UCL Department of Economics


Economics of Science - ECON0055

Not running in 2019/20.

Term 1


  • to familiarise you with the way in which science and technology interact with the economy on different scales illustrated by empirical data
  • to introduce you to the notion of “engineering production functions” and their relation to ordinary production functions and how they are amended by technological progress
  • to introduce you to analysing scientific progress and Science through “knowledge engineering relations”
  • to give you some hands on experience in modeling technological progress in growth models
  • to give you insight in science and technology funding and the distinct roles played by private investors and governments
  • to give you a proper grasp of the key international and national institutions facilitating and/or funding scientific research
  • to help you understand key aspects of scientific thought, the role of uncertainty in Science and the economic aspects of the way Science works
  • to give you an introductory knowledge of how to model networks and the flow of information or other assets through networks and apply this in the context of the economics of Science and Technology
  • to give you some insight in the current and past roles of science education for the economy as a whole as well as for the social mobility individual.


After completing and passing this module, you will have achieved a number of quantitative and qualitative outcomes.

Qualitatively you:

  • can critically discuss the workings of Science and Technology from both a micro as well as a microeconomic perspective
  • can discuss scientific production using engineering production functions as a tool
  • can identify and explain a few examples of past “speculative” episodes in science in terms of the concept of science as a market of ideas
  • can give a well-informed and critical exposition of the interaction between science, technology and economic growth
  • have a working knowledge of how in Science careers are made, the role of publications and the incentives structure within which many scientists and engineers operate.

Quantitatively you:

  • can use the notion of exogenous technological development in a restricted set of economic growth models
  • have gained some understanding of models in which technological development and scientific growth are endogenous
  • can use a restricted set of models to derive implications for science and technology in situations of “green” and/or “sustainable” growth
  • can model simple networks with nodes and links, flows through and production in these networks, in terms of matrices and vectors
  • can discuss the notion of equilibrium and stability of such networks and their flows
  • can discuss the flow of funding or ideas in such networks in a meaningful way and apply this to the analysis of scientific production.
Taught by:Frank Witte  Moodle page: ECON0055  Syllabus: Econ Science
Assessment:20 hours of lectures and 20 hours of practical classes. All assessmnet is in term-time (no summer term exam): 30% for each of two in-term essays of 2500 words and 40% for unseen, written take-home exam due at start of Term 2.
Suitable for:2nd & 3rd year Economics (L100 / L101 / L102) students.
Prerequisites:ECON0010 or an equivalent 30 credits in year 1 (applied) Mathematics is required. ECON0002 or an equivalent 30 credits in Economics is also required. Some experience with Mathematica/Matlab such as acquired through ECON-skills lab (Year-1 and Year-2) or alternatively via ECON0114 Computational Methods for Economists is highly recommended but not required.
Assumed knowledge:The prerequisites cover a good familiarity with the key results from linear algebra and the calculus of several variables, in particular in optimization, and some elementary familiarity with ordinary, linear, differential equations and their solutions. A general familiarity with Economics at the level of the ECON0002 of an equivalent 30 credits in Economics, both the micro- as well as the macro-aspects, is also strictly required. An aptitude for computational and simulation work is highly recommended, as acquired through ECON0114 and/or the Economics Skills Lab.