The Information Resource about the European approach on

Digital Ecosystems
the enabling technologies and paradigms
for fostering endogenous local development , local capacity building and knowledge sharing processes
providing tailored and personalized ICT services to citizens and business networks

An activity activated by the Directorate General Information Society and Media (now DG-Cnect) of the European Commission

The Digital Ecosystem in a nutshell

The Digital Ecosystem concept emerged worldwide as an innovative approach to support the adoption and development of ICT. This concept, which was coined in 2002 in Europe, [1] "Digital Business Ecosystems" aimed at implementing the ambitious objectives set at Lisbon Council: higher growth, more and better jobs and greater social inclusion, keeping in mind the peculiarities of the European development, mostly based on a diffuse network of SMEs and local innovation systems.

The preliminary research on Digital Business Ecosystems was funded by FP6 Framework Programme, and was included in the overall FP7 Framework Programme.
Today, whilst even the most extensive centralised software environments have the ambition to form "Digital Ecosystems", the vision of Digital Ecosystems is becoming mature. Following the pioneering work and the preliminary achievements, Europe has now developed a longer-term vision and an evolution strategy and the concept was extended and it is moving from the research pahse to the innovation phase.

This concept reached its maturity and was not included among the topics of the ICT-FP7 research workprogramme implementations, but was included within the CIP and in the Regions for Economic Change workprogrammes.

During the initial trials and testbeds it was discovered that the interest of the Digital Ecosystem paradigm goes beyond the application for enterprise networking, but it could applied to other areas (e.g. to eGovernment forming Digital eGovernment Ecosysems). Digtal Ecosystems becomed a policy instrument for fostring local endogenous development, implementing the Digital Local Agenda, as stated in the EISCO '2008 final declaration .

Digital Ecosystem Information Sources

The following web-pages present the major information resources related to the this concept and related activities. Since by definition, the topic is complex, evolving, and a variety of ecosystems exist, the following references may show a diversity of views and approaches, corresponding to the interests and background of the authors/groups.

Recent Events, International Conferences, Initiatives

Innovation and deployment


Policy Objectives

ICTs play a key double role:

    1. ICT adoption plays a central role for improving productivity and for enabling business networking in a competitive knowledge-based economy. The wide availability of affordable ICT services and applications, which could be adapted to SMEs and local/national needs is crucial.
    2. ICT development and service provision, preserving the existence of local ICT industry and related skills. In addition to the economic relevance of the ICT sector, it allows to keep independence and autonomy in this strategic sector.

The Digital Business Ecosystem aims at contributing to the achievement of the Lisbon objectives, providing SMEs, including micro enterprises, ICT applications and services which improve their efficiency, business integration and synergies within EU territories, but also enabling the integration of local value chains within the global market.
These applications and services are tailored on SMEs local needs and are formed by the dynamic integration of several components, which are provided by different organisations scattered around the Europe or the World. In this way the local ICT industries will maintain and enlarge its knowledge and capacity to develop and to deploy ICT applications and services.

During the initial trials and testbeds it was discovered that the interest of the Digital Ecosystem paradigm goes beyond the application for enterprise networking, but it could applied to other areas (e.g. to eGovernment forming Digital eGovernment Ecosysems). Digtal Ecosystems is a policy instrument for implementing the Digital Local Agenda, fostering local endogenous development, as stated in the EISCO '2008 final declaration:

A first significant conclusion [of EISCO 2008 conference] is the need to implement digital ecosystems in the territories for an integrated bottom-up approach for building digital capacity and endogenous local development. By adopting them and its underlying principles, public administrations can provide more tailored and personalized ICT services to citizens and businesses, which are cost-effective and adapted to the local culture and administrative processes. It allows administrations to pool, reuse, adapt and integrate different services created in other administrations in an easy and fast way, Together with pre-commercial procurement mechanisms, it allows local governments to involve local SME’s both as users and developers of services, thereby activating local capacity building and knowledge sharing processes amongst the stakeholders within both the local area and across other national and international environments.

The instrument to move forward in this direction is the Digital Local Agenda to plan  the development of the Information Society  and ensure and adequate collaboration and coordination between all levels of the public administration State and the private sector.  In this context, eGovernment must  become a system that overcomes the actual situation in many local areas where best practices remain only as isolated cases of excellence. Reusing existing ICT solutions that are successful  and avoiding re-inventing the wheel over and over, is a must. Open source software a valid instrument for this, other than proprietary software.


