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As a pilot project in Professor Zerfaß's new research field "Business Models for Communications," the utility of business models for communications departments is being examined using the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as an example. In a multi-stage process, the "Fraunhofer Communications Compass" will analyze the business models of the communications units in the 75 institutes and research facilities as well as the central communication department at Fraunhofer's headquarter in Munich. The aim is to identify typical business models for communication in a competitive environment and to identify best practices for individual characteristics.

From an applied perspective, new opportunities will be created for the already intensively practiced exchange of experience as well as strategic collaboration within the Fraunhofer communication community, which comprises more than 450 communicators at over 100 locations. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the world's leading organization for application-oriented research. With its focus on future-relevant key technologies and on the exploitation of the results in business and industry, it plays a central role in the innovation process. In currently 75 institutes and research facilities, around 29,000 employees generate an annual research volume of 2.8 billion euros. 

From a scientific perspective, the innovation project, which involves Leipzig University and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as well as the management consultancy Lautenbach Sass from Frankfurt am Main, offers the opportunity to validate a theoretical construct, the "Leipzig Business Model Architecture for Communications", and the empirical instruments based on it.

A business model for a communication unit describes the basic principle of how and with what resources such a unit operates, what services it provides, how it creates value for an organization, and how this value creation is captured (Zerfaß et al., 2021). Building on previous research into communication management, value creation and business models, the "Leipzig Business Model Architecture for Communications" has been developed, which can be used to analyze and further develop communication departments. Parallel to the innovation project with Fraunhofer, a concept for teaching this approach in international executive education was developed by Professor Zerfass for RSM Rotterdam School of Management - Erasmus University. The findings will be incorporated into graduate courses at Leipzig University from winter 2021. Further research projects are also being planned.