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Peter Curtius Foundation/ Peter Curtius-Stiftung

Peter Curtius Foundation projects at ESMT Berlin
The Peter Curtius-Stiftung (Peter Curtius Foundation) has a long-standing cooperation with ESMT Berlin to grant funding for various projects. The Foundation was created in 1989 by Wolfgang and Marie-Luise Curtius in memory of their son Peter. The focus of the Foundation is to sponsor research and education mainly in the area of organizational behavior and leadership.

Since 2005, the Peter Curtius Foundation has generously supported more than 20 projects with a total funding volume of roughly €400,000. Here is an overview of the current and former Peter Curtius Foundation-Projects at ESMT Berlin:

Peter Curtius Foundation projects at ESMT Berlin

  • Do machine-based prescriptions affect the mental mindset of decision makers?

    Do machine-based prescriptions affect the mental mindset of decision makers? A test of the psychological distance of machine-based prescriptions and its implication on creativity.

    Funding period:  2021-2022
    Researcher:  Martin Schweinsberg (ESMT Berlin), Francis de Véricourt (ESMT Berlin)

    Decision makers increasingly rely on recommendations made by machines. In this project we study how recommendations made by machines might increase the creativity of decision makers by directly influencing their mindsets. We propose a number of experimental studies to test this hypothesis.

  • Risk-taking and breakthrough innovation – evidence from the pharmaceutical industry

    Risk-taking and breakthrough innovation – evidence from the pharmaceutical industry

    Funding period:  2021-2023
    Researcher:  Stefan Wagner (ESMT Berlin)

    Grand challenges such as climate change or Covid-19 are a reminder that sustainable solutions are often grounded in entirely new technological approaches. The needed breakthrough innovations are often the result of high-risk research projects. Yet, a growing number of observers has become concerned about firms pursuing low-risk projects at a suboptimal high rate. Despite the increasing efforts to stimulate risk-taking by funding agencies and policy makers, there is little empirical evidence on the determinants of corporate risk-taking in research. I seek to provide some first insights into the mechanisms underpinning risk-taking behavior to allow for better mechanisms that incentivize risk-taking in research. In this project, I focus on pharmaceutical research and employ machine learning approaches to develop new measures of scientific risk that allow me to empirically study which factors affect risk-taking in corporate research. The findings have implications for corporate management of research projects that have the potential to lead to better, yet profitable, solutions for a sustainable future of our planet.

  • Artificial intelligence, idea evaluation and social relationships in innovation management

    Artificial intelligence, idea evaluation and social relationships in innovation management

    Funding period: 2019-2020
    Researcher: Linus Dahlander (ESMT Berlin)

    Innovation is the source of competitiveness for large technology-based companies. To succeed in the competitive innovation race companies need to understand how innovative ideas travel through the organization, what facilitate the flow of ideas and how innovation can be done more quickly at a reasonable cost. How companies manage their flow of ideas is thus at the core of this challenge. This project investigates how individuals evaluate ideas proposed for innovation and how artificial intelligence systems affect the managers doing such evaluation.

    The project intends to provide causal evidence on how managers evaluate ideas, and would thus like to conduct field experiments within Ericsson where internal employees generate ideas for innovation and senior managers evaluate them. The field experimental approach has three major advantages that can advance research on innovation where experiments have been rare to date. First, behavior and outcomes are observed in a natural setting rather than an artificial laboratory environment, which enhances external validity. Second, the behavior in well-designed field experiments has consequences ensuring that individuals have real stakes in the decisions they make. Third, randomization of treatment and control status enables causal inference. And causal inference is important to help managers make better decisions. For instance, firemen are not causing fires just because they go to where fires are raging.

    We will randomly assign ideas to senior managers and will ask them to vote on the idea. To analyze the role of social relationships for evaluation outcomes, we will additionally randomize the amount of information available on the employee who proposed the idea. Similarly, we will vary information on whether an AI-system was used to prescreen the ideas before the manager receives it. The experimental design ensures that we can casually explain how social relationships and AI-systems impacts on which ideas managers select.


