UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


IIPP launches the Strategic Economics Alliance to Promote New Theory, New Practice, and New Voices

2 July 2024

During the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose “Rethinking the State” Forum, IIPP launched the Strategic Economics Alliance (SEA) - a new global network of women economists and government leaders that will help to shape economies that put people and planet first.

Strategic Economics Alliance

At the IIPP Forum’s flagship event “New Economic Thinking for a New Industrial Strategy”, which took place on 12 June, 2024 in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre in London, a panel of distinguished speakers discussed the need for new economic thinking to shape industrial strategy that is capable of driving sustainable and inclusive economic growth while also prioritising global equity.

The panel chaired by Leslie Johnston, Chief Executive Officer at the Laudes Foundation, included Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director and Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), Carolina Alves, Associate Professor in Economics at UCL Institute of Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), Bogolo Kenewendo, global economist and former Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry in Botswana and Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Professor of Economics at the University of Johannesburg. Panellists emphasised the importance of forging a clearer connection between new economic theory and its practical implementation, informed by new voices.

This event marked the launch of IIPP’s new Strategic Economics Alliance. Co-chaired by Mariana Mazzucato and Carolina Alves, SEA aims to bridge the gap between new economic thinking and practice by amplifying voices that have been historically and structurally marginalised. The initiative will establish a more direct link between women economists who are advancing new economic thinking and change-oriented practitioners, such as heads of state, ministers, and mayors. Underpinning SEA is the concept of practice-based theorising: ensuring that new theory informs policy in practice, and that practical insights and experiences feed back into academic reflection. This initiative brings academics and policymakers together to co-lead the vision and implementation of SEA. It will address the most pressing challenges of the 21st century - such as climate change, health crises, and skyrocketing inequality.

Why a Strategic Economics Alliance?

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of articles published in the top 20 development journals from 1990 to 2019 were authored by researchers from the Global North. Only 16% were authored by researchers from the Global South, and the remaining 11% were collaborations between North and South scholars.

The marginalization of Global South researchers also affects their influence on development policies. For example, less than 1% of authors of the World Bank are based in developing countries.

Gender disparities add another layer of inequality. Women hold only about 32% of academic economic positions worldwide, and this percentage plummets at higher academic levels. Only 15% of senior economists, such as associate professors and above, are women, and 95% of economy Nobel winners were men.

IIPP has launched SEA to help address these issues.

New Theory, New Practice, and New Voices

To tackle the social, economic, and political challenges of the 21st century, we need a more inclusive academic field. “This alliance is trying to create a new pipeline of young female academics,” said Mariana Mazzucato during the network launch. As the Founding Director and Professor of Economics of Innovation and Public Value at IIPP and co-chair of the network, she emphasized the importance of bringing in new voices. However, diversity alone is not enough.

On the contrary, she argued that we also need fresh frameworks that redefine the role of the state in addressing major challenges. Instead of viewing the state as merely a market fixer, Prof Mazzucato argues for adopting a market-shaping approach. As she pointed out, “It’s not surprising that the types of policies that we have are always a bit too little too late, a bit lame, and a bit depressed.”

Prof. Mazzucato speaking at the launch event for the Strategic Economics Alliance, as part of IIPP’s annual “Rethinking the State” Forum.

Adding to this, Erika Kraemer-Mbula, a Professor of Economics at the University of Johannesburg, emphasized that “traditional economic thinking does not allow us to deal with uncertainty.” During her intervention, she underscored the profound changes the world is experiencing and how these shifts challenge traditional economic models and assumptions.

Rethinking economic theory also means rethinking the state. Addressing our biggest challenges requires a capable, agile, and flexible public sector working alongside the private sector, academia, and civil society. A large part of the panel discussion focused on the return of industrial policy globally. The speakers agreed that without a new approach, industrial policy risks reproducing the mistakes of the past.

Panellists also highlighted that Global South academics have been advancing new economic thinking for a long time, but have been excluded from mainstream discussions on economic theory and practice. Bogolo Kenewendo, a global economist at Kenewendo Advisory and former Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry in Botswana, pointed out, “Some of the elements that are being re-emphasized were actually mentioned by African presidents in 1966. The idea that for the continent to develop, we had to have much more deliberate engagement and implementation of industrial policy change.”

Similarly, Carolina Alves, Associate Professor in Economics at IIPP, honoured the legacy of Maria da Conceição Tavares, a Brazilian economist who recently passed away. Tavares was renowned for her view of economic theory as a transformative tool. Dr Alves quoted her to emphasize this point: “An economy that’s not concerned with social justice is an economy that condemns people. If you don’t care about social justice, with who pays the bill, you’re not a serious economist, you’re a technocrat.”

SEA’s challenge is to bring historically marginalized perspectives into the global mainstream to help reshape the economy.


Erika Kraemer-Mbula highlighted a critical issue: the digital transformation and green energy transition are heavily reliant on minerals, many of which are located in Africa. “The digital transformation is very mineral intensive. And that means that most of the minerals that are needed for the North are sitting in Africa. We are not producing enough solar panels to consume all the silver that we extract, and we’re not producing enough batteries to use all the lithium. So we have to export it. Therefore, it becomes a new scramble for Africa. We are reproducing systems that perpetuate the patterns and distortions of colonial legacies we’re trying to move away from”.

Adding to this, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo pointed out the disparity in renewable energy investments. Despite Africa holding 30% of the critical minerals needed for the energy transition, the continent sees less than 3% of the development investment.

IIPP launched its new Strategic Economics Alliance at a panel event chaired by Leslie Johnston. Speakers included (from left to right): Dr. Carolina Alves, Prof. Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, and Prof. Mariana Mazzucato.

Next steps for SEA

SEA aims to:

  • Advance new economic thinking and promote inclusive and sustainable economies in both theory and practice.
  • Build a strong network of peer support and professional development between women economists from the Global South and North.
  • Link economic thinkers with practitioners to leverage their respective knowledge, focusing on health, climate and finance.
  • Create a space where voices of female economists from diverse regional perspectives can be discussed, valued and reflected in policy.

SEA is co-chaired by Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London and Carolina Alves, Associate Professor in Economics at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London. SEA’s initial advisory board members include:

  • Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Professor of Economics at the University of Johannesburg
  • Carlota Perez, Honorary Professor at Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London and the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University
  • Bogolo Kenewendo, Regionalization & Just Transition Director; Special Adviser, UN Climate change High Level Champions; former Cabinet Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry in Botswana
  • Usha Rao, Fromer Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Claudia Lopez, Former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia
  • Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO

SEA will take shape over the coming months. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to Marcela Chapa Garza, Project Manager of the Strategic Economics Alliance: marcela.chapa@outlook.com

Content reproduced with permission from an IIPP blog by Manuel Aguilera