UVA Darden Global Innovators’ Roundtable Explores Impact of Digital Transformation on Business and Society

By Gosia Glinska

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business has expanded its Global Innovators Roundtable to Europe, convening senior business leaders this month in Düsseldorf, Germany, where they explored the impact of digital transformation on business and society. Co-hosted by Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (VDI), Germany’s largest engineering professional association, the roundtable assembled executives from nine global companies, as well as scholars from several top German universities.

Led by Darden Professors Ed Hess and S. “Venkat” Venkataraman and VDI Digital Transformation Group Chair Kurt Bettenhausen, roundtable participants shared insights about the convergence of digital technologies — artificial intelligence, increasing computing power, global mobile connectivity, the industrial Internet of Thing, and automation—and its impact on how companies operate, engage customers and innovate. Since automation is expected to render millions of jobs obsolete, participants also discussed the role of business and education in easing the blow from digital transformation on the labor market.

“Over the next 15 years,” said Darden’s Hess, “advancing technologies are going to transform our global system — how we work, live and co-exist. This will challenge cultures and businesses, as well as educational, environmental, governmental, political, legal and social systems. It may even become an evolutionary moment, forcing us to question what it means to be human.”

“Digitalization,” said Ralph Appel, VDI executive director, “is a major structural change involving all of our society — a transformation that will irreversibly change not only the economy, its value creation processes and business models, but will also impact the way we live and work.”

Darden and VDI are now exploring the possibility of establishing a more formal partnership and continuing the roundtable next spring in Washington, D.C.

“The United States is a leading digital economy,” said Appel. “It is home to the most successful tech companies in the world. Germany has a strong industrial base and is the main driver of innovation in many areas. It is also known for its industrial and technological preeminence. This is why we can learn from each other. There are advantages on both sides of the Atlantic, which can serve as a basis for mutual inspiration.”

This fall’s roundtable in Europe marked another step in Darden’s growing presence as a thought leader and educator of innovation around the world. “The roundtable offers a rare opportunity for senior executives from some of the world’s most powerful and innovative companies to lay bare the challenges of a rapidly and incessantly evolving digital marketplace,” said Sean Carr, executive director of Darden’s Batten Institute. “The environment we have created allows for a frank and open dialogue among peers, enabling the development of new solutions to some of business’s most pressing issues.”

The Global Innovators’ Roundtable is a series of seminar-style discussions hosted around the world by the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Darden School of Business. The roundtable brings together senior innovation executives from leading companies for conversations facilitated by Darden’s top scholars in innovation. The purpose of the roundtable gatherings is to share best practices and discuss common challenges of business innovation in an intimate, interactive forum. To ensure openness and candor, participants are selected from among noncompeting firms and diverse industrial sectors. The next series of Global Innovators’ Roundtables this fall are planned for Washington, D.C., and Mumbai, India.

Global Corporations and Institutions Represented at the Roundtable

  • Celgene Corporation
  • Corning Research and Development Corporation
  • Festo AG & Co. KG
  • Helmut-Schmidt-Universität der Bundeswehr
  • John Deere GmbH & Co. KG
  • Marriott International
  • Nestlé Waters North America
  • SAP
  • Siemens Corporation
  • Technische Universität Dortmund
  • T-Systems International GmbH
  • Universität Stuttgart
  • UVA Darden School of Business (co-host)
  • Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (co-host)

For more information, contact Gosia Glinska at glinskam@darden.virginia.edu.

About Verein Deutscher Ingenieure

Verein Deutscher Ingenieure is the largest professional association of engineers in Germany. Founded in 1856, it supports and represents the interests of approximately 155,000 members. Among other things, VDI promotes the advancement of technology and develops and disseminates knowledge in the field of engineering. As a non-profit, it relies on the support of about 12,000 honorary experts, who represent a wide range of industry sectors.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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