(ST. JOHN’S, NL: Feb. 13, 2014) The business faculty at Memorial University has launched a research series to bring members of the business community together with faculty researchers in areas of relevance to local entrepreneurs.

Dr. Ginger Ke, Dr. Mary Furey and PhD candidate Ghazal Assadipour each gave presentations about their research into aspects of the transportation of hazardous materials, virtual decision-making and supply chain management during Engaging Ideas: Transporting Research into Practice on Feb. 13.

“The purpose of this event was to bring together faculty members who are doing research that is relevant to the business community with those in the business community who have an interest or stake in these areas of research,” said Dr. Kara Arnold, associate dean of research at the Faculty of Business Administration.

“It also helps to start a conversation between the business faculty and the local business community and lets us show the business community how our research may be applied to their circumstances. It also hopefully encourages them to come to us when they have questions or challenges that need solving.”

Dr. Furey, assistant professor of information systems, spoke about her case study that analyzed decision-making processes during the Ocean Ranger oil rig disaster in 1982. Her analysis of this disaster and the lessons learned helped her to develop a decision-making model for employees in high-risk environments as well as crisis responders, which is relevant to the oil and gas industry and other high-risk environments.

Dr. Ke is an assistant professor of operations management. She gave two presentations: Shall We Dance? looked at co-ordinating supply chains using discounts and helping suppliers and carriers make pricing and discount decisions. Are We There Yet? explored an adaptive decision support system that evaluates the flexibility of transportation systems involved in the transportation of hazardous materials. The aim of the study is to increase the responsiveness of the transportation system to unexpected events.

Ms. Assadipour is a fourth-year student in the business faculty’s PhD in management program whose research focuses on the transportation of hazardous goods, particularly the challenge of capacity planning and routing regular and hazardous goods in a rail-truck intermodal network when the demand for transportation is uncertain and congestion may arise at the intermodal terminals.

“These areas of research are very current,” said Dr. Arnold. “You just have to look at the news to see lots of examples of disasters related to transporting hazardous goods, as well as crises happening in virtual environments and decisions being made that have life and death consequences.

“These are the types of challenges that academics can help industries to address, and engaging with the business community in ways such as through this event ensures that our research remains focused on areas that are highly relevant.”

Jim Roche, manager, special projects and commercial customer relations at Marine Atlantic Inc., says the research presented has relevance for the ferry service.

“The issue of logistics and in particular, those surrounding the transportation of hazardous material, is something we deal with every day,” he said. “As the only marine transportation provider for most of these products to and from the island, it’s always a challenge for us to balance the needs of industry and those of the entire island population when it comes to providing a cost efficient, effective and safe maritime link with mainland Canada.

“The information presented was very informative and a confirmation for us that we must continue to evaluate, adjust and improve how we deal with the ever changing world of hazardous materials on our vessels.”

Leanne Kelly, program co-ordinator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network, attended the event to learn about ideas and technologies that business researchers are undertaking that might be turned into or assist with business startups.

She likes the idea of increased engagement between the business faculty and industry.

“I think getting businesses to attend is great as they come with the hands-on experience with the issues and can provide some practical insight for the researchers that the researchers may not have thought of in their research and analysis,” she said. “They can also suggest other topics and issues that they are facing that researchers could consider for future study.”

The Faculty of Business Administration plans to hold similar events in the future on topics such as organizational and employee well-being, health and safety, innovation and social entrepreneurship and information systems and data management.

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