Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel

The role of Digital Innovation Units for manufacturing companies’ Digital Innovation and Transformation


To meet the challenges of digital transformation and remain competitive in an increasingly volatile business environment, many incumbents are establishing Digital Innovation Units (DIUs). DIUs are dedicated organizational units that use innovative structures and methods that depart from traditional organizational design to foster digital innovation. They work with high degrees of freedom, in interdisciplinary teams, and in a fully exploratory and agile manner. Examples are VW Digital Lab, Lufthansa Innovation Hub or Digital X Lab of the Toyota Tsusho Group. In this research project, we use qualitative methods (case studies) to explore the role of DIUs in digital transformation efforts.

Research Questions:

  • How do Digital Innovation Units contribute to a manufacturing company's digital innovation efforts and thereby to its digital transformation?
  • What are the particularities of DIUs in the manufacturing industry?
  • How do DIUs in a manufacturing company setup develop over time?

Expected Outcomes:

  • Process model of the implementation and evolution of DIUs
  • Conceptualization of the particularities of DIUs in the manufacturing industry
  • Best practices for managers to efficiently implement and optimally leverage a DIU

Research Team:

  • Project Owner:Annalena Lorson
  • Project Collaborators from Academia
    • Hasso Plattner Institute: Danielly de Paula, Thomas Haskamp, Selina Mayer
    • University of St Gallen (HSG): Christian Dremel
  • Project Collaborators from Practice: 
    • Burckhardt Compression Holding AG
    • Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG
    • Knauf KG
    • Körber AG
    • OC Oerlikon AG
    • Voith Group (GmbH & Co. KGaA)
    • GEA Group AG

Project Period:



Digital unit leaders and executives from pre-digital companies in the manufacturing industry.

Related Publications:

Lorson, A., Dremel, C., de Paula, D., & Uebernickel, F. (2022). Beyond the Fast Lane Narrative – A Temporal Perspective in the Unfolding of Digital Innovation in Digital Innovation Units. Proceedings of the Thirtieth European Conference on Information Systems, Timișoara, Romania.

Lorson, A., Dremel, C., & Uebernickel, F. (2022). Evolution of Digital Innovation Units for Digital Transformation – The Convergence of Motors of Change. Proceedings of the Forty-Third International Conference on Information Systems, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lorson, A., Dremel, C., & Uebernickel, F. (2023). Building Adaptive Capacity for Volatile Business Environments: A Longitudinal Study of the Establishment of a Digital Innovation Unit. Proceedings of the Thirty-First European Conference on Information Systems, Kristiansand, Norway.

Lorson, A. (2022). Building Dynamic Capabilities through Digital Innovation Units? - An analysis of their contribution and the spill-over effects to the main organization. Proceeding of the Twenty-Eighth Americas Conference on Information Systems, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.