A natural life ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms plus their physical environment.

In the same way, a business ecosystem is "the network of buyers, suppliers and makers of related products or services” plus the socio-economic environment, including the institutional and regulatory framework.

A digital ecosystem is a self-organising digital infrastructure aimed at creating a digital environment for networked organisations that supports the cooperation, the knowledge sharing, the development of open and adaptive technologies and evolutionary business models.

The digital ecosystem approach transposes the concepts to the digital world, reproducing the desiderable mechanisms of natural ecosystems. As several interacting natural ecosystems exist, several digital ecosystems exists due to differentiation and the development of endemic product and services tailored to specific local needs.

Which will be the future Digital Ecosystem ?

The current Digital Ecosystem, could evolve following diferent scenario. In this video you can see the three scenarios envisaged by the World Economic Forum

The research in Digital Business Ecosystems would like to achieve the third scenario among the ones described, empowering small players and communities.

According to the DE research, the digital ecosystem should results from the combination of :

A digital ecosystem means to be the ICT-enabling technology for business ecosystems based on the dynamic and amorphous interaction among a multiplicity of small organisations.

Business/eGov Ecosystem + Digital Ecosystem = ( Innovation Ecosystems or Digital Ecosystem )

Specific Aims of the Digital Business Ecosystem

A Digital Business Ecosytem results from the structurally coupled and co-evolving digital ecosystem and business ecosystem. A network of digital ecosystems, will offer opportunities of participation in the global economy to SMEs and to less developed or remote areas. These new forms of dynamic business interactions and global co-operation among organisations and business communities, enabled by digital ecosystem technologies, are deemed to foster local economic growth. This will preserve local knowledge, culture and identity and contribute to overcome the digital divide.

The digital ecosystem research area aims at developing the ICT-enabling technologies and paradigms that are needed to support the emergence and sustainability of knowledge-based networked business ecosystems: geographic (or virtual) areas where specific policy initiatives will foster growth, improve innovation, productivity and social inclusion, through the optimal use of local assets and the global interaction empowered by ICT. The support to the knowledge sharing, the establishment of worldwide value chains and to transitory business networking will promote global cooperation and alternative ways of developing software and conducting business.

The key enabling technologies developed within the digital ecosystem research aim at providing a knowledge- and service-oriented infrastructure that supports the spontaneous composition, distribution, evolution and adaptation of ICT-based services. This platform should allow the SME software industry to independently develop (and disseminate on the network) services and software components which will be composed forming complex, evolutive and adpted solutions. These technologies allow the spontaneous development and the cooperative provision of services and solutions, without the need for any keystone player, central coordination or central point of control/failure.

The digital ecosystems address in parallel the issues of "ICT adoption" and "ICT development and service provision", supporting:

    1. ICT users
      By activating the continuous creation and evolution of a multiplicity of affordable ICT-based services, digital ecosystems make available a diversity of services adapted to local needs, and lowering the barriers of ICT adoption for SMEs. This should allow SMEs to leverage the possibility of new distribution channels providing niche services at local ecosystems and extending their market reach through the DBE. In addition, easy access and large availability of applications adapted to local SMEs, will foster ICT adoption and local economical growth of innovation nodes.
    2. Software and ICT-based services providers
      By providing co-operative software development mechanisms for enterprises which are too small to offer their services and/or to produce a complete complex solution, digital ecosystems contribute preserving the strategic European software industry, and avoiding the loss of knowledge and human capital that would accrue from the dominance of few large players in a monopolists or oligopoly situations.

Research and Innovation Challenges

In order to realise the potential of the digital ecosystem vision, a multi-disciplinary approach will be adopted to specify, design and, implement the building blocks of a digital ecosystem infrastructure. The main scientific task is to translate the concept developed for interpreting social organisations and living organisms and converting them into a set of appropriate concepts and operative models for the development of the digital software ecosystems - targeted at small organisations.

Research should develop the basic theories and technologies needed for structuring and for the bottom-up spontaneous deployment and evolution of digital ecosystems. The transposition of behaviours and architectures from natural to digital and to economic systems requires to build new knowledge and the integration of R&D from several disciplines.

