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TEDGlobal 2013

Mariana Mazzucato: Government -- investor, risk-taker, innovator

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Why doesn't the government just get out of the way and let the private sector -- the "real revolutionaries" -- innovate? It's rhetoric you hear everywhere, and Mariana Mazzucato wants to dispel it. In an energetic talk, she shows how the state -- which many see as a slow, hunkering behemoth -- is really one of our most exciting risk-takers and market-shapers.

- Innovation economist
Which actor in the economy is most responsible for making radical innovation happen? Mariana Mazzucato comes up with a surprising answer: the state. Full bio

Have you ever asked yourselves why it is that
00:12
companies, the really cool companies,
00:15
the innovative ones, the creative,
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new economy-type companies --
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Apple, Google, Facebook --
00:20
are coming out of one particular country,
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the United States of America?
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Usually when I say this, someone says, "Spotify!
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That's Europe." But, yeah.
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It has not had the impact that these other companies have had.
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Now what I do is I'm an economist,
00:35
and I actually study the relationship
00:37
between innovation and economic growth
00:38
at the level of the company, the industry and the nation,
00:40
and I work with policymakers worldwide,
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especially in the European Commission,
00:45
but recently also in interesting places like China,
00:47
and I can tell you that that question
00:50
is on the tip of all of their tongues:
00:52
Where are the European Googles?
00:55
What is the secret behind the Silicon Valley growth model,
00:57
which they understand is different
01:01
from this old economy growth model?
01:03
And what is interesting is that often,
01:06
even if we're in the 21st century,
01:08
we kind of come down in the end to these ideas
01:10
of market versus state.
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It's talked about in these modern ways,
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but the idea is that somehow, behind places like Silicon Valley,
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the secret have been different types of market-making mechanisms,
01:20
the private initiative, whether this be about
01:24
a dynamic venture capital sector
01:27
that's actually able to provide that high-risk finance
01:29
to these innovative companies,
01:32
the gazelles as we often call them,
01:33
which traditional banks are scared of,
01:35
or different types of really successful
01:37
commercialization policies which actually allow these companies
01:39
to bring these great inventions, their products,
01:42
to the market and actually get over this
01:45
really scary Death Valley period
01:47
in which many companies instead fail.
01:49
But what really interests me, especially nowadays
01:52
and because of what's happening politically around the world,
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is the language that's used, the narrative,
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the discourse, the images, the actual words.
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So we often are presented
02:04
with the kind of words like that the private sector
02:06
is also much more innovative because it's able to
02:09
think out of the box.
02:11
They are more dynamic.
02:13
Think of Steve Jobs' really inspirational speech
02:15
to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford,
02:18
where he said to be innovative,
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you've got to stay hungry, stay foolish.
02:23
Right? So these guys are kind of the hungry
02:26
and foolish and colorful guys, right?
02:27
And in places like Europe,
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it might be more equitable,
02:31
we might even be a bit better dressed
02:33
and eat better than the U.S.,
02:35
but the problem is this damn public sector.
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It's a bit too big, and it hasn't actually allowed
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these things like dynamic venture capital
02:45
and commercialization to actually be able to really
02:48
be as fruitful as it could.
02:50
And even really respectable newspapers,
02:52
some that I'm actually subscribed to,
02:54
the words they use are, you know,
02:56
the state as this Leviathan. Right?
02:58
This monster with big tentacles.
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They're very explicit in these editorials.
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They say, "You know, the state, it's necessary
03:05
to fix these little market failures
03:08
when you have public goods
03:10
or different types of negative externalities like pollution,
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but you know what, what is the next big revolution
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going to be after the Internet?
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We all hope it might be something green,
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or all of this nanotech stuff, and in order for that stuff to happen," they say --
03:21
this was a special issue on the next industrial revolution --
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they say, "the state, just stick to the basics, right?
03:28
Fund the infrastructure. Fund the schools.
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Even fund the basic research, because this is
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popularly recognized, in fact, as a big public good
03:35
which private companies don't want to invest in,
03:38
do that, but you know what?
03:40
Leave the rest to the revolutionaries."
03:41
Those colorful, out-of-the-box kind of thinkers.
03:44
They're often called garage tinkerers,
03:47
because some of them actually did some things in garages,
03:49
even though that's partly a myth.
03:51
And so what I want to do with you in, oh God,
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only 10 minutes,
03:56
is to really think again this juxtaposition,
03:57
because it actually has massive, massive implications
04:00
beyond innovation policy,
04:03
which just happens to be the area
04:04
that I often talk with with policymakers.
