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Practical projects on the Cambridge EMBA

Our live projects reflect our belief in learning by doing. Executive MBA participants work on two major projects during their studies which offer experiential learning:

  • Team Consulting Project
  • Individual Project

These live projects provide a rare opportunity for participants to explore new industries and test new approaches within an academic framework. You will be supported by mentors to ensure you are getting the most out of your project and promote a rigorous approach.

Team Consulting Project

The Team Consulting Project is a collaboration between an external organisation and EMBA participants acting as a team of consultants.

The project may cover any business challenge or opportunity faced by their client. Participants can work with any company, not for profit organisation or public sector organisation of their choice.

Over an extended period, the team delivers agreed outcomes and receives client feedback. Each participant is assessed on how they reflect on their learning experience as part of the Management Praxis course.

Working with clients

Previous projects undertaken by EMBA teams have included complete strategic reviews, benchmarking and best practice analysis, diversification assessments, new market strategies, innovation and working with startups.

These have covered sectors as diverse as finance, agriculture, energy, mining, food, health care, education, ecommerce, digital media, satellite-communications, consulting and human rights.

Individual Projects

The Individual Project is equivalent to a master’s thesis, and can be about any practical aspect of business or management. It gives participants the opportunity to explore an area of particular interest to them in detail.

Participants’ individual projects are supervised by members of faculty. They represent a contribution to new knowledge, some of which are subsequently published as papers or case studies for academic, practitioner, or policy audiences:

A practical framework for heightened organisational consciousness

Luke Gillott, co-founder, Chi Impact Capital

Luke’s thesis purports that over the past five decades, organisations have been operating with the sole focus of maximising profits and shareholder value, regardless of social and environmental externalities. This has resulted in a global economy that is failing to address key challenges including global warming, inequality, and natural resource degradation.

For today’s businesses to sustain long-term success, he suggests they require managers and leaders with a heightened consciousness of their organisation. This includes its internal and external stakeholders, the broader community and environment, as well as how all these elements intersect. Luke’s research led to publication in Conscious Investing, published by Harriman House. He provides an overview of companies which broaden their operating purpose and focus beyond profit, unlocking improved customer service, competitive advantages, market leadership and multiple value creation.

Why large public projects fail

Kjetil Holgeid, Managing Director, Nordic Technology Lead Health & Public Service

Kjetil Holgeid developed his Individual Project, a reflection on why large public projects fail, into a book chapter. Working with his supervisor Dr Mark Thompson (co-author of the chapter), Kjetil highlighted the importance of contextual issues in contributing to the failure rates of large projects in the public sector. By studying these contextual issues related to project failure, the authors developed a new framework – the Contextual IT Project Framework – which takes greater account of hyper-emergent characteristics that often cannot be predicted at the outset.

Read the full chapter in The Governance of Large-Scale Projects – Linking Citizens and the State from The Hertie School of Governance and the Journal for Political Consulting and Policy Advice, 2013.

The flaw of averages in US corporate income taxes

Michael Salama, Lead Tax Counsel and VP of Corporate Tax, The Walt Disney Company

This study explains how Jensen’s Inequality exists in various income tax contexts and discusses why representing uncertain numbers with average values will, on average, produce a faulty result.

Read “The flaw of averages in US corporate income taxes” in The Virginia Tax Review‘s Spring 2011 issue.

What’s not to like: smart money shies away from social

Daniel Ganev, Director, Karoll Capital Management

Research has found that social media is a proven tool for companies to achieve strategic goals, including higher profitability and valuations. Yet the adoption of social media by asset managers is rather low compared to other industries.

For a business where brand awareness, networking and client communications are key sources of competitive advantage, the reluctance to embrace social is a problem. Why does smart money shy away from social?

Read “What’s not to like: smart money shies away from social” in Funds Europe magazine’s June 2013 issue.

The financial ecosystem and early-stage biotechnology firms

Dr Gergely Toth, CEO and President, Gardedam Therapeutics

The study uncovers distinct paradoxes in the funding ecosystem of early-stage biotechs, which suggest that the present ecosystem is not well aligned with the interests of these biotechnology firms and the biotechnology industry. Specifically, it neglects strategic disease burden needs.

The study recommends that increase in funding and improvement of current financing approaches for early-stage biotechnology companies by more government and big pharmaceutical company participation should take place. The cost of capital for these two organisations is substantially lower compared to private corporate investors such as venture capitalist.

Read “The financial ecosystem and early-stage biotechnology firms” in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology.

Hear from our participants

Team consulting

One of the things that I was looking for out of the team consulting project was just to try something completely different. And I think it’s one of those opportunities to step outside your comfort zone and just try something new. So we’re actually looking at using the resources of the University of Cambridge and looking at maybe some of the new startups in the nanotechnology sort of space. So sort of looking at some of the advanced science and maybe how some of that technology could be commercialised.

So I think one of the great things, again, about Cambridge is that you’ve got all of this world-class research going on around you. And we’re in a reasonably good position to bring a business and commercial view to the table in terms of how can you take that and actually commercialise it and make it happen in the real world? And I think for me, that’s quite exciting.

Chris Weeks (EMBA 2011) talks about his team consulting project and how to commercialise latest technological research and ideas.

Deciding on your project

The team consulting project

One of the key parts of the EMBA is the team consulting project. So this is where you get together as a group of four, five, six people who work together to help businesses, help an industry. And our journey starts, just a coffee conversation during a break between lectures. And I got talking to the former deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan. And he was talking about some challenges that their post office has got.

I work in retail banking, and I’ve got a lot of experience learning from that sector that we could bring. Long story short. We formed a group of people that would work effectively with other parts of the EMBA. And fast forward a few months, we’ve landed in Kazakhstan to help the post office. And we’re helping to digitise the post office.

So this is a country that has the landmass the size of Western Europe, that has 18 million people. It has huge logistical challenges. They’ve got money to invest in rolling out broadband across the country, but how is that going to transform the post office? And that’s the question that we’re trying to answer– answering with the team.

Learning from others

I learned bucket loads doing this. So I’m a banker, numerical. I’m very structure with problem-solving. I work in a large corporate environment. But other team members, for example, former England rugby player is the best networker, our most highly emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever met.

And together with the other people– so the other guy was from a large pharmaceutical company, one of the largest in the world. Another one was from Norway. Another one worked for all the leading telecoms companies in the UK looking at Internet of Things and innovation. And we came together brilliantly. And we’re now adding a lot of value to the post office and helping transform that country.

Tom Martin (EMBA 2016) explains how his team consulting project involving the Kazakhstan post office was formed.