UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Labour markets and innovation

IIPP seeks to understand the myriad ways in which public policy shapes labour markets and contributes to, or prevents, innovation.

About the project

Because of their centrality to the shaping of economies and societies, labour markets tend to be shaped more than most markets by public policy.  Yet it is relatively rare to see scholars or policymakers explicitly articulate the goals of labour market policy beyond statements about the desire to create more jobs.

IIPP’s work seeks to investigate what labour market policies encourage public purpose-oriented innovation.  In doing so, we understand innovation to be both a matter of technology and of institutions.  We see the National Health Service, the jet engine, and the comprehensive aviation safety checklist all as critical positive post-war innovations.  And we see the process of innovation encompassing basic research, development of market-ready ideas, and the deployment of those ideas. 

So when we look at the structure of labour markets in relation to innovation, we are interested in the interactions between employees, workers, labour market institutions like unions, governments and the research institutions governments fund.  We see those interactions as multi-directional.  We see that public policy shapes labour markets, and that labour market outcomes shape politics, and policy.

We ask traditional economic questions like, “what types of worker voice and worker protection leads to greater worker involvement in innovation within the firm?”  But we also ask innovative interdisciplinary questions like, “what are the consequences of wage stagnation for public funding of basic research” and “how does economic insecurity create the preconditions for political mobilisation against policy-driven innovation by business incumbents?”.