Harvard Business School Plans Research Center in Istanbul

In addition to seven current research centers scattered around the world, Harvard Business School is on track to open a new research center in Istanbul in early 2013, Dean Nitin Nohria said in an interview with The Crimson last week.

These centers are not campuses, Nohria said, but rather leanly staffed offices designed to assist Business School faculty in writing cases about the global economy. The program began in 1997 with the opening of the California Research Center in Silicon Valley, and has since expanded to Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Paris, Mumbai, and Shanghai.

“The reason that we’re now thinking about Istanbul is that we look at the map of the world and we say, where are we missing?” Nohria said.

“Istanbul was always the gateway between the East and the West if you think about history,” Nohria said. “I think it’s one of the best vantage points from which we might also get connected to the Islamic world.”

The Business School convened a meeting in Istanbul in July 2012 to assess interest and support for the center. Since then, administrators have narrowed down a search for an executive director to two or three candidates, Nohria said.

HBS’ current research centers offer a variety of services for faculty writing cases about a particular region. With a small team of researchers and interpreters, the centers recommend research directions, help faculty members set up interviews, and assist in translation.

“Most business schools think of the global economy as an opportunity for additional revenues,” said Felix Oberholzer-Gee, senior associate dean for international development at HBS. “We think of the research centers much more as a window to the world as opposed to an opportunity to deliver programs.”

Michael S. T. Chen, who directs the Asia-Pacific Research Center, wrote in an email that there are currently six staff members with him in Hong Kong. Victoria W. Winston, executive director of HBS’ Global Initiative, added that each research center’s staffing varies based on the demands of the region.

“The [Asia-Pacific Research Center] has been up and running for almost fifteen years,” Winston wrote in an email. “It would not be our expectation that a new enterprise in Turkey would reach that level of activity for some time.”

In addition to the eight research centers that Harvard Business School will maintain after Istanbul opens, the School also has two international classrooms in Mumbai  and Shanghai that offer executive education programs for business managers. Nohria said that he also sees opportunities for the school to set up research centers in Africa and Southeast Asia in as soon as two or three years.

“I think once we have that [centers in Africa and Southeast Asia], I’d feel confident that we had enough of a real coverage in most of the world,” Nohria said.­

—Staff writer Brian Zhang can be reached at brianzhang@college.harvard.edu.

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