04:06
It has huge implications, even with this whole notion
04:09
that we have on where, when and why
04:13
we should actually be cutting back on public spending
04:16
and different types of public services which,
04:19
of course, as we know, are increasingly being
04:21
outsourced because of this juxtaposition.
04:23
Right? I mean, the reason that we need to maybe have free schools or charter schools
04:25
is in order to make them more innovative without being emburdened
04:28
by this heavy hand of the state curriculum, or something.
04:32
So these kind of words are constantly,
04:35
these juxtapositions come up everywhere,
04:37
not just with innovation policy.
04:39
And so to think again,
04:42
there's no reason that you should believe me,
04:43
so just think of some of the smartest
04:46
revolutionary things that you have in your pockets
04:47
and do not turn it on, but you might want to take it out, your iPhone.
04:50
Ask who actually funded the really cool,
04:52
revolutionary thinking-out-of-the-box
04:55
things in the iPhone.
04:57
What actually makes your phone
04:59
a smartphone, basically, instead of a stupid phone?
05:01
So the Internet, which you can surf the web
05:03
anywhere you are in the world;
05:05
GPS, where you can actually know where you are
05:06
anywhere in the world;
05:09
the touchscreen display, which makes it also
05:10
a really easy-to-use phone for anybody.
05:13
These are the very smart, revolutionary bits about the iPhone,
05:15
and they're all government-funded.
05:19
And the point is that the Internet
05:23
was funded by DARPA, U.S. Department of Defense.
05:26
GPS was funded by the military's Navstar program.
05:28
Even Siri was actually funded by DARPA.
05:32
The touchscreen display was funded
05:35
by two public grants by the CIA and the NSF
05:37
to two public university researchers at the University of Delaware.
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Now, you might be thinking, "Well, she's just said
05:46
the word 'defense' and 'military' an awful lot,"
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but what's really interesting is that this is actually true
05:50
in sector after sector and department after department.
05:53
So the pharmaceutical industry, which I am personally
05:56
very interested in because I've actually had the fortune
05:58
to study it in quite some depth,
06:00
is wonderful to be asking this question
06:02
about the revolutionary versus non-revolutionary bits,
06:05
because each and every medicine can actually be
06:07
divided up on whether it really is revolutionary or incremental.
06:09
So the new molecular entities with priority rating
06:13
are the revolutionary new drugs,
06:16
whereas the slight variations of existing drugs --
06:18
Viagra, different color, different dosage --
06:21
are the less revolutionary ones.
06:23
And it turns out that a full 75 percent
06:26
of the new molecular entities with priority rating
06:28
are actually funded in boring, Kafkian public sector labs.
06:31
This doesn't mean that Big Pharma is not spending on innovation.
06:36
They do. They spend on the marketing part.
06:39
They spend on the D part of R&D.
06:41
They spend an awful lot on buying back their stock,
06:43
which is quite problematic.
06:46
In fact, companies like Pfizer and Amgen recently
06:48
have spent more money in buying back their shares
06:50
to boost their stock price than on R&D,
06:52
but that's a whole different TED Talk which one day
06:54
I'd be fascinated to tell you about.
06:57
Now, what's interesting in all of this
07:00
is the state, in all these examples,
07:02
was doing so much more than just fixing market failures.
07:04
It was actually shaping and creating markets.
07:08
It was funding not only the basic research,
07:11
which again is a typical public good,
07:13
but even the applied research.
07:16
It was even, God forbid, being a venture capitalist.
07:17
So these SBIR and SDTR programs,
07:21
which give small companies early-stage finance
07:24
have not only been extremely important
07:28
compared to private venture capital,
07:30
but also have become increasingly important.
07:32
Why? Because, as many of us know,
07:35
V.C. is actually quite short-term.
07:38
They want their returns in three to five years.
07:40
Innovation takes a much longer time than that,
07:42
15 to 20 years.
07:45
And so this whole notion -- I mean, this is the point, right?
07:46
Who's actually funding the hard stuff?
07:49
Of course, it's not just the state.
07:51
The private sector does a lot.
07:53
But the narrative that we've always been told
07:54
is the state is important for the basics,
07:56
but not really providing that sort of high-risk,
07:59
revolutionary thinking out of the box.
08:01
In all these sectors, from funding the Internet
08:04
to doing the spending, but also the envisioning,
08:06
the strategic vision, for these investments,
08:09
it was actually coming within the state.
08:11
The nanotechnology sector is actually fascinating
08:13
to study this, because the word itself, nanotechnology,
08:15
came from within government.
08:18
And so there's huge implications of this.
