Jasper Brinkerink is our Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, having recently joined us here in the Business School after a research career spanning Italy and the Netherlands. Here he talks to us about how he is enjoying the creative outlet that his new teaching role brings him, and which beloved items he’d take with him if stranded on a desert island.
Headshot photograph of Jasper Brinkerink

Can you give a brief summary of your career to date, and the journey that brought you here to us at the University of Edinburgh Business School?

Sure! To be honest, before starting my undergrad in international business, I did not know there was such a thing as a scientific career option in business studies. Economics, sure, but I thought to myself: ‘business research, isn’t that a super applied discipline?’ I found myself intrigued by the intellectual depth in (some, not all) the discussions on business and entrepreneurship, and their role in society. So, while most of my fellow students couldn’t wait to start their careers in industry, I was increasingly convinced my future would be in the more academic side of the business discipline.

To that end, I took on an MSc degree in Business Research Methods, followed by a PhD at Maastricht University, in the south of my home country. I conducted research on family businesses, and the decision processes that drive their innovation strategies. My active involvement in that field opened up a nice postdoctoral opportunity to continue this line of research in a dedicated family business research centre at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, right in the middle of the Italian Alps. There I got to work with some of the current and future thought-leaders in this area.

After working mostly on my research for a few years however, I felt a strong need to incorporate other responsibilities in my job that would force me to step out of my comfort zone a bit, and thereby perhaps allow me to grow as not only a creator, but also a teacher and disseminator of innovative knowledge. So when at the end of 2021 I saw an advertisement for a Lecturer position in beautiful Edinburgh I did not have to think long before sending out my application package.

If you had to give your ‘elevator pitch’ and explain in layman terms what your research focuses on, how would you answer?

Actually, one of the great thing of being part of the family business research community is that it’s really easy to explain to my grandma what I’m working on! Effectively, most of my work looks at how the non-economic priorities of family business owners shape their entrepreneurial decision making. For example, how do family business owners who are very attached to the technology they have perfected over many generations frame and interact with potentially disruptive solutions entering their market?

With regard to your work, is there anything exciting in the pipelines that you are working on?

Together with colleagues from Italy, Switzerland and Sweden we’re working on a cool project in which we look at the consequences of offspring’s early-career independent entrepreneurship activity for their involvement later in life in their family business. The data we have is quite unique, and we received some great feedback while ‘touring’ the study around a few conferences this summer. I cannot give away much more detail as the study is still in the ‘blind’ review process, but it really gives joy being able to work on such an innovative project with talented colleagues.

What do you enjoy most about your teaching and research? What challenges and excites you across both?

I particularly enjoy the balance these two core activities provide me with. I am happy working in relative silence and solitude on research projects for a substantial chunk of my time, as I guess I am quite introverted by nature. After spending some weeks or even months mostly on research however, I am usually very happy to get back into the classroom and see some fresh faces that I get to share my interests and expertise with.

I have learned quite a bit during my first year lecturing here at UEBS about how to keep students engaged, and how you can quite easily loose them as well. Next year’s students will surely benefit from the trial-and-error-ing I have undertaken in that regard.

One thing I did not anticipate, but that I am also quite pleased with is that my lecturing responsibilities give me much more of an outlet for my creativity and sense of humour than I get in writing typically quite technical and dry academic papers. Reviewers tend to not appreciate irony for some reason…

What do you enjoy most about working at UEBS?

The staff-room coffee and the weather. No, seriously though, what I really appreciate about our School is the diversity of academic backgrounds, methods, and intellectual traditions joined together in the same space. In our Entrepreneurship and Innovation group for example, we have geographers, sociologists, psychologists, and economists, as well as people with a more classical business school background working together. That really provides a lot of potential for cutting-edge knowledge creation.

What advice would you give to your younger self, about to leave home and embark upon further education?

This will sound a bit paradoxical given my interest in the more academic side of business and entrepreneurship, but definitely “think less, do and feel more”. Still applies by the way.

What one book, piece of music and beloved item would you take with you to a Desert Island?

  • Book: I do not have one particular favourite, but of the books I read in recent years I found “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein quite captivating. While at face value a human story narrated by the family dog may seem a bit odd, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Music: If I get to pick only one music piece it would have to be the Miles Davis Quintet’s interpretation of ‘It Never Entered My Mind’. It is hauntingly beautiful, both intensely melancholic and somewhat hopeful at the same time. If I can take an entire album, it would likely be his classic ‘Kind of Blue’ album; everything on that record approaches perfection. If ‘Blue In Green’ or ‘Flamenco Sketches’ doesn’t make the hair on your arms stand up, I’m afraid nothing will.
  • Item: Provided there are some roads or trails on the island, I would like to take my bicycle.

If you could invite anyone over for dinner (past/present) who would it be and why?

I am a strong believer in the ‘never meet your heroes’ idea generally speaking. I however recall watching a documentary on YouTube recently about the ‘real Inglorious Bastards’. It tells the story of three brave Jewish men who were dropped as undercover spies behind enemy lines in Austria towards the end of WWII. One of them got captured, yet never gave up his friends despite being tortured quite badly. He eventually managed to negotiate the surrender of Innsbruck. While the story itself is already fascinating on multiple levels, it was particularly the strong but (in spite of all he had seen and been through) kind and playful personality of this man that blew me away. In times in which I feel we tend to look in the wrong places for our cultural role models, this otherwise quite anonymous man really struck me as someone to aspire to.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I am pretty sure I will retire in Italy eventually, but in terms of bucket-list places still to visit I’m thinking about Patagonia, Canada, or New Zealand. The older I get, the more I need time ‘lost’ in nature to balance a busy work and city life.

UEBS Research - Jasper Brinkerink

Jasper Brinkerink discusses his research into how family businesses sustain their entrepreneurial spirit across generations, highlighting how children of family business owners can demonstrate entrepreneurial capital through early-career startup activities.

Jasper Brinkerink

Jasper Brinkerink

Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation