Research by TILT

We are one of the leading research groups in Europe at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It is premised on the multidisciplinary study of socio-technical change, aiming at understanding the interaction of technology and social and normative practices, in order to clarify how regulatory challenges of socio-technical change can be addressed.

TILT is unique in bringing together the diversity of disciplines, perspectives and methodologies, to create a holistic and all-encompassing picture of socio-technical change in selected industries. Its different approaches are connected through three driving questions of what the challenges for regulation are, how these challenges should be regulated, and who are and should be the actors involved.   

Research strategy 

Our research strategy (the so called Signature Plan) for the forthcoming years focuses on regulating socio-technical change. There are two ways in which socio-technical change impacts on law and regulation. On the one hand, socio-technical change challenges our understanding of law and society and requires us to rethink the legal and regulatory framework (e.g. how do we protect privacy in an era of mass surveillance? How to adjust liability rules with self-driving cars?). On the other hand, socio-technical change can itself be used to develop novel regulatory tools (e.g. using artificial intelligence to make regulatory decisions). Both of these aspects are addressed in our research. 

Our research is divided in three clusters: 

  • The regulation & governance cluster brings in a multidisciplinary analysis emphasizing the way in which technology impacts on power relations and how those in power use technology. It provides an overarching perspective on the nature of socio-technical change and the role of law and institutions in this new space.  
  • The fundamental rights & technology cluster focuses on the relationship between rights and technology with a focus on privacy and data protection, cybercrime and cybersecurity and the relationship between AI and fundamental rights.  
  • The competition & innovation cluster focuses on the regulation of innovation with particular attention for digital and energy markets.  

More about our Signature Plan


TILT’s research expands over many research areas, sectors, and disciplines.  Our key focus is on six areas of expertise and three application areas/ sectors. 

Regulation, governance of AI, and human rights

TILT's research in the field aims at understanding how the governance of AI of takes shape in practice and how normative interventions can be made in these developments, with a particular focus on the architectures of responsibility. This includes conceptually and empirically exploring what kinds of governance structures and technological design could ensure the responsible development and use of technologies] and how public administration automates regulation and decision-making processes. 

In addition, TILT conducts research in identifying the value of incorporating legal notions into the design of legal AI applications, with the parallel benefit of pushing the research boundaries further towards the natural (legal) language understanding aspect of AI. 

From a human rights point of view, we look into how the use of AI and data-driven technologies alters the policy-making, decision-making and practices of various governmental actors and how regulation affects human rights, such as non-discrimination, privacy, and the right to effective remedy, and which are the checks and balances at constitutional and other rule of law level that should be implemented. 

Related projects

Data sharing and data governance

Data sharing and data governance are core to several research programs of the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT), part of Tilburg Law School. With the development of computing technologies, data has become an ever more valuable resource, in terms of understanding our world, making better-informed decisions and attempting to predict future events. This can serve to generate economic benefits, but also to support societal goals by tackling fundamental sustainability, health or environmental challenges. Due to it’s non-rivalrous nature (several people can use the same data at the same time), fostering the sharing of data could lead to a greater use of this asset and consequently to the maximisation of economic and societal benefits. This however requires an appropriate data governance. 

TILT’s interdisciplinary research aims to contribute to a better understanding of the benefits and risks of data sharing, whether horizontally or within specific sectors, such as agriculture, energy or mobility. It also aims to contribute to the reflections on how to best design data governance models. 

TILT’s focus 

One of TILT’s research focus is to contribute to, and develop a better understanding of, the European Data Strategy. Over the past years, the European Union had adopted or proposed a multitude of legislations containing data sharing or data governance provisions, whether horizontal (such as the GDPR, the Open Data Directive, the Data Governance Act or the Data Act proposal) or sectoral (such as PSD2, the Energy Directive, the Digital Markets Act or the European Health Data Space proposal).  

TILT’s research studies whether this European Data Strategy has the potential to foster the desired economic and societal benefits it pursues, and to suggest improvements where this is not the case. In this regard, it questions, through competition, intellectual property and sectoral law considerations, whether these legislations strike a sufficient balance between fostering greater data-related innovation and competition on the one hand, and preserving the data holders’ business interests (e.g. data collection incentives), on the other hand. It also questions whether these legislations sufficiently address the personal data protection considerations that might emerge from data sharing mechanisms, and whether individual’s fundamental rights to data protection are sufficiently preserved. It also raises awareness about the importance of ensuring coherence between these various legislations, both in terms of content and enforcement, in order to ensure legal certainty. 

