Centre heralds new era for the digital economy

Developing technological solutions to improve the governance of the digital economy is the focus of a major new hub.

A team of Edinburgh researchers will play a key role in a new centre that aims to improve fairness and efficiency in the sector – including examining the reliance of small enterprises on big tech companies.

The Digital Economy Centre for the Decentralised Digital Economy (DECaDE), hosted by the University of Surrey, has been launched following a £4 million award by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and a £6 million investment from industrial partners.

Improving efficiency

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Surrey will work with Digital Catapult – a technology innovation centre to make digital businesses more competitive and productive.

 Data-driven innovations have dramatically changed the shape of many sectors of the economy, researchers say.

Companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Deliveroo have contributed to a decentralised market place, and a labour market characterised by short-term contracts or freelance work.

The platforms that allow this gig economy to exist tend to be controlled by large organisations that can gather and hold vast pockets of data from users.

Data ownership

A focus of the Centre will be to consider the ethical collection and ownership of data.

Researchers will create systems to increase the ability of data ownership to be shared from the big tech companies to individual and decentralised organisations.

The Centre will look at how technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger technology (DLT) – a digital blockchain system for recording transactions – can allow companies to digitise their business processes with other companies, to create new working models and improve value and fairness.

 In a short space of time, we have seen our economy transformed by digital technology, offering everyone the opportunity to be a producer, seller and direct consumer of services. Whether you are buying a sofa from a private seller on Amazon or you are ordering a takeaway on Just Eat, these peer-to-peer interactions are liberating.  "However, the platforms on which these digital services are built follow the same centralised, classic infrastructure of the past. We are standing on the cusp of a second digital economy disruption wave, led by the emergence of AI and distributed ledger technologies – where governance of these platforms and the data that powers them sit with individuals and decentralised organisations."

Professor John CollomossePrincipal Investigator and Director of DECaDE at the University of Surrey


Understanding value in an ever-increasing decentralised digital economy has never been more important. We look forward to working with a myriad of organisations, in particular those in the Creative Industries, who can benefit from new ways of thinking about how to design a new generation of trusted products and services.

Professor Chris Speed Director for the Institute for Design Informatics and Co-Investigator for the Centre


We rely on technology for so many things in our lives - from paying our bills and buying our weekly food shop to tackling climate change and finding new treatments for diseases. We must continue investing so we can keep pushing the boundaries of technological developments that improve our daily lives and transform industries. The centre will support our ambitious scientists and researchers to develop incredible innovations such as strengthening our online safety and delivering virtual education and healthcare, helping to cement the UK as a science superpower.

Amanda SollowayMinister for Science, Research and Innovation


Design Informatics 




Digital Catapult