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IMP Symposium 2016 - Making sense of the interactive business world

Aim and process

Symposium and publication: IMP research - Implications for management, policy and further research


Half a dozen junior researchers with interest in business to business markets met in Uppsala in 1976 to discuss an international research project on International marketing and purchasing of industrial goods (IMP). The meeting and the project that followed became the starting point and first phase in the development of a research tradition that has now gone on for some forty years, have seen involvement of more than 1000 researchers from all continents, resulted in more than two hundred PhD dissertations, dozens of books, hundreds of academic articles and three thousand papers presented at 29 yearly international conferences (the last in Atlanta in 2013).

The IMP research tradition became generally acknowledged as pioneering the concepts of business relationships, business networks and interaction and recognized as highly influential not only in the field of research on marketing and purchasing in business markets (e.g. Vargo & Lusch 2008), but also in research on innovation and economic policy. Over the last two decades there have been several attempts to summarize and to relate different research fields in the IMP research tradition to each other and to position the IMP tradition in the broader field of management research (Håkansson & Snehota 2000; Ford & Håkansson 2005, 2006; Wilkinson 2008; Hakansson, Harrison & Waluszewski 2004; Hakansson, Ford, Gadde, Snehota & Waluszewski 2009). A weakness in the past attempts to sum-up and review the development of the IMP research is that these have been based on initiatives of some few researchers and consequently came short from providing a more systematic overview of the various achievements and the implications for management research and practice.

Given the past record and in particular the richness and variety of the IMP research it is now time to bring together IMP research in order to systematically relate various development paths, to integrate different research streams into more solid blocks, to advance the conceptual development further and, to articulate in a more specific way the implications of the findings for further research and practice. There are reasons to accomplish such a task involving a broader group of researchers that are, or have been, related in different ways to the IMP research influencing the directions in which the IMP research developed and who are also likely to affect the future development. The form in which such a summing–up and elaborating on the achievements and implications can be undertaken requires an organizing process in order to create a collective output for which a large number of influential researchers from the IMP community can be mobilized and activated in order to produce a significant publication(s).

The overall ambition is to:

a) summarize important development paths within the IMP research tradition;

b) integrate the different streams of research in the IMP into more solid blocks;

c) articulate the implications of the IMP research for other research fields and practice of management and economic policy;

d) elaborate a base for the future development of the IMP research tradition.

In order to accomplish this we propose to use a combination of three research workshops during 2015 in order to prepare an integrative Symposium in 2016. The three workshops should deal with a number of original papers on designated topics and the Symposium will result in a monograph in form of a selected collection of well-developed original research papers on topics where the IMP research has had particular impact. However, as outlined below the monograph is not the only publication that is planned and other complementary publications should result from the process.

The organizing process will unfold in three steps:

1. The first step is the constitution of an ‘advisory board’ (reference group) that will develop and articulate the basic themes of the Symposium, monograph and the workshops and will support organizing of the activities leading to the Symposium and the final publication (invitations, reviewing etc.).

2. Organizing and carrying out three Workshops in 2015 where researchers are to present original research papers on three topics, namely (a) managerial, (b) policy and (c) research implications of the IMP research;

3. Arranging the Symposium in May 2016 in Uppsala where the three themes will be integrated and preparing the related volume for publication.

Step 1: Constituting the Advisory Board - Defining the themes

In the first step the basic themes for the symposium and the ensuing publication have to be formulated. A set of researchers with varied backgrounds in experience, country origin and gender need to be enlisted to act as ‘advisory board’ of the project. This board will be engaged in formulating the three themes indicated in the title of the Symposium – IMP research and its implications in three different areas - research development, management and policy. The advisory board has been constituted in the fall of 2013 and consists of thirteen researchers that include two project leaders:

Project leaders:

Prof Hakan Hakansson, Uppsala university and BI Norwegian Business School;

Prof Ivan Snehota, USI - University of Lugano;

Advisory board members:

Prof David Ford, Euromed Marseille;

Prof Lars-Erik Gadde, Chalmers University of Technology;

Dr Thomas Hoholm, BI Norwegian Business School;

Dr Malena Ingemansson, Uppsala University;

Dr Antonella La Rocca, USI – University of Lugano;

Prof Peter Naude, Manchester Business School;

Dr Catherine Sutton-Brady, University of Sydney;

Dr Zsuzsanna Szalkai, Budapest University of Technology and Economics;

Prof Annalisa Tunisini, Catholic University of Milan;

Prof Alexandra Waluszewski, Uppsala University;

Prof Judy Zolkiewski, Manchester Business School;

Six of the researchers represent senior members with a very solid experience of the development while five represent younger members of the IMP - community and thereby also the contemporary development and future expectations. All have been involved in organizing IMP conferences or IMP Journal Seminars. In all the Advisory Board consists of 6 men and 7 females representing in total 8 countries.

Step 2: Organizing and carrying out the Workshops

Research in the IMP tradition has provided a ‘network perspective’ that turned out to be fruitful not only for developing effective conceptual frameworks for analysis of industrial marketing and purchasing issues but also for advancing the development of conceptual frameworks in other fields such as innovation and economic policy. At the same time the empirical research carried out in the IMP research tradition and the main findings have some significant methodological implications. In various occasions it has been pointed out (Hakansson et al. 2009) that the IMP research has implications beyond the original field of marketing and purchasing. Findings and conceptual development resulting from the IMP research appears to have had implications in particular in three areas: management practice, economic policy, and research and theory development.

Therefore, the second step involves organizing in 2015 three workshops on implications of the IMP research in three areas: management practice, economic policy, and further theory development and research which constitute respective themes for the three workshops. More detailed formulation of the three themes will be elaborated together with the advisory board in respective Calls for papers.

Researchers belonging to the broad IMP community will be invited to submit papers on the three topics. Each workshop is expected to consist of maximum 20-25 papers selected and reviewed by the advisory board and an appointed group of reviewers. The ambition is to obtain from each workshop 10-12 papers for the final symposium and publication. The location for each of the seminars is still not finally determined but Uppsala, Lugano and Manchester are suitable places where the workshops can be held.

a) Theme 1: IMP research – Managing in an interactive business world, Spring 2015,

b) Theme 2: IMP research – Policy making in an interactive business world, Summer 2015,

c) Theme 3: IMP research – Theories and methods in an interactive business world, Fall 2015,

The advisory board members will act both as a selection panel and for identification of discussants of the presented papers. All papers will go through a review process before being discussed at the workshop. A ‘workshop panel’ consisting of some advisory board members and other invited selected researchers will be constituted for each workshop. After the selection of the final papers which will be based on quality but also will consider the complementarities in topics – the aim is to cover each topic in a comprehensive way, we will constitute a ‘small’ review team that will be involved in the final development of each selected paper. The papers not selected for the symposium will be invited for publication in one (or several) special issues of the IMP Journal.

Step 3: 2016 Symposium - aims and publication

The final event is planned to take place as a Symposium in spring 2016 in Uppsala. The symposium is planned to take place at Uppsala University (in collaboration with the Centre for Science, Technology and Society) in May 2016. The Symposium should bring together 50-60 researchers who have been related to the development of IMP research in different ways; and to produce a collective volume of approximately 30 well developed papers on the three workshop topics. Participants will be identified and invited based on the earlier presented papers during the workshops.

Final revision and editing of the papers will be undertaken after the Symposium with the aim to relate these systematically to each other and to reflect the “patterns” that emerged in developing the symposium. It is expected that this can be done rather fast so that the final publication can be completed within the same year.


Ford, D., Håkansson, H., 2005, IMP – Some things achieved: Much more to do. European Journal of Marketing

Ford, D., Håkansson, H., 2006, The idea of interaction. IMP Journal, Vol 1, No 1, pp 4-27

Håkansson, H., Ford, D., Gadde, L-E., Snehota, I., Waluszewski, A., 2009, Business in Networks, London and New York: Wiley

Håkansson, H., Harrison, D., Waluszewski, A., eds. 2004, Rethinking Marketing. Chichester: Wiley

Håkansson, H., Snehota, I., 2000, The IMP Perspective: Assets and Liabilities of Business relationships in Sheth, J.N., Parvatiyar, A., (eds) Handbook of Relationship Marketing, pp 69-94, Thousands Oak: Sage

Vargo, S., Lusch, R., 2008, From goods to service(s): Divergences and convergences of logics, Industrial Marketing Management Volume 37, Issue 3, Pages 245-350 (May 2008)

Wilkinson, I., 2008, Business Relating Business, Managing Organizational Relations and Networks, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar .