PhD defence of Erwin van Tuijl on Thursday 4 June 2015

On Thursday 4 June 2015 Erwin van Tuijl will defend his PhD thesis entitled 'Upgrading across Organisational and Geographical Configurations Analysis of the Chinese automotive industry'. Supervisor is Emeritus Professor Leo de Haan (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and co-supervisor is Dr. Koen Dittrich (Rotterdam School of Management - Erasmus University Rotterdam). Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Professor Meine Pieter van Dijk (International Institute of Social Studies), Professor Rob van Tulder (Rotterdam School of Management - Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Professor Jan van den Borg (KU Leuven & Ca' Foscari University of Venice).

Time and location

The PhD defence will take place in the Senate Hall of Erasmus University Rotterdam and will start at 13.30 hrs.

About Erwin van Tuijl

Erwin van Tuijl was born on 4 December 1982 in Rotterdam. He grew up in Krimpen aan den IJssel and later in Lekkerkerk. After finishing his athenaeum, he did his master Urban, Port and Transport Economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. It is here where he started his academic life as a PhD student. Currently, he works as a researcher and lecturer at Regional, Port and Transport Economics (RHV) and the European Institute of Comparative Urban Research (Euricur), Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He has been involved in various international studies in Western- and Eastern-Europe, Latin America and Asia, on topics such as ‘the role of manufacturing in the new urban economy’, ‘design in the urban knowledge economy’, ‘anchoring events in the urban economy’, ‘energy transitions in cities’ and ‘urban agriculture in the knowledge economy’. His main research interests are in the fields of regional economics and economic geography, and include the geography of value chains and regional development, knowledge economy, innovation strategies of firms, upgrading, and manufacturing. His work has been internationally published in among others two books of the Routledge series ‘Cities and Regions’ and in journals such as ‘European Planning Studies’, ‘Journal of Business Strategy’ and ‘Environment and Planning A’. 

Abstract of 'Upgrading across Organisational and Geographical Configurations Analysis of the Chinese automotive industry'

This thesis deals with upgrading: a process of learning and knowledge sourcing in order to generate value added. We analyse how upgrading takes place across various organisational configurations: formal collaboration, clusters, projects, and events. Moreover, we investigate the process of upgrading within, as well as between, different spatial scales, and analyse the role of different actors, upgrading mechanisms, and the symbolic and synthetic knowledge bases. We study the upgrading process in a number of empirical case studies of the Chinese automotive industry.

We find that in addition to upgrading in formal collaboration – through joint-ventures in particular – upgrading also takes place in other organisational configurations. We unveil that clusters and events are of particular importance for upgrading via ‘monitoring’ and ‘buzz’. Hereby, we stress the critical role of event organisers as ‘temporary cluster managers’, acting as a bridge between the global and Chinese automotive industry. We also show the importance of the project configuration which crosses over other organisational configurations, and upgrading in projects takes place via nearly all upgrading mechanisms. In addition, we provide new empirical evidence for the importance of physical co-presence of different specialists in the automotive industry on the (temporary) local scale to enable non-verbal communication, while on the other hand, we demonstrate that upgrading of the synthetic and symbolic knowledge bases has a global dimension as well. 

More information

Van Tuijl’s PhD research project is conducted within the Erasmus Doctoral Programme organized by Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), the joint research institute of Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) and Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).

For more information about this ceremony, please contact Ronald de Groot, Communication Officer of the Erasmus School of Economics phone +31 10 408 1762 or by e-mail: