Dr Sam MacAulay

Thiess Fellow

School of Business
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law


My research aims to inform and transform how we understand organisations. In particular, my research focuses on complex, project-based forms of organising commonly found in construction, infrastructure and mining, to develop better explanations for how organisations innovate and adapt. These forms of organisations are central to economic life and yet mainstream scholars of organisations, business strategy, and innovation, have traditionally paid less attention to these organisation forms. I am working to right this balance.

Theoretically, my research makes contributions to The Behavioral Theory of the Firm (e.g. identifying mechanisms used to create organisational slack), organisational learning (e.g. developing new, more socialised models of organisational search), and theories of project organising (e.g. introducing new concepts to explain innovation in public-private hybrid organisations). To date, this program of research has been funded by a range of institutions (e.g. the ARC; the UK’s EPSRC; the Project Management Institute; industry grants) and has had a substantial impact on the organisation of innovation in infrastructure across Australia, the UK and USA. I am now working with colleagues at institutions ranging from UCL and the Technical University of Munich through to INSEAD and Singapore Management University to expand the impact of this research, participating in specialised PDWs at the Academy of Management, editing a special issue for the Project Management Journal, contributing to efforts to redesign curriculum, and developing grants to fund the next phrase of this research program.

This research feeds into my teaching on subjects ranging from the organization of innovation through to the management of projects, and has seen me invited to serve on the editorial board of Innovation: Organization & Management, act as a regular reviewer for the Academy of Management Journal and Project Management Journal, as well as Sectretary of the Academy of Management's Technology and Innovation Management Division. I have previously taught at QUT, UQ, Imperial College London and the University of Munich. And I am now at UQ's Business School and Sustainable Minerals Institute. And I am also an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Construction and Project Mangement at The Bartlett, University College London.

My research has been published in a range of journals including Transportation Research Part A, the Project Management Journal and Innovation: Management Policy & Practice. See my Google Scholar page for a full list. In addition to these papers, there's a few projects currently being presented at conferences or are under review:

"The Search Environment is Not Benign: Reassessing the Social Risks of Intra-Organizational Search", By Sam MacAulay (UQ), John Steen (UQ), and Tim Kastelle (UQ), R&R ICC.

"Five Rules for Innovation in Megaprojects", By Andy Davies (UCL), Mark Dodgson (UQ), David Gann (Imperial), and Sam MacAulay (UQ), R&R at MIT Sloan Management Review.

"Beyond Ill-Structured Problems: Towards a Co-Evolutionary Theory of Search", David Reetz (Technical University of Munich) and Sam MacAulay (UQ), Presented at the Strategic Management Society Conference in Berlin, the Open and User Innovation Conference in Boston in 2016, and Aarhus University in January 2017.

"Managing Uncertainty in Megaprojects" Jerad Ford (UQ), Sam MacAulay (UQ), Paul Spee (UQ), and John Steen (UQ), accepted for presentation at ANZAM 2016

Call for Papers for "Innovation in Infrastructure Delivery Models" Special Issue of the Project Management Journal, eds. Andy Davies (UCL), Tim Brady (Brighton), Sam MacAulay (UQ) and John Steen (UQ). Due Feb 2017.

"Instumental Science? The Need for Transparency and Good Practice in Reporting on Scientific Instruments" Carsten Bergenholtz (Aarhus), Christos Kolympiris (Bath), Sam MacAulay (UQ), Inge Siem (QUT), finalising for submission

"Innovation in Infrastructure: Organizational Challenges For Public Provision" by Sam MacAulay (UQ), Andy Davies (UCL), Mark Dodgson (UQ), and Ilze Kivleniece (INSEAD) under development.

"The Manifestation of Knowledge and its Impact on Intellectual Property Protection: From Cloaks to Daggers" by Sam MacAulay (UQ and Dmitry Sharapov (Imperial College London), Presentation at CBS in January 2017.

Please do get in touch if you would like more information on any of the papers.

Research Interests

  • The Organization of Innovation
    I study how innovation is shaped by organizational design, how new products and services are created, and the role of competition in knowledge production.
  • Carnegie School organizational theory
    My research here is twofold. I study how better socialized theories of organizational search can improve explanations of organizational adaptation and learning. And I am also branching out to study how organizational slack influences this process.
  • Construction, Infrastructure, and Mining
    Construction, infrastructure, and mining, have all traditionally received little attention in mainstream research on innovation, management, and strategy. I am doing research that tries to change this.
  • Project-based organizations
    My research investigates the strategic organization of project-based organisational forms, ranging from the delivery models of complex infrastructure projects through to service providers in mining.

Research Impacts

I am passionate about doing research that has a positive impact on our economy and society. My research seeks to improve what we know about how organizations work. The hope is that by better understanding organizations, we'll be better equipped to understand why they function as they do, and thus make better decisions about how they should function.

Recently, I've focused on how innovation is being organized in mining and infrastructure. These industries are a central part of the Australian economy, but have traditionally been understudied by management researchers. While working at Imperial College London, my colleagues and I set about investigating how the organization of innovation at Crossrail, Europe's largest infrastructure project, departed from that seen in more traditional organizations like GM, Google, or GSK. Crossrail ultimately drew deeply on our research to inform their innovation strategy, the development of which was a first in their industry, and it is now being picked up by other players in the infrastructure industry. You can read more about our research and its impact here. Papers based on this research have recently been published and can be found under my publications.

I work to amplify this impact through teaching and consulting. The teaching I do on the management of projects and the organization of innovation draws heavily on my research. I've taught undergraduate (University of Munich), and Msc, MBA and ExecEd courses (Imperical College London, UQ) on these subjects. Most recently, I've drawn on this experience to design and teach new MSc course here at the University of Queensland called 'The Business of Complex Projects'. I also try to amplify the impact of my research by consulting to organizations. For example, I've consulted on the management of innovation in infrastructure with The Dutch Highways and Waterways Authority (Rijkswaterstaat) and the organization building London's "super sewer" (Thames Tideway Tunnel).

While in London, in addition to working on my core research interests, I had the opportunity to give lectures on principles of business strategy through an organisation called HERA, which is dedicated to equipping previously trafficked women with the skills and knowledge to start their own businesses. This was a very rewarding experience. I learnt a lot about micro-businesses and how traditional business principles translated (or didn't!) for the women involved in the program, and ultimately see first-hand how valuable a business education could be for these women.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision



Book Chapter

  • Steen, John and Macaulay, Sam (2012). The past, present and future of social network analysis in the study of innovation. In David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Tim Kastelle (Ed.), Handbook on the knowledge economy, volume two (pp. 216-238) Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.

  • Steen, J., MacAulay, S. and Kastelle, T. (2008). New tools to map and manage innovation networks. In C. Evans (Ed.), Inside the innovation matrix: Finding the hidden human dimensions (pp. 83-95) Sydney, NSW, Australia: Australian Business Foundation.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Mitchell, Paul, Steen, John, Sartorio, Afonso, Bolton, Wayne, MacAulay, Samuel C., Higgins, Louise, Kunz, Nadja, Yameogo, Theo, Hoogedeure, Wim and Jackson, John (2017) How do you prepare for tomorrow's mine today? :

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor