UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Mission Critical : Statecraft for the 21st Century

Authored by Mariana Mazzucato (with Sarah Doyle, Nick Kimber, Dan Wainwright and Grace Wyld).

Mission critical

30 May 2024

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This year provides a rare moment for the UK: a potential change of national administration could trigger a radical shift in the way government is structured and delivered. The challenges facing the country have rarely been greater and more complex, and the prevailing model of government as it is currently constructed is not up to the task of tackling them.

This report explores mission-driven government as an alternative theory and practice of statecraft to meet the scale of today’s challenges, applied specifically to the context of a possible progressive UK government. In doing this, the paper connects the strategic intent of a missions approach with the practical challenges of UK governance.

This research draws on expert interviews and builds out from the seminal work of author Professor Mariana Mazzucato at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). She has established clear criteria for missions (Mazzucato, 2019) and made the case for mission-oriented government (Mazzucato, 2021). IIPP has extensive experience of working with governments and organisations around the world to implement the mission-oriented approach, including Camden Council, who have been at the forefront of operationalising a mission-oriented approach to public service delivery and organisational change.

The overriding philosophy running through this report is leading with purpose, governing in partnership In short, this means recognising the critical and legitimate role the UK government has in providing a strong direction for society and the economy, while at the same time having the humility to know that it cannot deliver missions alone. As a result, mission-driven government would invest in the strategies needed to work collaboratively in broad coalitions across and beyond the state.

The report is divided into six chapters. Each explores A) a core principle for mission-driven government, B) the reality of today’s UK political context and C) the strategies an incoming progressive government should consider.


  • Mariana Mazzucato | Founding Director and Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value | UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) (with Sarah Doyle, Director’s Head of Policy| UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP); Nick Kimber, Director of Strategy and Design at London Borough of Camden; Dan Wainwright, Portfolio Lead at London Borough of Camden Grace Wyld, Head of Policy and Programmes at The Future Governance Forum).


Mazzucato, M., et al. (2024). Mission Critical : Statecraft for the 21st Century. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Policy Report 2024/04. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/publications/2024/may/mission-critical-statecraft-21st-century.

Key messages

Mission Critical: Statecraft for the 21st Century sets out how to design and implement mission-driven governance in the UK, building on IIPP’s longstanding engagement with partners worldwide, from city councils to national administrations and multilateral organizations, in developing and implementing mission-oriented policies. The report’s key recommendations include:  

  • Establish #missions as the first priority across Whitehall from day 1, with the backing of the Prime Minister and Chancellor. 
  • Take a whole-of-government approach, with mission delivery driven by a cross-ministerial Missions Unit and by mission teams (or mission boards), and with missions-orientation embedded in the day-to-day work of civil servants. 
  • Lead with purpose and govern in partnership, orchestrating actors from across sectors, ministries and tiers of government to work together towards a mission-oriented industrial strategy that sets a clear direction for cross-sectoral innovation, investment and growth and enables bottom-up, local-level solutions development. 
  • Send clear signals that the government is seeking willing business and union partners to achieve its missions, and design public-private collaboration to share both risks and rewards. 
  • Refresh the Treasury’s mandate and redesign public finance tools and institutions - including budget processes, public procurement and public financial institutions - to align with mission goals. 
  • Invest in the renewal of governing capabilities, building up teams and institutions with the in-house expertise necessary for mission delivery, building on the success of, for example, the Government Digital Service.