Interview with Judge Business School Dean Christoph Loch

Cambridge Judge Business School dean Christoph Loch

It’s been about three years since Christoph Loch took over as director at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School; three years since proclaiming that his goal was to transform the institution into a research-based organization focused on the high-tech startups in and around Cambridge.

That goal is still a work in progress, but much headway has been made. In a wide-ranging interview at his University of Cambridge office, Loch described the changes he’s made in the areas of research, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and more, as well as his plans for a new business school building and ongoing changes that take advantage of the Judge Business School’s home amid the unique academic assets of a storied 800-year-old university.

Breaking down silos between Cambridge Judge and the University of Cambridge

One of Loch’s big priorities is breaking down the silos between disciplines at Judge Business school and between the business school and the rest of the university.

Achieving that goal requires hiring a different kind of faculty and institutionalizing collaboration with other parts of the university. He’s achieved considerable success on the latter in the Judge executive education program, where faculty from various disciplines throughout the university, including architecture and engineering, have stepped up to teach courses. In the full-time MBA program, which requires a much bigger investment in faculty time, several courses have attracted professors from outside the business school, including an ethics course taught by a professor in the philosophy department.

Loch, who came to the University of Cambridge from INSEAD, a standalone business school with campuses in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi that churns out 1,000 MBAs a year, is a recent convert to the benefits of that kind of collaboration. He believes it can go a long way toward solving the world’s most pressing problems. One of his top priorities right now is sustainability, which he views as both one of the biggest business challenges and biggest opportunities of our time.

“I believe it will become the management challenge of the 21st Century,” Loch says. “Companies will have to learn to take into account the impact they have on society and the world.”

Putting Cambridge Judge’s money where his mouth is

Loch is putting Judge Business School’s money where his mouth is.  For each of the last two years, Judge has put £200,000 into Accelerate Cambridge, a business incubator started in May 2012 that has already helped launch 50 startups including six that have collectively raised more than £3 million in seed money. Unlike many business schools, Judge does not take an ownership stake in the startups it helps launch, preferring instead to rely on successful companies to “pay it forward” and give back voluntarily. Through the Centre for Social Innovation, Judge has also helped support a University of Cambridge-based program called Social Incubator East, which will incubate 50 social enterprises over the next two years, including a company that helps create successful job share partnerships and an enterprise that aims to secure DNA data that can help diagnose and treat genetic diseases.

The money is no small thing for Judge, which is in the middle of a capital campaign to finance construction of a new business school building. Loch says he hopes construction can begin in late 2015, with the new building opening in 2017. But so far the school has only about 30% of the money it needs – courtesy of the Monument Trust, established by the late British businessman Simon Sainsbury, the same organization whose 1991 founding gift helped establish Judge. Some of the remaining 70% will come from Judge funds, but additional donors are needed.

“Philanthropy plays a crucial role,” Loch says. “We have a donor for part of this, but we are desperately looking for more donors.”

Cambridge Judge Business School bursting at the seams

Judge, as its web site says, is “bursting at the seams,” with 30% of degree program lectures and 65% of executive education courses taking place in other locations throughout Cambridge. A third of Judge’s 60 faculty, as well as 30 staff members, have offices in buildings not located on the business school campus. Phase one of the expansion, which will cost £34 million, will allow Judge to bring those activities under one roof.

Loch has no plans to expand enrollment in Judge’s full-time MBA program, which now has 145 students. But he says he’d like to grow its executive education program, which now generates about £12 million a year, by 50% in five years, and the new building will help him do that.

But clearly one of Loch’s top priorities right now is research, and the focus of that research is Silicon Fen, the cluster of over 1,600 high-tech companies in and around Cambridge. That means supporting faculty research through the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning into entrepreneurial “clusters” like Cambridge and what makes them develop. But it also means sending MBA students out to consult with startups in the area as part of a team project at the end of the first term.

“We want to be a research-based institution working on solving real problems out in the real world,” he says. “What we’re doing in entrepreneurship is an example of how we’re doing that.”

In his first blog post since taking over at Judge, Loch described what he hoped to accomplish as an “evolution…rather than a revolution.” But as any good history professor will tell you, revolutions don’t always announce themselves with guns blazing. The changes at Judge, by quietly mapping the innovation genome in its own backyard and immersing MBA students deeply in it, might turn out to be so!

Written by Louis Lavelle

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