Sucet Jimena Martínez Vergara, PhD graduate in Business at the UB Business School, has been awarded the extraordinary doctoral prize for the academic year 2020-2021.

Dr Martínez Vergara defended her doctoral thesis “Exploring what disruptive innovation is and its influence on Spanish incumbents” on June 14, 2021. The research of the study, directed by UB Business School researcher Jaume Valls, aims to contribute to the understanding of disruptive innovation (DI) theory and its impact on incumbents in Spain.

The thesis consists of three main contributions: a critical review that clarifies the definition and nature of DI, a qualitative research study that explores the meaning and relevance of DI to Spanish incumbents, and another qualitative research study that examines how incumbents in Spain are addressing the challenges of disruptive innovation. The findings highlight the need for a solid theoretical grounding, the popularity of DI among incumbents, and the opportunities and challenges it presents. The thesis offers valuable insights for innovation management practice by providing a comprehensive examination of DI and its implications for incumbents.

We recently interviewed Dr Martínez Vergara to find out more about her interesting research and her experience as a PhD student at the UB Business School.

How do you feel about obtaining this prize?

It was such a pleasant surprise to obtain this prize, I’m grateful for it. Thank you very much to all committee members for considering my PhD thesis for this prize, I find it tremendously rewarding. I have immensely enjoyed my research and I also have to admit that research can be extremely challenging, as many projects fail. However, one can learn and develop from each failure in pursuit of success.

I hope my research can provide a point of reference for the overall discussion on the topic, helping scholars, practitioners and students in our field understand the phenomenon of disruption and, thus, benefit society.

What was your first conclusion when you finished the research?

Disruptive innovation (DI) is a fascinating topic. It is a powerful means of competitive differentiation, enabling business to develop new markets. DI undoubtedly pushes companies to adopt a different business philosophy, to find new ways of doing business through exploring other concepts, other segments of the market and other needs, which all entails a shift in their business mindset. Therefore, the impact of DI cannot be ignored, and it has become a critical concern for both researchers and practitioners. Given that DI is complex and multidimensional in nature. The difficulties providing a concise answer to the question of what a DI is, as well as understanding

the influence of it on incumbents. DI remains an under-researched and under-theorised topic. Further studies are needed to put the role and potential of DI in proper perspective. Therefore, researchers have much to offer in relation to this theory.

How was your experience as a student at the University of Barcelona?

To me, the experience was an enjoyable journey! I perceived an environment with a very high degree of academic freedom, letting me do whatever I found interesting and important related to my research. The students were friendly, the teachers encouraging.

As regards my supervisor and advisor, Jaume and I worked very well together on all aspects of this thesis, bouncing ideas and rounds of writing back and forth. The system I saw was one that encourages and trains students to keep on top the literature, attend conferences, and give talks. The University of Barcelona gave me valuable lessons. I am glad I studied at the University of Barcelona.