  • Re-evaluating the role of creativity for ethical decision making

    Re-evaluating the role of creativity for ethical decision making

    Funding period: 2018-2020
    Research team: Urs Müller (ESMT Berlin)

    Creativity and ethics have long been considered to be at odds with each other. Normative ethical theories try to find rules on basis of which right actions can be separated from wrong actions and most of the literature within the field of ethical decision-making deals with identifying the right solution. Along such conceptions, creativity has traditionally been associated with behaviors that try to find moral loopholes such as corner cutting (as e.g. expressed in terms such as “creative bookkeeping”) and rationalization and was thus excluded from business ethics textbooks1 and curricula. However, anecdotal evidence from teaching demonstrates that people seem to limit their set of choices in situations with ethical dimensions to a very low number and are rather uncreative in identifying ethically acceptable alternatives. Using two case studies (Müller and Pandit 2014, Müller 2016) in class, I asked many executive education participants and (E)MBA students for the behavior that they would select when faced with a similar situation. Most of them chose one of two seemingly obvious (binary) options (pay bribe vs. don’t pay bribe / send propaganda text messages vs. don’t send message). When revealing the rather creative ‘solutions’ developed by IKEA in Russia and Mobinil in Egypt, the participants tended to evaluate these ‘solutions’ as more ethical, better from a business perspective and more creative than those that they had developed and would have chosen by themselves. I thus believe that it is a promising endeavor to illuminate in greater detail the potential benefits and risks of applying creativity to deal with decisions that have ethical aspects.
    The research project aims at reevaluating the role of creativity in ethical decision-making, in particular by showing that people in decision situations with ethical components tend to focus on a narrow choice set which subsequently might lead to less ethical choices and a lower satisfaction with the choice.

  • Data-Driven Business Models in Internet 4.0

    Data-Driven Business Models in Internet 4.0  

    Funding period: 2017-2019
    Research team: Catalina Stefanescu-Cuntze (ESMT Berlin), Francis de Véricourt (ESMT Berlin), Stefan Wagner (ESMT Berlin)

    Digitalization  has  a  tremendous  impact  on  the  conduct  of  business,  as  it  has  the  power  to  transform virtually every step in the value chain of almost every industry. Perhaps one of the most striking effects of  Internet  4.0 is  the  emergence  of  new  data-driven  business  models  that  are innovatively disrupting existing markets. In this project we use extensive modelling and artificial intelligence tools to understand the  drivers  of  this  new  industrial  revolution. We  explore  large  consumer  data  sets  from  different industries  in  order  to build  predictive  tools  of  user behavior  under  innovative  digital  business  models.

    The  project  will  generate  breakthrough  insights  on  optimal pricing,  marketing  and  service  design strategies   for firms   competing   with   data-driven   business   models,   and   on decision-making   and operational  processes that organizations should put  in  place  to  dynamically retain  their  strategic advantage in the age of Internet 4.0.

  • Endogenous team formation and topic choice among potential entrepreneurs

    A randomized control trial of endogenous team formation and topic choice among potential entrepreneurs   

    Funding period: 2016-2018
    Research team: Linus Dahlander (ESMT Berlin), Rajshri Jayaraman (ESMT Berlin)

    This project seeks to study the effect of endogenous team formation and topic choice on team performance in early-stage entrepreneurship using a randomized control trial. While extant entrepreneurship research discusses the relationship between team composition and outcomes, this research treats venture teams as given and fails to establish a causal link between the two. This is due to non-experimental settings, but also due to not investigating team formation processes and their subsequent effects. There is an implicit assumption that accelerators, incubators, science parks and other organizational arrangements are an effective way to help prospective entrepreneurs to find new collaborators in a systematic manner. Yet, without a clear understanding of what it is about these arrangements that enable teams to function effectively, it is impossible to make recommendations regarding “what works”. Are teams successful because of who is in them? Or are they successful because of what they do?

  • Central bank interventions and short-term liquidity provision

    Central bank interventions and short-term liquidity provision   

    Funding period: 2015-2017
    Researcher: Sascha Steffen (ESMT Berlin)
    Cooperating institution: New York University Stern School of Business

    Since the start of the sovereign debt crisis in late 2009, the ECB intervened substantially using unconventional policy measures. These interventions, however, did not have a positive effect on the real sector. In this paper, we investigate private short-term funding of European banks during the sovereign debt crisis studying new regulatory data of the investment of U.S. money market mutual funds (MMF). Did some funds still increase risk taking, funding high-risk banks, while credit spreads already widened at the beginning of 2011? How did MMF run on banks when the sovereign crisis deepened after June 2011? Importantly, how did central bank interventions affect risk taking by MMF in European banks? Answers to these questions are of high political relevance as they provide novel evidence related to spillover effects of the monetary policy of the ECB, which might eventually destabilize European banks even further.


