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"Digital Platform Ecosystems – A topic that matters to all of us"

Interdisciplinary, international, innovative: In their How-to-Wiwi podcast, Professor Jan Krämer and Professor Andreas König explain what distinguishes doctoral studies in the new DFG Research Training Group from other qualification concepts.

Professor Jan Krämer (from left) talking to Professor Andreas König.

Professor Jan Krämer, an information systems scholar, and Professor Andreas König, a management researcher, are spokespersons of the new DFG Research Training Group 2720 "Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE)" at the University of Passau. They have taken time out to introduce the Research Training Group in the How-to-Wiwi podcast of the School of Business, Economics and Information Systems. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Andreas König: Jan, what is the Research Training Group "Digital Platform Ecosystems" all about?

Jan Krämer: Digital platforms are a core phenomenon of the digital economy. We are familiar with these platforms and use them on a daily basis. They include the likes of Google Search,, Airbnb or Uber. But you also have B2B platforms used in industry that are not as well known. The hallmark of digital platforms is that they form an ecosystem around themselves. First, you have the companies who affiliate themselves with the platform. They include companies that offer accommodations on Airbnb, or Uber taxi drivers, hotels on or sellers on Amazon. Then you have the users who interact with these platforms and who are perhaps algorithmically directed towards some specific content, to specific offerings via the platforms. We would like to devote ourselves to the data exchange with digital platforms, which is to say, to the data exchange between the users and the platform and the data exchange between the companies and the platform.

But then you also have more traditional companies, like BMW or Audi, who find themselves up against more platform-based companies like Tesla and who are subsequently drawn into the purview of such a platform ecosystem, are compelled to realign their strategies and reorganise themselves. But you also have platform-based entrepreneurs who, for example, start off as sellers on Amazon and then manage to become major players building at their platform and surrounding ecosystem.

Then, and that's what makes our Research Training Group so special, we also want to take a look at the social implications of this ecosystem. In the urban space for example. On the one hand, there are lots of positive aspects in the case of Airbnb. The fact that accommodations become available that had previously been unavailable, for example. Perhaps there are negative aspects as well though. For instance, the fact that some apartments are held back for Airbnb and no longer available in the open housing market, possibly causing gentrification in cities. Similarly, we also want to have a look at the opportunities and risks that digital platform ecosystems create in developing countries. Naturally, they are likely to strengthen local business and entrepreneurs, on the one hand, but perhaps they also give rise to other forms of precarious employment.

Governments around the world, the EU, the US, India and Canada, among others, are asking themselves how to go about regulating such digital platforms. Do the rules that have been applicable so far suffice, and what should new rules look like? We specifically want to explore these political discursive dynamics and make them our own in the RTG. But having said that, we don't simply want to bring the discourses into the research in our RTG. We also want to contribute to these discourses with our research.

Prof. Dr. Jan Krämer

Professor Jan Krämer

researches the regulation of the Platform Economy

What conditions are required on the internet to create competition and innovation?

What conditions are required on the internet to create competition and innovation?

Professor Jan Krämer holds the Chair of Internet and Telecommunications Business and is spokesperson of the DFG Research Training Group 2720: "Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE)" at the University of Passau. He is a Research Fellow at the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), a Brussels-based think tank.

Andi, what would you say makes our Research and Training Group so special?

Andreas König: There's one question to which we've really given a lot of thought – namely: What does a structured doctoral programme need to truly support early career researchers in our scholarly domains to develop and grow? Based on our reflections, we decided to design DPE to fulfil two conditions that we believe to be especially important: First, DPE offers doctoral students a unique opportunity to specialise in their respective field while, at the same time, being enabled and encouraged to adopt an interdisciplinary vantage and to collaborate across disciplines. Indeed, it is absolutely vital for early career researchers who seek an academic career to get acquainted with and gain a strong foothold in a specific subject area. You need to feel at home in your field. That's why doctoral students at DPE, together with their mentors, develop a highly individualised curriculum. Doctoral students also pursue lots of activities that help them establish a place for themselves in their scholarly community, including active participation in conferences, and so forth. At the same time, doctoral students also benefit from a host of interdisciplinary components. Notably, these include not only opportunities to network within DPE, but also formats to reach out to and interact with the broader society. We are confident that the combination of specialisation and interdisciplinarity that we have weaved into DPE’s DNA will enable substantially novel findings and scholarly contributions.

