2nd Annual Conference of the Private Sector Development Research Network

June 28, 2020

Private Sector Development Research Network

2nd Annual Conference
of the Private Sector Development Research Network

Firms’ Resilience, Innovation and Technology

Virtual Conference, December 10-11, 2020



The coronavirus pandemic has brought a disruption of economic activity that has no precedent in this century, leaving millions of workers unemployed and a collapse of trade, investment and financial markets over the course of a few weeks. This crisis has highlighted the importance of coordinated public and private sector responses, how access to timely data and analyses is critical for decision-making, and the role of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in helping fill financing gaps during these difficult times.

This crisis has also showcased how private sector decision-making operates, and, most importantly, how flexible and agile firms can be under difficult circumstances. As the world recovers from the pandemic, it’s essential to take stock of lessons learned and use them to build a private sector that is more resilient and sustainable. Some research questions raised by current events are: What will the role of technology be for firms in the future? For example, digital infrastructure and internet services enable the use of technology in everyday business activities, including fintech, online businesses, telemedicine, etc. How does innovation influence firm performance and resilience? Supporting the private sector to harness innovation, while keeping a focus on enhancing sustainability, can put firms back on track to thrive, including implementing managerial practices that promote social inclusion and create good quality jobs.

Other important issues to consider are firm risk-management practices as well as support programs and policies to help firms manage risk. Evidence from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs suggests that 42 percent of small businesses are at risk of failure and a quarter have downsized operations significantly in response to uncertainty. Also, improving service delivery to the poor and increasing access to finance for small businesses is more important than ever. Finally, the role of globalization to promote development through the private sector and identifying those firms that have greater systemic impact is essential.

This virtual conference offers an opportunity to bring together staff of DFIs and donor agencies involved in private sector development with academics who study private firms and markets, from the fields of economics (such as industrial organization, international trade and investment), finance, business and development studies. It aims to provide a forum to present and discuss research, data, analysis and evidence from DFIs, think-tanks, and academic institutions; to set the agenda for future research relevant to global development challenges and the work of DFIs; and to foster research collaboration between DFIs, think tanks and academic institutions. It is intended for researchers who are interested in influencing practice and who are curious about how practitioners perceive the problems that they face, and for practitioners who want to learn from researchers.

The event will focus primarily on the actions and behaviors of private firms, investors, and markets rather than on government policy. It is differentiated from other conferences because of the markets it aims to focus – low income and low-middle income economies, but also the institutions it aims to engage in dialogue – DFIs, think tanks and universities with an active research agenda on private sector development. However, insights for policy and regulation of markets and firms are within scope.


This year’s conference will focus on resilience, innovation and technology in the private sector, and bring discussions on how these issues are changing the landscape of firms in developing countries, the problems they face, and the solutions proposed based on past and recent learnings. These topics are central to the COVID-19 challenge and DFIs’ response.

It will offer an opportunity to learn more about these issues in a broad sense. Regarding technology, the study of a broad range of relevant aspects would be welcome, such as automation, digitalization, sector-specific technology, and adoption issues, among others. On the innovation front, we are seeking contributions on drivers of firm innovation, impacts of business innovation on performance and productivity and its heterogeneous effects, the role of public and private resources in spurring innovation, among others. Finally, on the resilience front, research is welcome on a broad array of topics touching firm’s risk exposure and management, contingency plans, risk insurance, policies to protect private sector in response to shocks, sustainable businesses and managerial practices, lessons from climate shocks and firms’ contributions to environmental sustainability among others.

Below is an indicative list of topics where we welcome contributions:

  • Firms’ survival patterns, determinants and statistics
  • Resource allocation and market design under adverse conditions
  • Sources of shocks and volatility and their impact on firm-level economic activity
  • Disruptions of supply chains and strategies to build resilience
  • The role of management practices at the firm-level for resilience and growth.
  • Heterogeneous impacts of shocks across firms of different characteristics.
  • Firm-level decision-making under uncertainty, adverse external conditions, crises and recovery
  • The role of industrial and other government policies in supporting firm resilience, technology adoption and innovation
  • The role of public-private partnerships to support firm resilience, technology adoption and innovation
  • Business models and strategies to support firm and market sustainability (economic, environmental or social sustainability)
  • The costs and benefits of building firm resilience for markets and different communities
  • Technology, technological change, innovations and their impacts on inclusion, job quality, performance and resilience at the level of firms
  • DFI responses to crisis in the past and today
  • Effectiveness of different support instruments such as cash transfers or services in firm resilience
  • Access to finance and links with firm resilience, technology adoption, innovation
  • Financial innovations (e.g. financial instruments) that help firms to grow and/or build resilience

Contributions on topics in this list and submissions of papers/extended abstracts on other topics that add to the broad discussion will be welcomed.

The detailed agenda and registration details will be posted on this webpage closer to the event.

Submission Guidelines

There is no submission fee and the conference will be delivered online. Papers (even in draft format) should be submitted as PDF files to Irina Gnezdilova ignezdilova@stop-winlock.ru. Accepted authors will be notified by early November 2020. Preference will be given to completed papers or extended abstracts that include a detailed description of the following aspects: (i) objectives and research questions, (ii) methodology, (iii) data that will be used, indicating whether the team has already access to it or is in the process of collecting, (iv) preliminary hypothesis or conclusions of the analysis, (v) research team.

Conference Committee

  • Paddy Carter, CDC
  • Ralph De Haas, EBRD
  • Neil Gregory, IFC
  • Peter Kalotai, EBRD
  • Nancy Lee, CGD
  • Rania Nasir, IGC
  • Alessandro Maffioli, IDB Invest
  • Alexandros Ragoussis, IFC
  • Matthieu Teachout, IGC
  • Dirk Willem Te Velde, ODI
  • Patricia Yanez-Pagans, IDB Invest