    Acharya, V., and Steffen, S. (2015), "The "Greatest" Carry Trade Ever? Understanding Eurozone Bank Risks", Journal of Financial Economics 115(2), 215-236.

  • On the road to no recovery? Under-capitalization and economic growth

    On the road to no recovery? Under-capitalization and economic growth

    Funding period: 2014-2016
    Researcher: Sascha Steffen (ESMT Berlin)

    The Eurozone has entered its sixth year after the financial crisis originated in 2007 and it is still in recession. We argue that the European banking system has been left severely under-capitalized after the financial crisis of 2007 – 2009. Banks have neither raised sufficient capital in private markets nor have governments forcefully recapitalized struggling domestic banks. Too little capital has provided banks incentives to load up on peripheral sovereign debt which has put even more pressure on the banking system both in terms of liquidity and capital, leaving little room for lending to the real economy. We hypothesize that an under-capitalized financial sector prevents economic growth and thus has adverse real effects on the economy. The (even intensifying) linkages between sovereigns and the financial sector are of first order concern in Europe resulting in dangerous spillovers between sovereigns which prevents growth even further. We propose a (theory based) tax that can help to mitigate these spillovers.


    Kirschenmann, K., J. Korte, and S. Steffen (2016)
    The Zero Risk Fallacy-Banks' Sovereign Exposure and Sovereign Risk Spillovers.

  • Towards a sustainable financial architecture in Europe

    Towards a sustainable financial architecture in Europe

    Funding period:  2014-2015
    Researcher: Sascha Steffen (ESMT Berlin)

    The European banking system is highly interconnected with the health of the sovereigns through the holdings of their debt. Over the past decade, similar yields across European sovereigns implied that European institutions, the IMF and other member states were assumed to stand ready to support troubled member countries. When sovereign health became a concern, the health of the banking system overall was questioned. In this project, we argue that some banks were ex-ante willing to take this downside risk particularly because they were highly undercapitalized to begin with. High dependence on short-term wholesale (also US Dollar) funding and insufficient regulation were important catalysts for the subsequent run on European banks. This project highlights the contagion risk from the shadow banking sector to the financial sector and eventually to the real sector. Addressing these issues will greatly contribute to the design of new and better regulation that will help to make the financial system more resilient.   

  • An experimental study of exit decisions

    An experimental study of exit decisions

    Funding period: 2014-2015
    Researcher: Guillermo Baquero (ESMT Berlin)

    This project is an experimental investigation of decisions involving exiting a business or a market. Entry and exit are not symmetrically opposite decisions. The decision to exit is often far more complex. It is commonly associated with failure and reputation loss. It may also involve painful social costs associated with layoffs, as well as contractual costs which can potentially undermine longstanding relations with customers and providers. Exit decisions are also subject to a number of psychological biases well-documented in the behavioral economics literature, such as, loss aversion, overconfidence, overoptimism, the disposition effect, the sunk-cost fallacy, and escalation of commitment. These cognitive biases, as well as the inability to accept failure and confront exit costs, may lead the decision maker to postpone the decision to abandon. The purpose of this project is to analyze exit decisions in a series of controlled experiments, that allow us to disentangle rational from emotional and psychological factors driving this type of decision-making proces.

  • An inquiry into the Eurozone financial sector distress

    An inquiry into the Eurozone financial sector distress

    Funding period: 2012-2013
    Research team: Sascha Steffen (ESMT Berlin

    The goal of this study is to investigate the bank behavior that can explain how the Eurozone financial sector entered such severe distress as it did during 2010-11. In particular, we will examine the hypotheses concerning extensive government support in 2008 and the induced moral hazard, the inter-connectedness of banks, and lack of recapitalization incentives due to debt overhang once the sovereign debt problems materialized in 2009. The study will draw on a large number of datasets to examine the cross-sectional variation in bank behavior so as to trace the impact of differential government guarantee packages in 2008 on bank portfolios, in terms of overall lending, inter-bank lending as well as holdings of sovereign bonds; on discretionary write-downs taken by banks; and on the extent of capital raised by banks.


    Acharya, V. V. and S. Steffen (2014). Analyzing Systemic Risk of the European Banking Sector. Prepared for Handbook on Systemic Risk, edt. J.-P- Fouque and J. Langsam. Cambridge University Press.
    Cai, J., A. Saunders and S. Steffen (2013). Syndication, Interconnectedness and Systemic Risk, Working Paper. Das Arbeitspapier wurde außerdem 2016 bei Review of Finance erneut eingereicht.