Second, DPE encourages international networking between the students in a very special way. Perhaps most importantly, we assign to them a tandem of supervisors from our mentoring team, as well as a leading researcher from abroad. The DFG also funds so-called Mercator Fellowships, which allows us to invite leading academics from abroad for a long-term stay to Passau. The Mercator Fellows will become actively and personally involved in forming the DPE community and supporting the doctoral students and postdocs. In addition, the doctoral students themselves are given an opportunity to experience international research during a three-month stay abroad that is funded by the DFG.

Prof. Dr. Andreas König

Professor Andreas König

researches organisational change and executives’ personalities and communications

How do established organisations and their leaders respond to the discontinuities that emerge with digitalisation?

How do established organisations and their leaders respond to the discontinuities that emerge with digitalisation?

Professor Andreas König holds the Chair of Strategic Management, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship and is deputy spokesperson of the DFG Research Training Group 2720: "Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE)" at the University of Passau. His research output is published in leading international journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Review and Research Policy.

Jan, why should students wishing to complete a doctorate apply with us?

Jan Krämer: Firstly, because Passau is a great place to embark on your doctorate. We have really outstanding researchers who publish and research internationally at the highest level. It's great fun to get involved, of course. In the RTG, we have bundled the competencies of those involved to focus on a specific topic: Digital Platform Ecosystem. Everyone's preoccupied with this one shared topic, and that's quite remarkable actually. Usually you obtain your doctorate at some chair and have your own topic. But with us, you have 22 doctoral students all researching on one topic at the same time.

Andreas König: You've actually been in a Research Training Group yourself.

Jan Krämer: That's right, I earned my doctoral degree in a Research and Training Group myself. It was also about digital markets, and then I served as managing postdoc there for many years. So I witnessed and mentored several generations of doctoral students and that was a wonderful experience. It was an interdisciplinary RTG too, involving not only Law and Information Systems but also Business Administration and Economics. It had a profound impact on me as a researcher and is the reason why I now do interdisciplinary research. That's precisely the spirit we want to encourage and inspire in our Research Training Group here in Passau as well. To achieve this, we have decided to go new ways in our doctoral training, which is already of exceptional quality here in Passau. The format of the Research Training Group allows us to try out new possibilities, like a mandatory stay abroad; it also allows us to invite international guests to our university. What's more, the topic is so relevant, far-reaching and important that it doesn't just prepare for a career in science. That may well be the Research Training Group's main focus, but the research shapes you and also preps you perfectly for the job market outside university afterwards. And, lastly, the Research Training Group integrates beautifully into the university's overall strategy, which rests on three pillars – digitalisation, sustainability and Europe. All three pillars come to life in the Research Training Group. Still, the focus of our attention is on the social implications of digitalisation. We've already had a DFG Research Training Group on privacy at the University of Passau that brought together the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Law. And now we have re-harnessed this USP in our Research Training Group with its emphasis in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Information Systems and involvement of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Andreas König: We envision the Research Training Group to develop into a true community. That community not only includes the doctoral students and the postdocs and mentors in the Research Training Group, but also the students of the University of Passau, which we actively encourage to participate in our studies as research students. Digital platform ecosystems are central to the digital economy—a phenomenon that impacts, and will continue to impact, present and coming generations of students, especially here in Europe. Fundamental aspects of our lives and our society—sustainability, privacy, freedom, and many more—are intimately linked to the current and future development of digital platform ecosystems. The conversations that will unfold at the DPE Research Training Group thus have a direct bearing on many other research topics studied at our university.

Listen to the complete podcast (in German)

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