skip to content

Axel Ockenfels Appointed New Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn

University of Cologne economist and expert in market design will establish the research department ‘Economic Design & Behavior’ at the MPI in addition to his work at the University of Cologne

Axel Ockenfels, professor at the University of Cologne, will become a new director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn in August 2023. He will establish a new department there, to be called ‘Economic Design & Behavior’. Its aim will be to design market, incentive, and decision architectures, based on modern behavioral research. Professor Dr. Ockenfels will thus complement the departments of Professor Dr. Matthias Sutter and Professor Dr. Christoph Engel at the institute, which focus on behavioral research from an economic and legal perspective. He will continue to teach and conduct research at the University of Cologne.

As a faculty member of the University of Cologne, Professor Ockenfels heads the Cologne Laboratory for Economic Research and coordinates both the ‘Center for Social and Economic Behavior’ and the research division ‘Market Design & Behavior’ of the Cologne-Bonn Cluster of Excellence, ECONtribute. His appointment to the MPI in Bonn will further intensify the cooperation between the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Cologne and the MPI in Bonn, a cooperation that has already contributed to the creation of a prestigious research center for economic behavior and design research in recent years.

Ockenfels researches why people behave the way they do and, on this basis, he develops economic design solutions when incentive architectures and markets fail, or when innovative approaches to behavioral change are needed. He combines game theory with behavioral research and collaborates with scientists from psychology, computer science, and related disciplines. His research results contribute to improved modelling of human behavior in management science and economics. Moreover, they often prove useful for real-world challenges. Examples for this include his contributions to the design of digital markets, such as eBay and the sharing economy, to electricity market design for the energy transformation (Energiewende), to international climate policy, and to auctions in the health, finance, and telecommunications sectors.

The new department at the Bonn MPI will also investigate ethical aspects of institutions and behavior as well as the opportunities and risks of modern computer technology for new markets. Most recently, Ockenfels has contributed to crisis management, for example with proposals for a market design to secure the supply of vaccines, to avoid supply disruptions in the energy sector, and to reduce energy consumption.

The appointment of Professor Ockenfels and the establishment of the department ‘Economic Design & Behavior’ are important steps for the MPI in Bonn and the University of Cologne towards promoting cutting-edge research that abandons outdated dogmas in economic research and contributes to solving the pressing social and economic challenges.

Brief CV Axel Ockenfels

Axel Ockenfels studied economics at the University of Bonn until 1994. He received his doctorate and habilitation from the University of Magdeburg, with periods abroad at Penn State University and Harvard University. Subsequently, he was Emmy-Noether Junior Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Economics in Jena. In 2003, he became Professor of Economics at the University of Cologne. Research periods have taken him to Stanford University and, currently, to the University of California in San Diego, among other places.

In 2005, Ockenfels became the first economist in 17 years to be awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation (DFG). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). He also sits at the Economists’ Round Table in the Federal Chancellery and on the Scientific Advisory Board at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK).

Press and Communications Team:
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods:
Marc Martin
+49 228 91416-119

University of Cologne
Eva Schissler
+49 221 470 4030