Professor Mariana Mazzucato, UCL – Supplementary written evidence (INQ0097)


Supplementary evidence from Professor Mariana Mazzucato following an evidence session on Tuesday 3 March.


Thank you for the opportunity to give oral evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on the 3rd March. I have separately written to the clerk of the committee to share the reports I mentioned in my oral evidence that I wrote for the European Commission which have recently becomes formal legal instruments.


I am writing to supplement my oral evidence, having had chance to watch the evidence session before mine where you heard from civil servants in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).


To successfully deliver the grand challenges and missions within the Industrial Strategy, including the healthy ageing challenge, new governance structures within the public sector are needed. These structures must enable cross-sectoral and cross-institutional coordination, which means working across government silos and departments. Breaking silos means taking innovation outside of the ministries of business or innovation and putting it at the centre of economic growth strategies. This means coordinating mission strategy within the highest offices of executive power (such as the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office) and ensuring top talent lead such units. The Industrial Strategy should be at the heart of the UK’s economic policy.


I was concerned to hear from the Senior Responsible Officer for the Ageing Grand Challenge in the DHSC that, in fact, there is not an individual or a team within government either tasked with this important mission specifically or coordinating action across government (Question 152). In addition, having reflected on the evidence given on the 3rd March, I am left unclear how the grand challenge for ageing, or the mission itself, is being delivered across government, or where authority and responsibility lie.

If we are to achieve the goals of a mission-oriented Industrial Strategy, teams devoted to these missions must operate across Whitehall, drawing on the expertise of all government departments and agencies. They must also be fully resourced, both in terms of financial means but also resources in terms of devoted staff and analytical capability. The home for these grand challenge teams could be in BEIS, but the Office for AI is a good example of an independent, cross-department unit between BEIS and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.


In the report of the UCL Commission for Mission Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOIIS) co-chaired by Lord David Willetts and myself, we made recommendations to this effect:


“To implement and deliver a mission-oriented industrial strategy, the Government should form multi-disciplinary, cross-departmentally-staffed, boundary-crossing Grand Challenge teams. These must be fully resourced, both in terms of funding but also in terms of leadership, staff, support and analytical capability, with operational autonomy to set their own goals and programmes, as well as senior reporting responsibility within government and the freedom to take initiative in a given challenge area.”


The work of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose has focussed on the issues of how to coordinate governments around bold missions and the public sector capabilities needed to achieve them. For more information on this, please see our recent article in Industrial and Corporate Change titled ‘Mission-oriented innovation policy and dynamic capabilities in the public sector’ by Prof Rainer Kattel and myself.


Furthermore, a recent publication by the Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, Realising Our Ambition Through Science, echoed our recommendations (see Annex D). The GCSA recommended that the government have:


“An empowered and accountable mission leader … appointed by the Permanent Secretary of the lead department”


“The [mission leader] is directly supported by a … flexible and empowered core team of sufficient critical mass … of no more than 8-10 people…[which] consists of members from the key departments”


It is clear that to date, these recommendations on the need for coherent leadership and teams working across government to achieve the missions and grand challenges set out in the Industrial Strategy are not being heeded.


2 April 2020



Relevant references:

Mazzucato, M. (2018). Missions: Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation in the European Union. European Commission.

Mazzucato, M. (2019). Governing Missions in the European Union.

Kattel, R., Mazzucato, M. (2018). Mission-oriented innovation policy and dynamic capabilities in the public sector, Industrial and Corporate Change, Volume 27, Issue 5, October 2018, Pages 787–801,

MOIIS - UCL Commission on Mission-Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOIIS) co-chaired by Mazzucato, M. and Willetts, D. (2019). A Mission-Oriented UK Industrial Strategy. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Policy Report, (IIPP WP 2019-04).