  • Evaluating ideas: When do firms listen to ideas by users?

    Evaluating ideas: When do firms listen to ideas by users?

    Funding period:  2011-2012
    Researcher:  Linus Dahlander (ESMT Berlin)

    How do firms reach beyond their boundaries to innovate effectively? This is an important question that has attracted much scholarly attention throughout the last decade. It has become commonplace to argue that firms do not develop novel products and services in isolation, but engage with their external environments to improve these products and services. For example, to innovate effectively, firms can draw on their own customers or they can search for and recombine the knowledge of others. In terms of the external sources of innovation, prior research has examined this topic under the rubrics of user innovation (von Hippel 2005), innovation contests (Boudreau et al. forthcoming), as well as knowledge recombination and search (Ahuja and Katila 2004). More recently, a growing body of work has examined how firms learn from feedback from the external environment to create new products and services. We propose to examine feedback in new market contexts and to understand how firms draw from a variety of types of feedback from users to generate and evaluate new ideas.

    Dahlander, L., and H. Piezunka (2014), Research Policy 43(5): 812–827:
    Open to suggestions: How organizations elicit suggestions through proactive and reactive attention

  • Affective ingenuity: Linking emotional contagion and team creativity

    Affective ingenuity: Linking emotional contagion and team creativity

    Funding period: 2011-2012
    Researcher:  Zhike Lei (ESMT Berlin)

    Creativity, coming up with fresh ideas for changing products, services and processes so as to better achieve the organization’s goals, has been heralded as the key to enduring economic advantage. Creative activities appear to be affectively (commonly known as emotionally) charged events. In spite of advancement in the literature on affective influences on individual creativity and of increasing attention to team creativity and innovation, there is a dearth of research on the relationship between emotional contagion and team creativity and innovation. This study aims to address current empirical and theoretical gaps by exploring the affect-creativity relationship at the team level. Both quantitative and qualitative longitudinal data will be used to test the relationship between emotional contagion and team creativity in organizations.

  • Gilt or guilt? Indulgent consumption and emotions

    Gilt or guilt? Indulgent consumption and emotions

    Funding period:  2010-2012
    Researcher: Francine Espinoza Petersen (ESMT Berlin)

    Indulgent consumption is said to occur when consumers yield to their desires to obtain unrestrained pleasure via products or services that are not really necessary (Kivetz and Simonson 2002). It often involves a self-treatment with excessive generosity such as the purchase of luxury products or the consumption of a special meal. Indulgent consumption involves several forms of emotion that are often conflicting. While indulgent consumption is inherently pleasurable, it is also associated to feelings of guilt and regret, among other negative emotions (Ramanathan and Williams 2007). These ambivalent feelings may affect both the consumption experience and consumer’s subsequent decisions. While previous research often assumes that negative feelings such as guilt and regret underlie indulgent consumption (Mukopadhyay and Johar 2007), less is known about the conditions that will lead to specific types of negative or positive feelings and therefore to different emotional experiences following indulgent consumption. We investigate how the reason underlying an indulgent consumption will affect consumers’ emotional experience and likelihood of continuing to indulge in subsequent situations. Across two studies, we find that consumers’ justification and level of self-control interact to explain consumers’ mixed emotional responses to indulgence (guilt, regret, pride, happiness), which in turn explain satisfaction with the consumption episode.

  • What is in a rating? Credit rating performance for structured financial products

    What is in a rating? Credit rating performance for structured financial products

    Funding period: 2010-2012
    Research team: Catalina Stefanescu-Cuntze (ESMT Berlin), Francis de Véricourt (ESMT Berlin)

    Despite the important economic role of credit ratings, there is not a single research paper in any of the major academic journals examining the accuracy of extant rating methodologies. Indeed, rating agencies have often argued that sufficient historic data for testing their methodologies does not exist. Moreover, the effect of default contagion on the accuracy of credit ratings has never been investigated, and the literature on the behavioral aspects of rating processes is also scarce. This research project aims to fill this void, with potential major implications for the decisions of rating agencies, regulatory bodies, banks, and any other financial institution with internal rating systems.   

