First ever summer school for family business research

The first ever, entirely online Summer School on Family Business Research Methods turned out to be a milestone initiative for the family business research community. Thirty doctoral students from all over the world participated in the course, which took place from 4 May – 15 June.

Hosted by Jönköping International Business School and the Centre for Family Entrepreneurship and Ownership (CeFEO) at Jönköping University, the IFERA Summer School aimed to deepen the doctoral students’ methodological skills in family business research. Top international scholars gave those participating valuable insights into the most relevant and challenging family business research methods.

“The interaction among the best scholars of the field and students from all over the world was terrific. It was a unique and incredible experience to understand the research process further. For me, it became even more clear that I want to be an academic, says Juliana Binhote, doctoral student at the University of Louisville, USA and one of the participants.

Thanks to the close collaboration between CeFEO and IFERA and the power of their network, a remarkably large number of 46 family business scholars took part in the Summer School. The participants highly appreciated the organisation and format of the course. Each doctoral student was also mentored by a tutor, providing advice on writing a dissertation, building an academic career and other general tips and tricks.

“The program was superb. Everything was excellently signposted on Canvas, and the instructions were easy to follow. The tutors were highly accessible and provided precious insights,” says Catherine Duggan, doctoral student at Cork University Business School.

Shark Tank

The 15 sessions of the summer school concluded with a fun and challenging activity, a “Shark Tank”. The doctoral students got to pitch their research ideas to a jury formed by some of the best scholars in the field, such as Professor Howard Aldrich, Professor Kimberly Eddleston, and Professor Shaker Zahra, who received the Honorary Doctorate from JU in 2004.

“The shark tank was a wonderful way to sharpen our focus and receive expert feedback. The IFERA Summer School 2021 has been the highlight of my PhD experience,” says Catherine Duggan.

Massimo Baù, Director of CeFEO and course examiner for the Summer School, summarises it as a real success.

“Since I was a doctoral student, I dreamt about a summer school for the community of family business researchers. As Director of CeFEO I saw a unique opportunity to join forces with IFERA and make this dream come true! We leveraged the academic excellence and practical relevance of CeFEO, to form a great faculty group. The response has been above expectations, both from doctoral students and scholars in the field. We are thrilled to contribute to shaping the future of family business research,” he says.

IFERA Summer School 2021 participants with the judges of the semi-final of the shark tank.

Summer school to return in 2022

The first edition of the summer school is now over. Still, CeFEO has already agreed with IFERA to continuing the partnership, and they are at work designing a second summer school that will run between May and June 2022.

“CeFEO is the home of family business research. This is where we form the future generation of family business scholars,” concludes Massimo Baù.


The International Family Enterprise Research Academy (IFERA) is a non-profit association encompassing an international network of academics, researchers and other family business key stakeholders dedicated to advancing family business research. Founded in 2001, IFERA is today the largest network of family business researchers worldwide.