UCL News


Spotlight on Professor Mariana Mazzucato

14 September 2017

This week the spotlight is on Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UCL Bartlett.

Mariana Mazzucato

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value in UCL Bartlett, where I am the lucky founder and director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP).

The aim of IIPP is to provide a new policy making tool kit focussed on new understanding about policy making not as an intervention in the 'market' but as part of the market creation process. This more active role requires understanding the direction of economic growth as much as the rate, and fundamentally requires a new understanding of the state (and tax payers) as co-creator of wealth and value, not just a redistributor of that wealth. 

Our aim is to create a radical new interdisciplinary research programme around these ideas, and to provide a dynamic teaching programme for leading policy and business executives around the world.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL in March of this year. Prior to that I was RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation, at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Im proud this was the same chair held by the founder of SPRU: Chris Freeman, whose work massively affected my own thinking. I have also held academic posts at Denver University, London Business School, Bocconi University in Italy, and the Open University where I founded the research centre Innovation, Knowledge and Development (IKD).

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I'm proud to be providing a new narrative to leading politicians and civil servants around the world-understanding their role as critical to value creation in the economy. Too often they are told they are impediments, or at best de-riskers of the real value creators in business. This also leads to problematic policies that create inertia in public-private relations. 

I'm also proud to have at least tried to provide a new understanding in the public domain about key economic processes and debunking myths about what leads to economic growth (hint: not austerity) - going on BBC Newsnight at 10:30pm to debate conservative views on the economy is actually hard stuff: I would rather be in bed or reading a book to my children! But I recognise I'm also lucky that my work, especially my book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, attracted the attention of the New York Times, Time magazine, Newsweek, the New York Review of Books and other key media channels around the world. That helps get the message out!

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I have recently begun a new collaboration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN - for which I'm on the advisory board) where IIPP will be the key hub helping the UN look at the technological road-mapping required to achieve the SDG targets. This is very exciting for us as it allows us to use our 'mission oriented' thinking about how to direct policies towards concrete problems, with achievable (yet long-run) targets - rather than the usual focus on firms or sectors. 

The project is related to an initiative I have with the Inter-American Development Bank looking at possible impact of mission oriented policies in Mexico, Chile and Columbia , as well as a collaboration with the RSA in London on using a mission oriented approach to rethink sustainable cities . We just launched the latter at the European Forum in Alpbach, Austria where I discussed the work with both the President and the Prime Minister. Lastly, my new book The Value of Everything is out in early 2018. I think that will shake quite some waters. I argue that much of today's value extraction is occurring in the name of value creation (innovation). I handed in the proofs last week!

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Favourite album: The Essential Leonard Cohen

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Why was astrology invented? So economics would seem like an accurate science.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Leonard Cohen, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hans Rosling. Before passing away Rosling emailed me to say how much he admired the courage behind our research agenda - he recognised it was an uphill battle! Ill hold onto that letter for the rest of my life.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It's the advice I give to many young people I talk to: as long as you are pursuing areas you care about, and give it your real 'all', there is no such thing as a mistake. Just learn from tripping along the way.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I had 4 kids in 5 years. Pretty crazy. But chaos prevents me from taking myself seriously - so very good move.

What is your favourite place?

A village in the Italian alps where we are lucky to have a house. We walk many kilometres every summer, and I snow shoe alone in the woods in the winter while the kids downhill ski.