Public Interest Ecosystems

Today’s most pressing challenges, such as controlling a pandemic and reversing climate change, demand intensified cooperation between public and private actors in society. Because of their size and scope, these challenges can neither be solved by the State alone, nor left to the market to provide solutions, nor be pursued only by NGOs or other societal actors. A public interest ecosystem, thus, emerges in which cooperation is key for the progress that is necessary to meet society’s challenges.

Cooperation in a PIE may be based, however, on an unclear division of responsibilities, reflected in incoherent regulatory and enforcement frameworks that hinder instead of facilitate effective progress for society. This is further exacerbated by the fact that PIEs change over time: the public interest, which provides the boundaries of the ecosystem, is subject to change, and the actors involved and the operationalization of their roles change as well. 

The RENFORCE building block Public Interest Ecosystems (PIE) aims to understand the role of regulation and enforcement in Europe related to current and changing responsibility for public interests in hybrid ecosystems in which the public and private actors share responsibility. Iterating on the Utrecht School of Law’s long-standing ‘public economic law’ scholarship, PIE aims to discuss regulation and enforcement’s contribution in facilitating progress and safeguarding the rule of law.  In this sense, ‘facilitating’ refers to the role of regulation and enforcement to further societal objectives related to a specific public interest, whereas ‘safeguarding’ means simultaneously ensuring that principles of the rule of law are upheld.

PIE aims to answer the following research question:

  • How can the regulation and enforcement in Europe relating to public interest ecosystems, in which an unclear division of responsibility for a public interest between public and private actors exists, best be understood and improved in light of facilitating progress and safeguarding the rule of the law?
Diagram of Public Interest Ecosystem's components
The Public Interest Ecosystem at work



Visiting researchers:

The PIE Building Block welcomes visiting researchers at the junior or senior levels, who wish to share or connect their ongoing research with the themes of the Building Block during a visiting stay in Utrecht or through other means of cooperation. Please contact the project leaders for more information.

Current research projects

  • An English language special issue on sustainability as a public interest ecosystem (call for paper to follow in the fall 2022);
  • A Dutch language special issue on the new Dutch ‘Market & Government Act’ based on the symposium that was organised on this topic (below);
  • An edited volume for Bloomsbury Hart, titled ‘Mandatory Sustainability and Social Requirements in EU Public Procurement Law: Reflections on a Paradigm Change’ (eds. W.A. Janssen, R. Caranta).

Past events

Participants in the Market & Government Act symposium
Speakers in the symposium on the Market & Government Act, flanked by Willem Janssen and Jasper Sluijs

Participants in the symposium on Mandatory Sustainability in EU Public Procurement Law
Participants in the symposium on Mandatory Sustainability in EU Public Procurement Law


For enquiries or questions, please contact dr. Jasper Sluijs ( or dr. Willem Janssen (