TILT’s research also extends to ethical and societal reflections that go beyond these legislations, and contributes to the development of complex data governance models, by analysing the underlying ethical, organisational and technical issues that must be addressed. In this regard, it highlights that the collective and relational nature of data is an important factor to take into account when reflecting on data governance. 

Related projects

Cybersecurity and Cybercrime

Security is amongst the most basic human needs, and a precondition for the flourishing and development of individuals and collectivities alike.  “Cyber” security, in turn, loosely indicates the protection of devices, networks, and information from attacks carried out mainly remotely and through digital means. Yet, the functioning of modern society as a whole increasingly rests on computing and networking. As the reliance of society upon technology grows, so does the scope and relevance of cybersecurity, so much so that the distinction between cybersecurity and security tout court is, to some extent, waning away. 

Cybersecurity is not exclusively about STEM disciplines like computer science or software engineering: human factors like governance and regulation are becoming increasingly consequential in the cybersecurity domain. EU law and policy, which used to lag behind the technological state of the art, are now catching up, and the legislative framework regulating cybersecurity in the Union is either being revamped or drafted ex novo to cover aspects that were previously unregulated.  

A related research area, cybercrime is crime enabled or facilitated by technology. Ranging from hacking, misuse of devices, to cyberviolence such as cyberharassment and image based sexual abuse. 

TILT’s focus 

TILT focuses on researching and understanding the governance, legal, and regulatory aspects of cybersecurity and cybercrime. Research dimensions include, inter alia, network and information security, horizontal cybersecurity requirements, cybersecurity good governance mechanisms, the legal aspects of vulnerabilities and exploits, surveillance, electronic evidence and cyber investigations in general.  

Cybersecurity and cybercrime are a core part of the research agenda of TILT both as a topic on its own and in connection with many other topics and areas of inquiry, from international data transfers to fundamental rights. 

Related projects

  • ENCRYPT - A scalable and practical privacy-preserving framework
  • THESEUS - Making patching happen
  • INTERSECT - Towards and internet of secure things
Competition law, Intellectual Property, regulation, digital platforms

The research area of competition law, intellectual property, and the regulation of digital platforms is undergoing a major revival in the European Union and globally. Concerns about highly concentrated markets and the impact of digital platforms on our economy and society push legislators and regulators to develop novel approaches.  

By bringing changes to the established competition and intellectual property frameworks, the implementation of the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act will attract substantial attention and give rise to plenty of issues in terms of the substance of the rules as well as the mechanisms of enforcement.  

The twin green and digital transition also illustrates the importance of competition and intellectual property law as regulatory instruments to promote innovation and to foster a sustainable society in industries such as digital platforms, energy, health, and agriculture.  

Beyond this, platform, data, and AI technologies will keep challenging the boundaries of the fields of competition and intellectual property law and require a constant reflection on whether and how existing concepts and approaches should be adjusted to adequately capture market and technological developments. 

TILT’s focus 

TILT’s research in this area is both of a fundamental and applied nature.  

From a competition law perspective, the research involves questions about the extent to which existing concepts such as market power and consumer welfare are still suitable as triggers for protection and how to reinforce existing regulatory techniques and enforcement mechanisms. For instance, what institutional design of competition authorities is best suited for regulating digital markets and how can competition law support sustainability initiatives while ensuring that markets remain competitive? Our methodology for answering such questions relies on a mix of doctrinal legal research, empirical studies, and law & economics approaches. 

From an intellectual property law perspective, the protection of AI-based inventions and the implementation of new institutional frameworks like the unitary patent create legal challenges that our research is examining. In addition, our intellectual property research explores the impact of the evolving EU copyright law framework on platform governance with a particular focus on the preservation of the freedom of expression and the freedom to conduct a business in the (digital) public sphere. This includes an examination of the changing scope of the ‘communication to the public’ right and the increased pressure exerted on platforms to engage in preventive content moderation through the deployment of algorithmic systems. Using an interdisciplinary methodology (law, political science, sociology) and a comparative analysis of developments taking place across the globe, it aims to develop strategies for fostering online platforms as key infrastructures for promoting political and economic democracy.  

