UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Thought leader and digital economy practitioner joins IIPP

22 September 2020

Tim O’Reilly, one of the leading thinkers on digital economy joins the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) as Visiting Professor of Practice to work on algorithmic rents.

Tim O'Reilly joins IIPP

Photo credit: Chris Michel

IIPP welcomes Tim O’Reilly as its newest visiting professor of practice. Tim has a history of convening conversations that reshape the computer industry. If you have heard the term 'open-source software', 'web 2.0', 'the Maker Movement', 'government as a platform' or 'the WTF Economy', he has had a hand in framing each of these big ideas. He is the founder, CEO, and Chairman of O’Reilly Media, and a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV).
Tim will work on IIPP project 'Economic Rents, Algorithmic Monopolies, and Competition Policy', funded by the Omidyar Network. The project will develop a new theoretical approach to rents and use it to study the emergence of economic rents in three key sectors: digital platforms, real estate and finance. In all three sectors we have seen very large growth in rentier activity in recent times, and comparing them with IIPP’s new lens will create important insights into the commonalities that run across these business models and what makes them unique by sector.

As the nature of rents in digital platforms is the least understood, comparing and contrasting it with other forms of rents is essential in understanding its nature. In this regard the project team will look at how algorithms are currently being used to create vs. extract value, and how a change in the extractive behaviour requires new types of governance structures and relationships between actors.
Tim will also teach on IIPP’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme from this Autumn.
IIPP Founding Director Mariana Mazzucato says,

We are really excited to welcome Tim to IIPP! His work on digital economy, particularly in understanding the value extractive power of big tech platforms has been fundamental to our research in this area. Together with Tim we are excited to develop new frameworks and tools to understand and analyse digital innovation ecosystems and to help policymakers to shape them to deliver public value.

Tim says,

Much of the work being done on tech and antitrust is missing the key insight that it isn't just size, but the ability of tech platforms to extract economic rents through the design of the algorithms that drive attention. I'm so excited to join the IIPP team studying the intersection of technology and rent extraction. This is work that could make a huge difference to how our societies manage the economic and social impact of these platforms. 

Learn more about our work in economic rents

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