Axel Ockenfels is Professor of Economics at the University of Cologne and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn. He is also Director of the Cologne Laboratory of Economic Research (CLER), and Principal Investigator in the Center for Social and Economic Behavior (C-SEB) and the Excellence Cluster ECONtribute. He held visiting positions at Penn State, Harvard University, Stanford University, and UC San Diego.
Ockenfels' research focuses on “behavioral economic engineering”, which combines research in game theory and behavioral research to design markets, algorithms and competitive strategies.
In behavioral science, Ockenfels pioneered economic models of inequality aversion and experimental economic studies of intentionality and fair procedures, and he published one of the first economic experimental studies measuring conditional cooperation and paternalism, as well as various models of rational and boundedly rational behavior.
In economic design, Ockenfels' research has benefitted from collaborations with governments, market platforms, companies and other researchers. Examples include Ockenfels' early contributions to the design of eBay's auction platform and reputation mechanism, and the design of various markets and choice architectures in the Internet, electricity, climate, telecommunications, finance, transport and other sectors, as well as in firms. A particular interest is market design in times of crisis. Examples include the design of markets and interventions to secure vaccine supply, prevent power outages, reduce energy consumption in a crisis, and incentivise climate action.
Ockenfels is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts, and of the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech. He serves as a Department Editor for Management Science. He is also member of the Economists' Roundtable and of the Climate Economists' Roundtable at the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt), and of the Academic Advisory Board at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).
In 2005 he was the first economist in 17 years to receive the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Science Foundation. In 2006 he received the Gossen Prize of the German Economic Association, in 2018 he was awarded the ERC Advanced Grant of the European Research Council, in 2020 he received the Zukunftspreis of the University of Cologne, and in 2022 the Exeter Prize.