  • Promoting entrepreneurship through Microcredit

    Promoting entrepreneurship through Microcredit

    Funding period: 2010-2014
    Research team: Rajshri Jayaraman (ESMT Berlin), Jörg Rocholl (ESMT Berlin)

    Despite the growing interest and enthusiasm surrounding microcredit, spurred by Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel Peace Prize, relatively little is known about economic and social impacts of this innovative source of financing. In cooperation with the “Sparkassenstiftung für internationale Kooperation” and the “Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)”, Raji Jayaraman and Joerg Rocholl will participate in the design and evaluation of one of the first microcredit programs to be introduced in Bhutan. In particular, they will investigate whether microfinance leads to the creation or expansion of business, and whether the poor benefit to the same degree as the less-poor.

  • Can righteous consumers drive corporate social responsibility?

    Can righteous consumers drive corporate social responsibility?

    Funding period: 2009-2011
    Researcher: Sumitro Banerjee (ESMT Berlin)

    This paper analyzes the optimal strategy of a profit-maximizing firm in response to social responsibility concerns of consumers. We show that firms will address responsibility demands if consumers are sufficiently motivated and society provides minimal monitoring of false claims. We further show that there is an interaction between the firm’s basic positioning and the type of responsibility initiative it undertakes. A firm selling a low quality product commits to social responsibility in the form of good citizenship by investing in compliance with social norms valued by all consumers. In contrast, a firm selling a high quality product tends to contribute to social causes endorsed by its target customers. Under asymmetric information, when consumers cannot observe product quality, we find that a firm can signal its commitment to social responsibility by charging a higher price and by making exaggerated claims that would be too damaging if they were not largely true. Finally, in a vertically differentiated duopoly, we find that only one firm will take on social responsibility initiatives. Overall, these findings suggest that profit-driven competitive marketing strategies can fulfill social responsibility just as much as any other driver of consumer utility.

  • From unfairness to generosity: Sharing behavior in good and bad times

    From unfairness to generosity: Sharing behavior in good and bad times

    Funding period: 2009-2011
    Researcher:  Guillermo Baquero (ESMT Berlin)

    Fairness can be defined as a claim to entitlements. In this project we study people’s perception of fairness in times of profits and in times of losses. Specifically, we study negotiation games in which two players (known as the proposer and the respondent) interact to decide how to divide a loss and how to divide a gain. The games are played with real money invested by subjects who were paid between ten and forty euro one week before. In a series of experiments, with approximately 150 students, we find that when participants divide a gain, proposers are mildly unfair. However, when participants divide a loss, we find that proposers are generous and propose to suffer a majority of the loss. We argue that the proposer has a feeling of entitlement that causes her to frame her payoff as a reduced loss. The results of our study contribute to our understanding of how the standards of fairness may act as a constraint to undertake profit seeking business activities.

  • Credit supply in the financial crisis

    Credit supply in the financial crisis

    Funding period: 2009-2011
    Research team:  Jörg Rocholl (ESMT Berlin)

    This project examines the broader effects of the US financial crisis on global lending to retail customers. In particular we examine retail bank lending in Germany taking advantage of a unique data set of German savings banks over the period 2006–2008 for which we have the universe of loan applications and loans granted in this time period. Our experimental setting allows us to distinguish between those savings banks affected by the US financial crisis, through their holdings in Landesbanken with substantial subprime exposure, and unaffected savings banks. We are further able to distinguish between demand and supply side effects of bank lending. We find demand for loans goes down but is not substantially different for the affected and non-affected banks. We find evidence of a supply side effect in that the affected banks reject substantially more loan applications than non-affected banks. This effect is particularly strong for smaller and more liquidity-constrained banks as well as for mortgages as compared to consumer loans. We also find that bank-depositor relationships help mitigate these supply side effects.

    Manju Puri, Jörg Rocholl, Sascha Steffen (2011), Journal of Financial Economics, 100(3): 556–578
    Global retail lending in the aftermath of the US financial crisis: Distinguishing between supply and demand effects

  • Investigation into why organizations lose outstanding salespeople through promotions to sales leadership positions

    Investigation into why organizations lose outstanding salespeople through promotions to sales leadership positions

    Funding period:  2008-2012
    Research team:  Mario Rese, Martin Kupp, and Vincent Onyemah

    In this two year research project we investigate how organizations can efficiently and effectively develop sales managers from within their sales force. The contribution of this project should have important implications for both the practitioner (how do I choose sales managers, what types of incentives work under what conditions, what is the role of leadership, what type of sales force control system works …?) and academic communities (how can existing theory explain what is happening and how can this theory be extended and/or enriched?