Hidden Champions Institute

Hidden Champions Institute (HCI)

Why ESMT Berlin

The aim of the institute is to provide Hidden Champions with access to excellent executive education at a top 10-business school as well as to interdisciplinary research. In addition, it will offer a unique platform, allowing companies to benefit from a strong international network.


Institute goals

ESMT is founding the HCI together with leading companies

  • To fill gaps in management of Hidden Champions and especially family-owned businesses via excellent teaching, interdisciplinary research, and an international network.
  • To establish the first institute for Hidden Champions worldwide.

Based on practice-oriented teaching in general management and leadership, focused on interdisciplinary research, and embedded in a strong international network, the HCI spearheads the organizational, strategic, and entrepreneurial development of Hidden Champions.

The HCI provides excellent education for (potential) leaders in German Hidden Champions

  • Our teaching is discourse- and impact-oriented
  • Our latest research expands into teaching – fulfilling our “thought leadership” approach
  • Our platform connects to business and politics, based on ESMT’s international network

The Institute explores the characteristics of successful German Hidden Champions.


Advisory board

The HCI will be supported by a topclass advisory board. Chairman will be Alexander Knauf, managing director and general partner of Knauf Gips KG.

Additional members of the 20-person board will be family business owners, presidents of associations or politicians, partners of professional service firms, and top academics.


Working focuses of the HCI

The Hidden Champions Institute (HCI) focuses its activities on six vital areas:

  • Innovation
  • Digitalization
  • Internationalization
  • Governance
  • Strategy
  • Leadership And
  • Organization


Executive Education

Management development

  • Programs for executives will focus on the requirements of the management and governance of Hidden Champions and family businesses.
  • Programs for chairpersons will provide insights highly relevant for Hidden Champions and family businesses.
  • The design of the programs for CEOs and CxOs takes into account their high commitment within their companies.
  • Programs will be offered either “close to home”, i.e., in Germany, therefore reducing travel time and costs, or in the relevant regions for Hidden Champions.



Academic research

  • Since the 1980s, family businesses research has been established internationally from the viewpoints of strategy, entrepreneurship, and finance.
  • The HCI will establish an international research group for Hidden Champions.
  • The HCI will publish its research in top journals relevant for Hidden Champions.

Practice-oriented research

  • The HCI will focus on the practical concerns of Hidden Champions.




  • Large number of major national events; concentrated in the spring and autumn of each year.
  • Main goal of these events is to bring network members together around community themes, personalities, and trends.

HCI platform

  • The HCI will provide a neutral platform for top decisionmakers to exchange with Hidden Champions, science, and society.
  • The exchange on relevant topics and solutions for Hidden Champions, science, and society will be content-oriented, as well as information- and fact-based.