A new resource, launched at the Global Compact LEAD Symposium in Madrid on November 19th, provides an overview of different kinds of mutually beneficial partnerships taking place between businesses and business schools with the aim to further sustainability strategies. To support this, a number of posts focused on these types of partnerships will be featured in more depth on Primetime over the upcoming months.
Currently in its third edition, the Nestle/Nova Best Paper Award is a partnership between Nestle and Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal. This programme allows students to develop their final Master’s thesis around the area of marketing, specifically children consumer behavior. I spoke with Luisa Agante who is responsible for the partnership about the impact it has had on the school and the company.
What is the Nestle/Nova Best Paper Award?
The Nestle/Nova Best Paper Award is a field lab where students learn to develop top class research on children consumer behaviour and prepare a paper to submit to an international journal. All students present their papers at Nestle to a jury of representatives from marketing, communication, PR and market research, and the best paper (based on the grade obtained with the master thesis) is awarded an internship at Nestle.
How and why did it come about?
The partnership was born from the relationship that already existed between myself and Nestle since we had already worked together on Nestle’s social responsibility programme Media Smart (advertising literacy for children). I made a proposal to them, which was accepted.
We started the award in 2009 with six students and tried out two models: consulting project vs. research paper. We obtained the best results with the research paper format because the students that were attracted to this kind of project were also the ones who had the best fit with the company. Since that first year we have been refining the topics proposed to the students and also the operational part. The presentation at Nestle was introduced in 2012 and the integration of the award in the graduation ceremony was held in January 2015.
How engaged is Nestle in the partnership?
Nestle is fully engaged. We agree on the general guidelines and also on the proposed broad topics but they don’t interfere during the semester so that we can develop independent research. Students choose their specific topic with me, and Nestle accepts all topics (even in categories like clothes, not related to their industry).
What have been some of the challenges?
The biggest challenge has been to maintain students interested in this type of thesis. The university has been offering several options that are more applied research such as consulting projects and internships, and students tend to go to those projects for fear of missing opportunities, or risking to be unemployed after graduating.
The award has been a success on many levels:
- All students grow a lot during the semester and have a chance to know themselves better and to test their skills since they are conducting the research on their own. Despite the weekly meetings with me most is spend doing the research independently (most assignments in courses are group assignments).
- So far over 66 thesis have been developed through this award and presented to Nestle
- Some of the thesis reached high standards that enable them to be accepted in international conferences (7) or in international journals (9) and several are currently going through the submission process.
Some of the topics of the papers have included;
- To what extent can a segmented packaging make children choose healthier breakfast cereals
- The effects of floor advertising directed to children in a food retail environment
- Encouraging children to eat more healthily: The influence of packaging
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place with a business partner?
The most important things is to have the connection with a company that understands and values the analytical skills of students, and also to have a common research area that the company values. It is important to have a dedicated teacher whose research area is sufficiently mature to supervise all the thesis and to manage the Award. I provide students two workshops specifically on the topic of the award so that they have all the background to choose a topic and to know how to conduct specific research in this area. The first workshop is on Children Consumer Behaviour and the second is on Doing Research with Children. Each workshop is about two hours. All students have thirty minute weekly meetings with me and the thesis is developed in one semester. Students support all the costs to develop the thesis – photocopies of the questionnaires, development of the research tools, etc.
What is next for the Nestle/NOVA Best Paper Award?
We expect to finish the ongoing projects during the current academic year and plan to continue with the partnership.