Eco-FAn is phase two of the ECOANTITRUST initiative, which looks for conceptual and methodological inspirations from natural ecosystems to inform policy tools for the digital economy.

Eco-FAn explores the use of biological metaphors and analogies in economics and seeks inspiration for theories and methods in natural ecosystems to shape a systems-based understanding of digital platform ecosystems and their wider societal impact.

Digital platforms have contributed remarkable innovations and opportunities for modern society. However, the largest platforms have exploited their positions by gatekeeping competition, exercising unfair exclusivity over user data, and expanded reach into adjacent industries through controversial mergers and acquisitions. Regulation of digital platforms and other network businesses has been passive, in part, due to the regulatory knowledge gap on the structures of such enterprises.

In phase one, ECOANTITRUST explored whether digital platforms could be compared to natural ecosystems and the influence of ecological insights in shaping digital platform conduct. The findings of this research also pointed to an extensive history of conceptual and methodological transfers between the domains of natural sciences, such as biology and physics, to economics. Furthermore, the research highlighted the similarities between the highly networked structures in ecological communities and the network structures in digital platforms, thus opening new avenues for research into the usefulness of ecological inspirations for studying digital platforms as ecosystems.

Phase two, Eco-FAn, explores how natural ecosystems can inspire regulatory policy toolkits by understanding the networked structures of the most complex, multi-sided digital platforms. Given the historical use of biological and ecological metaphors in economics, Eco-FAn identifies whether non-linear transfers of resources and energy in natural sciences can inspire and inform an understanding of the non-linear supply chains and value capture mechanisms in digital platform ecosystems. Regulators could use such insights to detect whether platforms exploit their ecosystem’s resources at the expense of its users. Eco-FAn's main objectives are:

1. To assess the historical exchange of concepts and theories between economics and natural sciences and analyzing the application of ecological notions such as metabolism, keystone species, and competition for (digital) platform ecosystems.

2. To collaborate with a transdisciplinary team of experts in antitrust law, competition policy, economics, and ecology to explore insights from natural ecosystem studies and management which could serve to inspire competition policy tools suited for the complex and multifaced nature of digital platform ecosystems.

3. To develop a systems model to demonstrate how intertwined networks between digital platform ecosystems, stakeholders, and societal institutions can be stimulated with the help of approaches derived from ecology and use such models to analyze characteristics such as complexity, diversity, and resilience.

To read more about the stage one of the ECOANTITRUST initiative, click here.

To read more about the stage three of the ECOANTITRUST initiative, click here.

Rovenskaya, E. & Ivanov, A. (2021). Προς ένα Οικο-λογικό Αντιμονοπωλιακό Δίκαιο (Towards Eco-Logical Antitrust) (in Greek). In: Έκθεση Πεπραγμένων του 2021. pp. 36-40 Athens, Greece: Επιτροπή Ανταγωνισμού.


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