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Mapping corporate Europe: corporate changes in the
context of institutional transitions

Contact Bocconi University for this project

Andrea Colli
Associate Professor
Department of Institutional Analysis and Public Management
Bocconi University
Via Sarfatti 25, 20136 Milan, Italy

Bocconi University

The treaty of Rome was signed in 1957 and the perhaps most important global integration project is now at its 50th anniversary. Our research network- at the moment composed by three core members (Bocconi, Copenhagen Business School and University of Central Lancashire), plus a number of other participants among which Lisboa Technical University and Frankfurt University - aims to investigate the impact of European political-economic integration on business strategies, structures, ownership and performance (SSOP).

We address three interrelated research questions which mirror the progression of the network activities - from the explorative via the comparative towards the analytical perspective:
- The explorative phase: How did the corporate strategies, the organizational structures, the ownership regimes and the performance develop in the South European region (Italy, Portugal and Spain), the West European region (France, The Netherlands and United Kingdom) and the North European region (Denmark, Finland and Norway) among the 50 largest corporations in eight benchmark years from 1957 to 2007?
- The comparative phase: Is it possible to identify any patterns of divergence or convergence in terms of business strategies, organisational structures, ownership regimes and performance between the largest European corporations within and between these regions?
- The analytical phase: When and why did this possible divergence or convergence take place? Which role did the national and international institutional frameworks play in relation to corporate changes and in which periods was convergence/divergence particularly strong?

The subtitle of the network Corporate changes in the context of institutional transitions mirrors the two fundamental theoretical foundations behind the research questions of the network:
1. The business historical school of corporate SSOP studies
2. The political-economical approach of institutionalism

Relevance to future of European societies
The relevance of the network is firmly related to suggestions for further research both from the institutional research tradition and the SSOP business historical studies. In a very recent text Fligstein pointed to the need for more knowledge on the content and development of corporate Europe.

Indeed, as trade barriers decrease and transportation and communications costs decrease, firms would feel less compelled to relocate facilities to other societies. To figure out what large European corporations are doing, it would be useful to have data on their activities as they change over time. Unfortunately, data of this sort just does not exist. So, instead, we will rely on available data and try and examine more indirect evidence to ascertain if changes are occurring over time.

This research exactly aims to unveil the data on corporate change of large European enterprises, as suggested by Fligstein. In 2000 Whittington and Mayer also pointed at specific weaknesses on their studies and in coherence with these weaknesses we attempt to add three dimensions to the traditional SSOP analysis:
1. We will extent the SSOP analysis chronologically by adding 1997 and 2003 as new benchmark years and thus unveil the important corporate changes which have taken place in Europe after 1993.
2. We will extent the SSOP analysis geographically by supplementing the three large West European economies Great Britain, Germany and France with analysis of corporations from a number of small and medium sized countries from the North, South and West European regions.
3. Finally will extent the analysis academically by supplementing the manufacturing enterprises which the Harvard Programme and Whittington and Mayer focused at with all non-financial corporations and by adding the new conceptual dimension, level of internationalization.
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