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Hidden Champions als zentrales Element der Stabilisierung ländlicher Regionen in Zeiten der Digitalisierung

Research Focus on Digitization

Research projects

Hidden Champions as a central element for the stabilization of rural areas in times of digitalization

Leaders:  Prof. Dr. Ingo Liefner (LUH), Prof. Dr. Stefan Hennemann (JLU Gießen)
Team:  Carsten Rietmann (LUH), Lisa Zirbes (JLU Gießen)
Year:  2020
Sponsors:  Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) / Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
Lifespan:  2020 - 2023

The Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography is part of the multi-annual and interdisciplinary research program "Rural areas in the times of digitalization" in the context of a federal framework on rural development (BULE). The program is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). In a research collaboration with Giessen University, the project „Hidden Champions as a central element for the stabilization of rural areas in times of digitalization“ will be carried out. It aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the advances and contributions of hidden champions as medium-sized, export-oriented world market leaders in the context of digitalization and the currently constituting instabilities of rural areas.

Numerous rural areas in Germany are experiencing challenging socio-economic circumstances. Digitalization is an additional influencing factor with a broad and diverse effect on these regions. Further, it is substantially changing the context and conditions of these locally embedded firms. In particular, the digital transformation process is systematically pursued and driven by internationally competing so-called hidden champions – global market leaders who do not receive much public attention. Interestingly, hidden champions are disproportionately often found outside of agglomeration centers and are frequently located in rural areas.

These firms also represent a central starting point for a newly designed support policy for rural areas: There, supra-regionally oriented manufacturing companies make important contributions to the stabilization and dynamic development of the region - e.g. in terms of employment and qualification, tax revenues, identification, and self-image. This function is particularly pronounced in the case of these hidden champions.

Considering this context, the research project aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the achievements and contributions of hidden champions in the context of digitalization and the currently constituting instabilities of rural areas. It has three research objectives:

  1. Understand how hidden champions in rural areas make strategic use of digitalization and how this affects the company's internal location requirements.
  2. Analyze how the interrelationships between firms and the region change as a result.
  3. Derive which measures can be implemented in policy to realize the changed strategies of these enterprises and how the regions can adapt to changing demands from companies.

Publications

  • Rietmann, C. (2021): Hidden Champions and their integration in rural regional innovation systems: Insights from Germany. Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie. DOI: 10.1515/zfw-2021-0024
  • Rietmann, C. (2021): Digital pioneers in the periphery? Toward a typology of rural Hidden Champions in times of digitalization. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship. DOI: 10.1080/08276331.2021.1979909
  • Zirbes, L.; Rietmann, C. (2021): Hidden Champions als zentrales Element der Stabilisierung ländlicher Regionen in Zeiten der Digitalisierung. Vorstellung eines Bundesforschungsvorhabens. HAL-Mitteilungen 60, 19-22.

Presentations to Scientific Audiences

  • Rietmann, C.: Hidden Champions and their integration in rural regional innovation systems: Insights from Germany. Regions in Recovery Global E-Festival. 11.06.2021.