Scholarship on digital platform ecosystems to date has mostly emerged in isolation from one another in the respective disciplines. Nevertheless, researchers across disciplines have increasingly noticed that the theoretical and empirical analysis of digital platforms and their ecosystems requires a systemic perspective. In fact, numerous recent literature reviews have concluded with calls for a holistic, cross-disciplinary and broad view of digital platform ecosystems – one that also considers the interfaces and interactions of the ecosystem with its economic and social environment.
What are the idiosyncratic properties of digital platform ecosystems and what are their implications for the transformation and design of economic value architectures as well as for overarching socio-economic and regulatory developments?
Key question of the Research Training Group DPE
The key question and the research programme of the Research Training Group DPE originate from precisely this realisation. Accordingly, as outlined in the figure below, the research programme of DPE is conceived in terms of three complementary research areas arranged around the core subject of the digital platform ecosystem.
Research Area A "Data exchange in platform ecosystems" examines the data exchange processes and structures within a given platform ecosystem. In addition to the platform, this ecosystem includes the affiliated companies and the companies mediated via the platform as well as the individual users. Central research topics are the incentives, procedures and behavioural patterns of the various actors in the platform ecosystem with regard to the exchange of (personal) data with the platform and the resulting strategic and regulatory implications. These topics are addressed primarily from the perspectives of information systems and marketing science.
A decisive – possibly the most significant – competitive and innovation factor in digital platform ecosystems is data. This applies in particular to personal data, which can be used to design personalised product and service offerings, and targeted advertising. Personal data is often the consideration consumers give for "free" access to platforms, and this data can be traded on platforms, for example on so-called personal data markets and data hubs. Platforms also strive to acquire as much data as possible from affiliated providers: on the one hand, to mediate even better between consumers and providers and thus increase the overall attractiveness and efficiency for all players. On the other hand, in order to offer an attractive offer on the platform for their own benefit, which in turn can mean a structural disadvantage for the affiliated providers. The exchange of data in the platform ecosystem requires a variety of technical access mechanisms, which in turn have an impact on complex economic interdependencies and trade-offs, many of which have hardly been explored so far. The core objective of this research area is to identify and analyse these cause–effect relationships and trade-offs and to develop a sound understanding of data exchange behaviour and the related interaction of actors in the platform ecosystem; also in order to be able to provide recommendations for action for the design of digital platform ecosystems as well as the regulation of platform markets. Area A.1 focuses on the data exchange relationship between platform-affiliated companies and the platform itself. Area A.2 sheds light on the data pricing decisions of individuals in the platform ecosystem.
Professor Jan Krämer
researches the regulation of the Platform Economy
Professor Jan H. Schumann
researches B2C relationships
Professor Jan H. Schumann has held the Chair of Marketing and Innovation of the University of Passau since 2012. Since July 2013, he has also worked a director of the Institute of Market and Economic Research.
Professor Thomas Widjaja
researches secondary data use
Professor Thomas Widjaja has held the Chair of Business Information Systems since 2016. Previously, he gained his doctoral and postdoctoral degrees at TU Darmstadt.
Research Area B "Innovation, transformation and organisation in the platform ecosystem" focuses on the implications of the platform ecosystem for the organisation and management of companies that operate within the platform ecosystem or come under its sphere of influence. Scholars in this area examine, on the one hand, the opportunities and challenges of established organisations and their leaders in adapting to the digital platform economy. On the other hand, this area analyses the organisational characteristics and implications of platform ecosystems as novel spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship. From a theoretical perspective, these projects are primarily anchored in organisational and innovation research, strategic management and entrepreneurship.
Platform ecosystems create a competitive gravitational field that has enormous dynamism and innovative power but also exerts high pressure to transform and adapt. Established "pipeline" companies interact with powerful platforms, young companies (often set up as platforms themselves) and communities of individually acting players, including hobbyists. In this space of digital value creation, traditional boundaries and categories of organisations are blurring; established management paradigms are being challenged; and traditional key competencies are becoming less important. As a result, many established organisations – from hotels to development aid organisations – need to fundamentally reinvent themselves and implement profound structural reconfigurations in order to operate successfully in the platform economy. Moreover, novel, fluid forms of knowledge-intensive collaboration and innovation as well as platform-specific forms of (digital) entrepreneurship are emerging in platform ecosystems and their periphery. These are characterised by a tension between entrepreneurial freedom and dependence on powerful platforms, which affects the emergent social and organisational systems and thus also the efficiency and success of innovations in the platform ecosystem. Research Area B examines these phenomena from two complementary and interdependent perspectives. B.1 analyses the specific challenges for established organisations in adapting to digital platform-based forms of value creation. On the one hand, the special role of top leaders for this adaptation process is considered. Another focus is on the specific challenges for non-typical organisations such as aid organisations and meta-organisations. B.2 directs attention to the characteristic of platforms as places of innovation and entrepreneurship and includes the diversity of actors. On the one hand, novel processes and structures of knowledge-intensive collaboration within the often fluid and informal organisational forms emerging on platform are examined. On the other hand, the idiosyncratic challenges of young companies in platform ecosystems are illuminated.
Professor Andreas König
researches organisational change and executives’ personalities and communications
Professor Andreas König has held the Chair of Strategic Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Information Systems, University of Passau, since 2013. His research output is published in leading international journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Review and Research Policy.
Professor Carolin Haeussler
researches co-operation and innovation
Professor Carolin Haeussler has held the Chair of Organisation, Technology Management and Entrepreneurship since 2011 and has been bringing researchers from all over the world to Passau with the International Centre for Economics and Business Studies.
Finally, Research Area C "Socio-economic and regulatory dimensions of digital platform ecosystems" broadens the focus to the societal and socio-economic environment of digital platform ecosystems. The vantage point of the research in this area is the observation that platform ecosystems have a profound impact on higher-level societal structures and processes – also in an international context – but at the same time their development is also decisively influenced by developments in society. Research topics in this area include the impact of sharing platforms on health, transport and housing in urban areas, socio-economic opportunities and risks of platforms in developing countries, as well as the political communication structures around the regulation of platforms against the backdrop of the interests of various stakeholder interests. The participating researchers approach these questions primarily from the perspectives of public economics, development economics and communication studies.
Beyond the competitive environment, platform ecosystems and the change they induce have far-reaching implications for socio-economic development and thus also pose new challenges for policy. Research Area C aims to investigate the interaction dynamics emerging in this context in their macroeconomic and regulatory dimensions. Area C.1 focuses on the potential impact of platform-based value creation models in cities on socio-economic variables such as health, transport and housing. Area C.2 takes a look at the opportunities and risks of digital platform ecosystems in developing countries, for which it is hoped that platform ecosystems will have particularly positive effects. Area C.3 examines the discourse and policy processes that accompany and influence the emergence and establishment of platform ecosystems. This is relevant not only because the effects of platform-based value creation require fundamental research but also because the discursive-institutional negotiation of possible regulatory measures is of particular theoretical importance for understanding platform ecosystems and also follows its own patterns, influenced in particular by new media.
Professor Stefan Bauernschuster
researches empirical evaluation of political measures
Professor Stefan Bauernschuster has held the Chair of Public Economics of the University of Passau since 2013. Moreover, he is a research professor at the ifo Institute in Munich, CESifo Affiliate and a member of the Social Policy Committee of the German Economic Association.
Professor Michael Grimm
researches technological change in developing countries
Professor Michael Grimm has held the Chair of Development Economics of the University of Passau since 2012. Prior to this, he held the posts of Professor of Applied Development Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Visiting Professor at Paris School of Economics and Advisor for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. (United States).
Professor Hannah Schmid-Petri
researches public debates – both online and offline
Professor Hannah Schmid-Petri is the holder of the Chair of Science Communication at the University of Passau and leads the Fraunhofer 'Science Communication' research group, which is based at the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence 'Integrated Energy Systems' CINES. She analyses public discussions on political issues such as digitalisation and climate change.
All areas work on common thematic and theoretical interfaces. But also the fact that the areas share numerous methodological interfaces, lays the foundation for cross-area collaborations.
Involvement of postdoctoral students in the research programme. The Research Training Group (RTG) integrates selected postdoctoral researchers into its research programme in order to enable them to develop their scientific profile at an early stage of their scientific career in the stimulating and thematically focused research environment of the RTG. As is customary in social sciences, research in the RTG is conducted in teams consisting of academics at different qualification levels (doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and established academics). In addition, postdoctoral researchers can pursue their own project ideas in the context of one of the three research areas with a high degree of independence and together with doctoral students.