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20 January 2021

Professor Mazzucato argues for long-lived missions within public organisations

Public authorities steer innovation in the right direction', says one of the most influential contemporary economists Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics of Innovation and Public Value. In December, more than 400 people took part in the mini-lecture that she gave in collaboration with the Innovation Desk of Rijkswaterstaat and PIANOo.

Professor Mazzucato argues that the role of the public sector goes beyond simply facilitating and supporting companies to innovate. According to her, the public sector has a role to play in accelerating a transition and making choices. This means that the public sector is not just there to solve market failures. It can also create new markets together with the business community and thus create added public value.

Long-lived missions
In her lecture, Mazzucato argued for long-lived missions within public organisations and for an innovation policy that is viewed from within an ecosystem. Investment in innovation should be seen within an ecosystem of public efforts with a healthy mix of direct financing - through predefined missions - and indirect financing through tax deductions. In the Netherlands, according to Mazzucato, too much attention is paid to indirect financing.

Selecting well-intentioned people
Mazzucato also called for a different language that emphasizes a more symbiotic relationship between the public sector and business. She speaks, for example, of selecting 'benevolent people', instead of winners. Furthermore, risk reduction should be replaced by embracing uncertainty. And instead of solving ‘market failure’ we should speak about the creation of markets. She connects this to the creation of SBIR-instruments, noting that good SBIR-instruments should be connected to the missions of public orgnisations. Only then will they be motivating for both the business community and the public sector.

A brief summary of the mini-lecture and the participants' questions that were answered can be found here (in Dutch).