A central theme of inquiry that is present across the range of topics explored in this research area is how commercial practices and policy concerns increasingly blur the boundaries between different legal regimes. Due to the rising interconnections between legal domains, regulatory institutions and enforcement mechanisms start to overlap. This can lead to useful complementarities across different levels and types of regulation but may also give rise to frictions when enforcers clash in their interpretations or do not succeed in aligning their interventions. The overlap in institutions and enforcement mechanisms takes different forms. One is the interaction between different levels of governance, ranging from the global or international level to the EU level and the national level. Another one involves questions about how to strengthen synergies and minimize tensions between the activities of different regulators – for instance regarding the interaction between the regimes of competition, data protection and consumer law in digital markets.

Related projects

Data justice

The data revolution has led most people to become more visible, in new ways, to both government and private-sector actors. The ‘data revolution’ has been hailed as a transformative tool for human and economic development. Yet this unprecedented expansion of the power to digitally monitor, sort, and intervene is not well connected to the idea of social justice, nor is there a clear concept of how broader access to the benefits of data technologies can be achieved without amplifying misrepresentation, discrimination, and power asymmetries.  

Our research on data justice seeks a new framework to integrate data privacy, non-discrimination, and autonomy with regard to the use of data technologies, into the same framework as positive freedoms such as representation and access to data. The work at TILT on data justice researches the the lived experience of data technologies in high- and low-income countries worldwide, seeking to understand people’s basic needs regarding these technologies. It seeks the perspectives of civil society organizations, technology companies, and policymakers and relates findings to current governance and rights frameworks to understand whether they match with people’s subjective needs.   

TILT’s focus 

Governing data globally  

Our current model for data governance represents the interests of the largest players in the technology sector and the states in whose economies they are embedded. Data is primarily conceptualised as an asset and citizens as data suppliers. We promote a data governance model that represents a plurality of perspectives and positively contributes to people’s autonomy, participation and accountability.  

Transgressive Technology  

The technology firms are using the pandemic of COVID-19 to expand their reach, change their business strategies and capture new public functions and market positions around the world. We aim to relate the long-running investments in computer infrastructures with recent developments in business strategies to understand the implications of the rapid expansion of technology firms globally, and how to govern this power.  

Data justice theory building  

The power of digital technologies to monitor, sort, and intervene is increasingly being theorized from the perspective of social justice. We research the lived experience of data in high- and low-income countries, seeking to understand people’s basic needs with regard to these technologies. We relate our findings to current governance and rights frameworks in order to build a concept of data justice. 

Related projects


Standardisation and certification are integral part of various research programs of the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT), part of Tilburg Law School. TILT is one of the leading research groups in Europe at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It is premised on the multidisciplinary study of socio-technical change, aiming at understanding the interaction of technology and social and normative practices, in order to clarify how regulatory challenges of socio-technical change can be addressed.  

TILT’s focus 

Our research focuses on the legal and law & economics aspects of standardization and certification in a broad field, including ICT, financial services, global trade, data protection, cybersecurity, energy, product safety, innovation, sustainability, environment and corporate social responsibility. We adopt an interdisciplinary perspective that includes empirical approaches, building on theories and methods from the social sciences, amongst other disciplines. The geographical focus of the projects is on the EU and beyond, and include an international/transnational dimension.  

Research dimensions include institutional and substantive aspects of standardization and certification, including intellectual property rights aspects (including Standard Essential Patents and the interaction of patent policy and competition), technical barriers to trade aspects, regulatory aspects (including standards as transnational private regulation), governance structures, certification as compliance tool in in data protection and cyber security as well as liability and contracts related issues of standardization and certification. An important part of the research output in these areas stems from an ERC Grant, a five-year program on standardization, competition and innovation run by the economists and legal scholars of the Tilburg law and economics centre (TILEC). 

Related projects

In case you would like to know more about our research strategy or would like to express your interest for a collaboration, please reach out to TILT’s Director of Research via tilt-research@tilburguniversity.edu.

Our research partners

Our staff work closely together with both national and international partners

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