Governance Reform in India

Kasper Meisner Nielsen, Associate Professor, Department of Finance

Prior literature, both theoretical and empirical, has highlighted the important role of independent directors as a monitor and an advisor. Recent corporate governance scandals have resulted in calls for greater accountability of independent directors to improve the effectiveness of corporate boards. Opponents, on the other hand, have highlighted that increased accountability, will reduce the attractiveness of directorships, and thus deter individuals from serving on boards. To this end, this research proposal will examine whether accountability deters individuals from serving as independent directors. We propose to exploit a quasi-natural experiment in the form of a recent reform of the corporate law in India, which introduced accountability for independent directors. We hypothesize that accountability deters individuals from serving on boards, and expect to find stronger deterrence among firms where the monetary or reputational incentives to serve as an independent director are weak and in firms that are subject to greater litigation risk. [More]


Overcome the Legitimacy Effect: the Role of Agency in Firm Innovation in China

Bilian N. Sullivan, Associate Professor, Department of Management

Neo-institutional theories suggest that firms strive for institutional legitimacy under the pressure of various institutional pressures (Scott, 2007). While preliminary research on firm innovation in China suggests the existence of legitimacy pursuit in firm innovation (Sullivan et al., 2016), specific mechanisms as well as how firms overcome the legitimacy effect to generate effective innovations have not been carefully explored. This proposal intends to reveal the specific mechanisms of the legitimacy impact in firm innovation and how effective innovation can be generated by overcoming such legitimacy impact with longitudinal data combining with a survey of firms in China. We expect that firms do pursue easy innovations for legitimacy benefits, but certain ownership, incentive and governance structure could alleviate such tendency by firms. This study can help us further understand the complex institutional and organizational circumstances surrounding the firm innovations in emerging markets such as China. [More]

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