Centre for Law, Economics and Society (CLES)


11 November
General Purpose Technologies and Competition Law

29 November
The Digital Economy: Economics, Antitrust and Regulation

To view past events, please go to the events pages.


Contact Us

For general enquiries, please contact:

laws.research [at] ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 8484

For research project enquiries, please contact:

Professor Ioannis Lianos
+44 (0)20 3108 8346
i.lianos [at] ucl.ac.uk


Forthcoming events are listed below. Past events can be viewed here.

Saturday 11 November 2017, 13:15 - 19:00

General Purpose Technologies and Competition Law

Sao Paolo, Brazil

The workshop is co-organized by the Centre for Law, Economics and Society at UCL Laws, the FGV Law School in Sao Paolo and the HSE/Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development. It will take the form of an interactive discussion, after a couple of introductions to each specific topic.

About the workshop:
The development of General Purpose Technologies, such as the steam engine, railways, electricity, computing, the Internet, Artificial intelligence, biotechnology, usually leads to disruptive innovation and ultimately to important increases in productivity that provokes important spill-over effects to various industries and markets (Jovanovic & Rousseau, 2005). The term has been employed extensively recently in order to analyse the role of technology in economic growth. Bresnahan and Trajtenberg (1996) argue that GPTs should have the following characteristics:

  • Pervasiveness”, as the idea is that the GPT should spread to most sectors of the economy;
  •  “Improvement”, as the GPT becomes better over time, the costs of using it being reduced;
  • Innovation spawning”, as the GPT should make it easier to invent and produce new products or processes.

The process of diffusion of a GPT may take a considerable period of time and may lead to entrenched positions for “lead firms” that have early invested on the exploitation of that technology. These firms control GPT clusters, the technology being applied in various economic sectors that will eventually form part of their value nets or value chains. The interactions between the “dominant” or “lead” firms and their application sectors are quite complex. Early technical choices made at the time of the adoption of GPT may create path dependencies and constrain choices at a later process when the GPT has spread and is implemented in various sectors of economic activity. This may lead to “growth bottlenecks” that are exploited by “dominant” or “lead” firms. However, the application sectors may also be a source of competitive constraint to these “dominant” or “lead” firms. Their position is not challenged by new technologies in direct competition with the lead firm’s one but by firms attempting to meet unserved demand outside the original GPT cluster (Bresnahan & Yin, 2016).

This “vertical” competition (Lianos, 2017) may take different forms and does not only correspond to competition within a relevant product market or, even more broadly, an industry, with the aim to lower costs per unit of output so as to gain more market share and in principle raise the rate of return of the capital invested. One may distinguish between competition within an industry, which compels individual producers to lower costs so that they can compete effectively, thus leading to a turbulent equalization of selling prices while profit margin and profit rates are dis-equalized, some firms being more efficient than others, and competition between industries (hardware v. sofware for instance), capital moving from one industry to another in search of higher profits.

Notwithstanding the fact that economic growth constitutes an important aim of competition law enforcement, in view of the increasing emphasis put on the necessary linkage between competition law and innovation, GPTs have not yet been systematically studied from the perspective of competition law. The development of GPTs may lead to important economic and social disruptions and significant periods of dominance of specific “lead” firms. These firms may use their power strategically so as to exclude potential horizontal and/or vertical competition and ensure that their central position remains uncontested. These GPTs also often emerge in developed countries and their diffusion to developing countries may be considerably slowed down or even stopped by “growth bottlenecks”. This has of course a considerable impact on social welfare and global social justice.

The aim of this conference will be to reflect on the way competition law applied to a number of GPTs in the past and understand how this past experience may be useful in assessing the challenges raised by current and future GPTs. The first panel of the conference will engage with the broader issue of GPTs, their impact on economic growth and will then focus, in view of the recent history of antitrust, in particular on the computer industry and Internet (including Internet of Things), but also some old history from which we can draw lessons from (e.g. internal combustion engine, electricity, railroad, automobiles). Part 2 will engage with artificial intelligence/machine learning, Big Data and blockchain and Part 3 will focus on lessons from the biotech industry and DNA design/editing technologies.

Speakers include:

  • Eduardo Caminati – President of Ibrac
  • Leonor Cordovil, Grinberg, Cordovil Advogados
  • Dennis Davis, Competition Appeal Court, South Africa
  • Professor Marcio de Oliveira Júnior, Brazilian Senate
  • Elizabeth Farina, President and CEO of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).
  • Eleanor Fox, NYU Law School
  • Paulo Furquium, ISNPER
  • Professor Alexey Ivanov, HSE Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development
  • Professor Ioannis Lianos, UCL
  • Professor Caio Mario da Silva Pereira Neto, FGV Law School

Visit the event website for further information, including the programme, and to book your place.

Wednesday 29 November 2017, 13:00 - 18:00

The Digital Economy: Economics, Antitrust and Regulation

A 4-hour CPD course

Speaker: Professor David Evans (UCL / University of Chicago)
Organised by the Jevons Institute for Competition Law and Economics and the UCL Centre for Law, Economics and Society

Timings: Registration from 1pm, course starts at 1.30pm and ends at 6pm.

About the course:
The digital economy has grown vast and now reaches almost every aspect of our lives. Whether consumer, business, or regulator we interact with Internet-based businesses constantly. It is also undergoing a massive transformation, with accompanying disruption, as the PC-web-browser centric ecosystem shifts to a mobile-app-centric ecosystem. That transformation has resulted in the “sharing economy,” the “gig-economy”, and the “app-economy” to use some of phrases that dominate today’s conversations.

This course will cover the unique business models followed by Internet-based companies; explore the changes in market structure that has taken place in the last few years as a result of the move to mobile; and consider some of the key competition policy and regulatory issues being debated today.

The course will consist of twelve short segments:

  1. overview;
  2. technological forces;
  3. economic forces;
  4. wires, towers, and physical stuff;
  5. software platforms, APIs, and apps;
  6. desktop/browser-mobile/app transition
  7. economics of free;
  8. ad-support platforms and attention markets;
  9. marketplaces and online retail;
  10. gig and sharing platforms;
  11. voice-activated and artificial intelligence platforms
  12. privacy and data

Each segment will include an application to competition and regulatory policy for the digital economy using examples from the US, EU, and China.

The course will draw extensively on examples of competition policy cases involving the digital economy from the US, EU, and China and these will be included in each segment.

Who should attend:
The course is mainly designed for professionals familiar with competition policy and sectoral regulation (lawyers, economists, and officials) but should also be informative for anyone who works for, invests in, must interact with digital economy businesses.

Visit the event page for more information and to register for the course.

Page last modified on 23 oct 17 14:07