COVID-19 and its impact on research and business: 3 questions for Professor Nils Madeja

The COVID19-pandemic is disrupting the way we do research and business. Will it also be changing the future of our work? Yes, it will, says Nils Madeja, Professor for Digital Business at TH Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences.

 Research in Germany: Professor Madeja, the COVID-19 lockdown has ushered in something like a light version of a digitally transformed business world where working from home and video calls have become part of everyday life.

1. What will the future look like for small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany and Japan in terms of digitalisation?

2. What will change for businesses over the next year?

3. How will international collaboration be transformed?

1. What will the future look like for small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany and Japan in terms of digitalisation?

Professor Nils Madeja: Most businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of digital technology in the way we communicate, collaborate and do business.

For most businesses, it is still too early to take the next step towards digital transformation. Many of them are currently faced with entirely different challenges: They are struggling to stay up and running and ensure their survival.

However, in the long term, they will have to develop digital business models, too. 

A digital business makes money by providing data-based services. These digital services are billed on the basis of totally different criteria than other services. Well-known examples include car sharing or music and movie streaming. Costs and fees are based on mileage or the number of songs or movies played instead of paying for a specific product such as a car or your own CD or DVD. Digital business models are typically driven by the use or value added of the service or product provided to the customer.

Until now, many SMEs in Germany and Japan have been making money by selling machines or components along the value chain. They now face the difficult task of refocusing their business so as to offer more than merely physical products. The fact that most of their customers are industrial suppliers and not the end users of their products is a particular challenge in this context.

Many SMEs wonder 'What digital services could we offer and what do we need to be able to offer them?' or 'What best practices from other digital SMEs can serve as a point of reference?'

SMEs in the manufacturing industry in particular can build on their invaluable technical expertise but often do not have the necessary financial resources to hire skilled staff who are able to develop an innovative digital business model. Relatively little expertise in this area is available for right now.

This is where the network and know-how of DIGIMARI, our joint German-Japanese research marketing campaign, comes in and provides valuable support: We are bringing together academics and practitioners who form partnerships to research, design and develop new business models for German and Japanese SMEs in the manufacturing industry.

DIGIMARI seeks to acquire research funding in cooperation with these SMEs to be able to develop follow-up projects that provide answers to the most pressing questions affecting them. In this way, DIGIMARI helps to re-energise, strengthen and safeguard the future viability of both the German and Japanese national economies.

Digitalisation, the digital transformation of SMEs and support for junior academic staff are important fields of action for policy-makers. However, current circumstances have been making it difficult for DIGIMARI to access research grants and funding has not yet been entirely secured.

We are currently holding preparatory talks – mostly virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic – with research partners and potential sponsors as well as public funding agencies from Germany and Japan. Other interested parties are warmly invited to get in touch.

Research in Germany: Thank you for this interview, Professor Madeja.


University of Applied Sciences Mittelhessen
THM Business School
Prof. Dr Nils Madeja
Wiesenstraße 14
35390 Gießen

+49 641 309-2763

Twitter: @DIGIMARI1