ECCO People

ECCO, the Evolution, Complexity and COgnition group, is an interdisciplinary research center affiliated with the Center Leo Apostel and the Global Brain Institute at the (Dutch-speaking) Free University of Brussels (VUB). 

Address: ECCO, Center Leo Apostel,  Vrije Universiteit Brussel,  

Krijgskundestraat 33,  B-1160 Brussels, Belgium 

(This is just outside the main VUB campus, see map and directions; entrance to the Center: see photo on the right)

phone: +32-2-640 67 37

fax: +32-2-644 07 44

e-mail: secrecco at (replace " at " by "@")




The following lists the present members with their focus of research. "Core" members are those whose main research activities fall under ECCO; most of them make or have made a PhD under the guidance of F. Heylighen. The others participate in ECCO projects, but have their main activity elsewhere. All (and only) members subscribe to the [ECCO] mailing list for announcements and discussion. For more details on individual members, click on the name to go to the person's home page.


Core members


Affiliated members

Photo: some ECCO members on the VUB Campus (Oct. 2008); left to right: Heylighen (Belgium), Vidal (France), Smart (USA), Nagarjuna (India), Stewart (Australia).


(Former) Students

Former members


Collaboration with other groups



√ėyvind Vada: tribute page

Øyvind Vada, one of our Norwegian ECCO members, died on May 21, 2015, from the complications of cancer. The present page on the ECCO website is intended as a tribute to his academic work, which was unfortunately cut short before it could fully reach fruition.

Øyvind was a 49-year old political scientist from Oslo, and the founder and director of the company Memetor. Memetor (formerly Memetix) applies concepts from memetics and systems theory to teach company employees to reflect more creatively about their work and the organization of their firm. Øyvind had always been inspired by a number of intellectual traditions close to ECCO, and in particular by memetics, complex adaptive systems, pragmatism and semiotics.

I first met him in 2005, when he and his then Memetix colleague Petter Braathen (who is still a member of ECCO) reached out to propose a collaboration between their company and ECCO. Two years later, their plans had crystallized to the idea of making a PhD with me, in which they would develop a theoretical framework as a foundation for their practical work in Memetix. Given the many practical duties of running a company, the work on the PhD only advanced slowly. However, over that period, Øyvind gave several outstandingly clear seminars to ECCO, in which he sketched his method of "injecting memes" into a company so as to open up people's way of looking at things, while situating it within his broader intellectual framework.

He also discussed with me several strategies for disseminating the ideas of ECCO, e.g. by setting up what he called the Memeus foundation, or what I defined as a "European Institute for Complexity Studies" (which can be seen as a precursor of the Global Brain Institute). In 2012, he officially registered as a PhD student at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), in the hope that this would help him focus on the work that still needed to be done. His plan was to collect empirical data about the interventions he had done with Memetix/Memetor, so as to measure in how far the memes they had introduced were still present in some of the companies a few years after the intervention.


In 2013, however, I got an email from him that was innocuously entitled "Broccoli?", but which announced that he was being treated for cancer. Initially, he seemed to respond well to the treatment, and in his 2014 PhD progress report he noted that he had not been able to do much because of the treatment, but that now his work was back on track. In December 2014, he even sent me a 70 page, partial draft of his thesis. Over the years, he had also sent me several (unpublished) papers on memetics and complexity governance. All of these texts can be dowloaded below.

I last met him in November together with his friend Tor-Eigil Hodne in Brussels to discuss the possibilities of a joint project of GBI with the Norwegian energy company, Stattnet, for which Tor-Eigil works. Afterwards, he initially expressed his interest in joining the discussion about the consultancy network that we were planning around ECCO/GBI, but later said that because of his health he was unable to be involved. In the last few months, I did not hear from him, but I did not imagine that his condition would deteriorate so quickly. According to Tor-Eigil, "I talked with Øyvind a week before he died, and he was still aiming to get up from bed and out of hospital."

Given that ECCO meant a lot to Øyvind, it is only fair that we pay tribute to his work. We have dedicated our GBI session at the 2015 IS4IS conference in Vienna to him, while showing his TED talk on a big screen.

The present web page will further try to assemble and make available all his scientific contributions. The papers and PhD drafts below were sent to me by Øyvind at different stages as email attachments. They have as far as I know never been published. I have done some minimal editing for streamlining the format and adding a few of the missing references, so that the papers are easily readable as such. The PhD unfortunately lacks most of the planned chapters and references, but the existing material is quite understandable.







PhD Thesis