Given its holistic approach, the DBE requires multidisciplinary fundamental research integrating the following interacting main areas and their communities:


In September 2002 the e-Business Unit -SMEs area of the European Commission, DG-INFSO has published on the go-digital website (Background - Go-digital homepage) and widely disseminated the Discussion paper "Towards a network of digital business ecosystems fostering the local development"(.pdf).
During the fourth quarter of 2002, a sequence of workshops were organised to verify the interest of the European research community in investing in the Digital Ecosystem area. An additional objective of the workshops was to disseminate the information and to improve and enrich the digital ecosystem concept.

This concept was included in the FP6 IST work programme in the Strategic Objective 3.1.9 Networked Business and Government.

The April 2003 call for project proposal of the FP6-IST work programme included in its focus "IST as driver for small business and government reorganisation through local development processes including small business ecosystems" and "multidisciplinary researches into complex adaptive and self-organising systems" within the strategic objectives "3.1.9 Networked Business and Governments" .

Several research groups presented proposals for RTD projects proposals in the Digital Ecosystems area. A panel of independent experts evaluated these submitted proposals, and selected for funding under the available budget one large Integrated Project: DBE - Digital Business Ecosystems.
This first FP6 project on Digital Ecosystems started its activities in November 2003 and is due to complete them in October 2006.

In April 2004 was created the sector "Technologies for Business Ecosystems", within the European Commission, as part of the Unit "ICT for Enterprise Networking" (DG-INFSO/D5) of the EC’s Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission. The website was established to provide further information about this sector, and the EC scientific officers Francesco Nachira (Head of Sector) or Marion Le Louarn (Head of Project Cluster) can be contacted in case further information are needed.

In May 2004, the ICT for Enterprise Networking projects were grouped into four clusters, one of which is the "Technologies for Digital Ecosystems" cluster.

In April / May 2005, a second cycle of workshops has been organised for re-tuning the research needs and the priorities in the digital ecosystems, producing a position paper which defines the context and set up a research agenda. You can find here the main papers about this reseach area, the past and future events, and the latest slides presented.

The digital ecosystems, while sharing some common protocols and enabling technologies, are developed and grow independently at local level. The local ecosystems implement policies of technological transfer and of innovation and contribute to build the European research Area. A growing number of innovative regions and areas are joining the initiative.

In January 2007, with the EC reorganisation related to the launch of FP7, the EC sector "Technologies for Digital Ecosystems" was closed; no new research projects will be launched within the IST FP7 programme.

The digital ecosystem objectives are in line with the one of the objectives expressed in the communication i2010 "A European Information Society for growth and employment", i.e. to define e-business policies aiming to remove technological, organisational and legal barriers to ICT adoption with a focus on SMEs. Digital ecosystem topic is present and was well-described within the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities.

The research continued withing the cluster of EC FP6 projects until the end of 2008. This cluster of project cooperates in order to continue the scientifical and technical development, to make evolving the concept and the framework. Within the European Commission DG Information Society and Media, the Digital Business Ecosystem research cluster was followed until December 2008, when it become mature and moved to the innovation and regional deployment phase.

In January 2007, due to the non-inclusion of the Digital Ecosystems in the Workprogrammes in the period 2007-2008. Nevetheless, the digital ecosystem research community is growing; their activities are widespreading and the research results have been transferred to the market. The research is continuing withing the cluster of running EC-FP6 projects, the further development is done by open source community, by running European, National and regional projects. The network of digital ecosystems region is attracting more regions, through the "Regional Digital Ecosystem Networks", supported by the IST PEARDROP project and by the CIP DEN4DEK project.

The further development is currently done by open source communities, Trans-european, National and regional projects and by regional networks. The digital ecosystems, while sharing some common protocols and enabling technologies, are developed and grow independently at local level. Today there are several implementations of the Digital Ecosystem infrastructure, made by EU projects or by privete companies. In order to avoid a fragmentation of initiatives, and to guaratee the sustainability of the infrastructure, based on a nogoing debate among the users, it is foreseen to transform the infrastructure from reference implementation, to an ecosystem of modules defined by their protocols. You can the debate on the Digital Ecosystem Infrastructure Implementation(s): "How to overcome the Bus Syndrome" originated by the paper of M.De Cecco.

The local ecosystems implement policies of technological transfer and of innovation and contribute to build the European research Area. A growing number of innovative regions and areas are joining the initiative. The regional networks: REDEN, the "Regional Digital Ecosystem Network" and eris@ network are deploying the digital ecosystems at regional level.