Technical University of Munich: 20 years of the TUM School of Management

Tech-savvy business experts can help companies to get ahead. That insight inspired the launch in 2002 of the TUM School of Management, which combines expertise in management sciences with technological knowhow. What was a first among German universities 20 years ago is now seen as a sure road to success.

The TUM School of Management is Germany’s youngest business school – and is among the most innovative. “When we established the TUM School of Management 20 years ago, we placed ourselves on a unique footing,” says Prof. Thomas F. Hofmann, the president of TUM. “We were driven by the insight that, along with specialized training in business administration, successful managers need entrepreneurial skills and a strong background in technology, including a solid knowledge of science and engineering.”

When arriving at valuations, for instance, it is vital to have an adequate knowledge of the technologies involved. “To assess energy storage technologies in economic terms, I should be familiar with the technological aspects of energy storage, too,” says Prof. Gunther Friedl, the dean of the TUM School of Management. “Another very topical example: as a manager preparing to roll out a new covid vaccine, I need to understand the properties of the vaccine as well as such aspects as how to set up a cold chain.” And for the digitalization of companies it is also indispensable for the people in charge to make well-informed decisions on the basis of data, he adds.

“By moving away from the generalized view of business management in times of technological transformation and by focusing on what businesses are actually dealing with, the TUM School of Management supports our university’s overarching goal of bringing about sustainable and innovative progress for people, nature and society,” says TUM president Hofmann.

Acquiring technical expertise during studies
All degree courses offered at the TUM School of Management target the interfaces between fields of study: For example, students in the Management & Technology bachelor’s program study a science or engineering subject along with their business courses. These might include chemistry, electrical and computer engineering, informatics or mechanical engineering. This approach has proved highly appealing: Today, 20 years after its establishment, the school has more than 6000 students. “Our master’s programs in particular attract applicants in droves,” says dean Friedl. “We now have more master’s students than any other German business school.”

The courage to shift boundaries
What is now a success story took a lot of courage 20 years ago: “Economists outside TUM and colleagues in other departments were not initially convinced by this idea,” says Prof. Friedl. “What’s more, we already had a strong business department in Munich.” However, the TUM School of Management benefited from the support of other TUM departments. Bringing together the economic sciences chairs previously assigned to other departments in a single department ultimately formed the seed that generated the enormous growth of the TUM School of Management. Today several TUM School of Management professors are secondary members of other schools – and vice versa: “We have professors from the fields of informatics, life sciences, sustainability and bioeconomics, sport and health sciences and classical engineering departments as secondary members of our school. These interdisciplinary relationships are also reflected in our research,” says Prof. Friedl – himself a physicist with a doctorate in business administration, and thus familiar with the worlds of natural sciences and economics.

Contact with major and minor players
However, students at the TUM School of Management do not learn only from their professors. On occasion, seminars are led by top executives such as Oliver Zipse of BMW and Carsten Spohr of Lufthansa. “These are unique opportunities for our students,” says Friedl. “Companies send their best people to show our students how an entrepreneurial mindset is applied in businesses at the interface with technology. Our research also benefits from our collaboration with major corporations, which gives us the chance to look at real-world scenarios.”

The school takes a strong interest in less established companies, too: researchers at the TUM Entrepreneurship Research Institute study the factors behind successful start-ups. The results are incorporated directly into the teaching programs and TUM’s start-up initiatives. With the institute sharing a building with the TUM Start-up Incubator, this can also take place in the form of personal contact. Many graduates of the TUM School of Management have launched successful high-tech start-ups.

From the School to the wide world
“We’re very proud of our graduates,” says Friedl. “Many of them have risen to prominence. Academic training at the TUM School of Management has produced around 40 professors now working in 20 countries around the world.” A key factor behind this international success was the transition to English as a teaching language, in particular in the bachelor’s programs. That decision helped the TUM School of Management achieve Triple Crown accreditation in 2017 – an international seal of approval for business schools.

“I am very proud of the development of the TUM School of Management into one of Germany’s most successful business schools,” says TUM president Hofmann. “Without it, TUM would not be where it is today – quite literally. Having opened our Heilbronn campus in 2018 with the support of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation, we have established a bridgehead into the core region of Germany’s traditional midsized enterprises.” The dean adds: “The ability to study the digitalization of family-operated enterprises in collaboration with local actors is a valuable opportunity for our school.” Asked about the direction of the TUM School of Management in the coming years, he says: “In the future we plan to align our key research fields more closely with sustainability issues and place greater emphasis on the Sustainable Development Goals.”

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