UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Living healthier or living longer? IIPP responds to the grand challenge of an ageing society

12 March 2020

On Tuesday 3 March 2020, IIPP Director Mariana Mazzucato addressed the UK House of Lords to give evidence on the Government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge.

House Of Lords Inquiry into Ageing

Over the past few decades life span has increased while health span has seen a steady decline. The Government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge focuses on using innovation to improve health in old age. The primary aim of this Grand Challenge is adding five years of healthy life expectancy by 2035, whilst also reducing health equalities so we all stay heathy as we age.

This key Grand Challenge was explored through the Science and Technology Committee enquiry held at the House of Lords earlier this month. Professor Mazzucato was invited to give evidence to showcase IIPP’s missions work, as well as the role that the Mission-Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOIIS) Commission played in dealing with the challenge of an ageing population.


The central question of the day was whether the goal of increasing life span by five years by 2035 is achievable. In response, Professor Mazzucato said that while this goal is achievable, we also need to ask if we can “redesign our current policies away from simple subsidies, guarantees and handouts, towards really interesting symbiotic public and private partnerships to achieve really important public goals”.

The Mission-Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOIIS) Commission, which was co-chaired by Professor Mazzucato and Lord David Willets, focused on addressing this goal. A key output of the Commission was the MOIIS report which was published on 22 May 2019. The MOIIS report showed that missions have to be at the heart of both policy-making and funding in order to effectively nurture bottom-up experimentation to fulfil public goals. Having a mission around healthy ageing policy (with concrete targets) will help to change how industry relates to policy and how both private and public funds are steered.

Professor Mazzucato went on to argue that investment (from both private and public funds) should be conditional on transformation of the sectors to achieve public goals, such as fixing the Ageing Society Grand Challenge. Luella Tricket, Director of Value and Access at the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), agreed with Professor Mazzucato’s point about conditionality of investment stressing that “one of the biggest issues with a lot of the funding initiatives is that they are often for the research end of it, they are not about the adoption and spread and actual uptake of the products and services that deliver what it is you are aiming to deliver”.

Watch the livestream here