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Lero researchers at DCU to head €3.8 million EU programme designed to boost competitiveness of European retail sector

  • Goal is to establish training and research network for next generation European digital retail managers

Lero researchers at Dublin City University are to head a new €3.8 million EU programme designed to enable European high street and online retailers counter the competitive threat posed by foreign global players such as Amazon and eBay. Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre, is supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

The goal of the Horizon 2020 European Union funded programme, which is entitled PERFORM or “Pioneering the Digital Future for Omnichannel Retail Managers”, is to prepare the next generation of European digital retail managers through a combination of training and research.

Dr. Hugh Doyle (funding manager, Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre); Dr. Markus Helfert (Lero researcher at DCU School of Computing) and Dr. Marija Bezbradica (Lero researcher at DCU). Photo Colm Mahady, Fennells

“The retail sector is one of the pillars of the European economy and accounts for about 15% of employment and 11% of GDP,” commented Lero researcher at DCU, Dr Markus Helfert who is heading the programme. “However, many European retailers are concerned that both high street and online are losing out due to the power of the Amazons and others of this world.

“Established business models need to be revised as customer behaviour is changing. Consumers no longer prefer online or instore purchasing but switch between channels to suit their personal requirements. Therefore, it is vital to assist European retailers in the digital transformation and the blurring of online and instore behaviour that is occurring.”

Under the programme led by DCU, the consortium members of PERFORM will train and manage a team of 15 PhD researchers across five countries including Ireland. Research areas are likely to include innovative digital technologies such as Internet of Things, Big Data, advanced analytics as well as augmented reality, novel payment systems and visualisation concepts to help create a unique European customer experience.

The goal of the research will be to develop sustainable business models for the retail sector which recognise the importance of online and instore; explore how to improve the user experience along the customer journey; investigate how new technology can be used to provide innovative digital retail services and build a knowledge base on digital retail operations and analytics.

“We will be recruiting PhD students to join us in this exciting programme,” added Dr Helfert. “Research shows that European retail managers currently lack the required skills to address the challenge of combining online and traditional offline shopping to develop an integrated omnichannel experience.”

DCU will lead a consortium from Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden in the four year programme.

“One of the sad implications of Brexit is that academic peers in the UK are missing out in participating in exciting European research programmes like this that are being awarded now,” added Dr Helfert.

“The PERFORM project is an example of the successes that may be achieved by researchers in Irish universities through participation in the SFI Research Centres’ programme,” commented Dr. Hugh Doyle (funding manager, Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre). “Dr. Helfert has leveraged the support and opportunities provided by Lero to build a world class project consortium of leading European researchers.”

He said that the project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765395.