Author Archives: David Reiner

What should a modern Industrial Policy look like?

Chrisos has suggested this week’s topic: Do we need an “Industrial policy” in the 21st century and if so, what are the instrument that should be employed?

Back in 2004, Dani Rodrik starts his excellent piece on the need for industrial policy in the 21st century with a ‘plague on both your houses’ sentiment: “Once upon a time, economists believed the developing world was full of market failures, and the only way in which poor countries could escape from their poverty traps was through forceful government interventions. Then there came a time when economists started to believe government failure was by far the bigger evil, and that the best thing that government could do was to give up any pretense of steering the economy. Reality has not been kind to either set of expectations.” He argues instead for an ‘intelligent intermediate stand between the two extremes” . This call for moderation almost sounds quaint in a Trump/Corbyn era. Indeed, just this week Boris Johnson cited changing state aid rules as a major benefit on leaving the EU since it would allow the UK to prop up certain sectors, which is currently prohibited by EU rules.

Bloom, van Reenen and Williams (2019) walk us through a range of possible approaches in the policy toolkit from Direct R&D grants and Patent boxes to encouraging skilled immigration, various support mechanisms for universities, trade and competition policies, Intellectual property reform and mission-oriented policies.  They then assess these different approaches based on the quality of the evidence, the conclusiveness of evidence, an assessment of the net benefits, time frame and effect on inequality.

For a country of your choice, how effective do you think industrial policy has been? Is more needed? or less? What would be the best approaches to pursue? Which of the approaches decribed in Bloom et al do you find the most compelling?



Ethics and Technology

Famously, Google’s unofficial motto was ‘Don’t Be Evil’ (sometimes misdescribed as ‘Do no evil’) but any such corporate claim will inevitably lead to tensions since corporations, especially those that span the globe with a professed interest in having an impact on a wide range of end uses, will need to make difficult decisions about whereContinue Reading

Return to 1950: Nationalisation in the UK and beyond

Today the Labour Party issued its latest policy announcement #BroadbandForAll – i.e., spend £15.9bn to improve superfast broadband (on top of the £5bn already earmarked by government) and nationalise BT Openreach (worth c£15bn). This comes on the heels of previous announcements proposing nationalisations of the energy, rail, and water sectors as well as Royal Mail. Continue Reading

Triple Helix: Are all helices creates equal?

The notion of the triple helix of Etzkowitz et al echoes some of our earlier discussions and interposes universities between business and government nominally replacing the military in what Eisenhower warned of as the ‘military-industrial complex‘ into a seemingly more benign but still mutually reinforcing arrangement. Clearly, not all technologies are created equal though andContinue Reading

Week 3: Broken glass? Jumping through Policy Windows and Shifting Overton Windows

One of the big questions for those interested in policy is how and why significant change happens.  We discussed Kingdon’s view of policy windows and policy entrepreneurs and how such critical advocates can help opening windows and taking advantage of an open window. The concept has gained some traction, but can these concepts be usedContinue Reading

2019 Week 1: Innovation Policy

Should innovation policy consider wider social benefits and if so, how should we define what constitutes the public good?   The immediate motivation lies in today’s Financial Times headline: Qantas hopes its ultra-long-haul flights will go the distance: Routes from Sydney to London and New York force Boeing and Airbus to push innovation This raisesContinue Reading

Week 8 on the Tech Antitrust Paradox

Last week, many of you raised a diverse set of technologies that might disrupt including VR, 3D printing, gene drives, drone swarms and meatless meat.  The question, of course, is not just how technology can disrupt, but whether firms and institutions can act to facilitate or impede that disruption. For example, this week’s Economist raises theContinue Reading

Week 7 on Anticipating Disruption

There are, of course, many reasons to engage in technological foresight including firms seeking competitive intelligence, countries looking to improve their international competitiveness or research agencies looking to invest in the most promising technologies of the future.  One of the obvious reasons to consider employing any of the various foresight mechanisms is to anticipate andContinue Reading

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