08:20
First of all, of course I'm not someone,
08:23
this old-fashioned person, market versus state.
08:25
What we all know in dynamic capitalism
08:27
is that what we actually need are public-private partnerships.
08:29
But the point is, by constantly depicting
08:32
the state part as necessary
08:35
but actually -- pffff -- a bit boring
08:37
and often a bit dangerous kind of Leviathan,
08:40
I think we've actually really stunted the possibility
08:43
to build these public-private partnerships
08:46
in a really dynamic way.
08:47
Even the words that we often use to justify the "P" part,
08:49
the public part -- well, they're both P's --
08:52
with public-private partnerships
08:54
is in terms of de-risking.
08:56
What the public sector did in all these examples
08:58
I just gave you, and there's many more,
09:00
which myself and other colleagues have been looking at,
09:02
is doing much more than de-risking.
09:06
It's kind of been taking on that risk. Bring it on.
09:07
It's actually been the one thinking out of the box.
09:10
But also, I'm sure you all have had experience
09:13
with local, regional, national governments,
09:15
and you're kind of like, "You know what, that Kafkian bureaucrat, I've met him."
09:17
That whole juxtaposition thing, it's kind of there.
09:20
Well, there's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
09:24
By talking about the state as kind of irrelevant,
09:26
boring, it's sometimes
09:28
that we actually create those organizations in that way.
09:30
So what we have to actually do is build
09:32
these entrepreneurial state organizations.
09:35
DARPA, that funded the Internet and Siri,
09:37
actually thought really hard about this,
09:39
how to welcome failure, because you will fail.
09:41
You will fail when you innovative.
09:44
One out of 10 experiments has any success.
09:45
And the V.C. guys know this,
09:49
and they're able to actually fund the other losses
09:51
from that one success.
09:53
And this brings me, actually, probably,
09:55
to the biggest implication,
09:56
and this has huge implications beyond innovation.
09:59
If the state is more than just a market fixer,
10:02
if it actually is a market shaper,
10:05
and in doing that has had to take on this massive risk,
10:07
what happened to the reward?
10:10
We all know, if you've ever taken a finance course,
10:12
the first thing you're taught is sort of the risk-reward relationship,
10:14
and so some people are foolish enough
10:18
or probably smart enough if they have time to wait,
10:19
to actually invest in stocks, because they're higher risk
10:22
which over time will make a greater reward than bonds,
10:24
that whole risk-reward thing.
10:27
Well, where's the reward for the state
10:28
of having taken on these massive risks
10:30
and actually been foolish enough to have done the Internet?
10:33
The Internet was crazy.
10:35
It really was. I mean, the probability of failure was massive.
10:37
You had to be completely nuts to do it,
10:40
and luckily, they were.
10:43
Now, we don't even get to this question about rewards
10:45
unless you actually depict the state as this risk-taker.
10:47
And the problem is that economists often think,
10:51
well, there is a reward back to the state. It's tax.
10:54
You know, the companies will pay tax,
10:57
the jobs they create will create growth
10:58
so people who get those jobs and their incomes rise
11:00
will come back to the state through the tax mechanism.
11:04
Well, unfortunately, that's not true.
11:07
Okay, it's not true because many of the jobs that are created go abroad.
11:09
Globalization, and that's fine. We shouldn't be nationalistic.
11:12
Let the jobs go where they have to go, perhaps.
11:15
I mean, one can take a position on that.
11:17
But also these companies
11:20
that have actually had this massive benefit from the state --
11:21
Apple's a great example.
11:24
They even got the first -- well, not the first,
11:26
but 500,000 dollars actually went to Apple, the company,
11:28
through this SBIC program,
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which predated the SBIR program,
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as well as, as I said before, all the technologies behind the iPhone.
11:37
And yet we know they legally,
11:41
as many other companies, pay very little tax back.
11:43
So what we really need to actually rethink
11:47
is should there perhaps be a return-generating mechanism
11:50
that's much more direct than tax. Why not?
11:54
It could happen perhaps through equity.
11:57
This, by the way, in the countries
11:59
that are actually thinking about this strategically,
12:01
countries like Finland in Scandinavia,
12:04
but also in China and Brazil,
12:06
they're retaining equity in these investments.
12:08
Sitra funded Nokia, kept equity, made a lot of money,
12:10
it's a public funding agency in Finland,
12:14
which then funded the next round of Nokias.
12:17
The Brazilian Development Bank,
12:19
which is providing huge amounts of funds today
12:21
to clean technology, they just announced
12:24
a 56 billion program for the future on this,
12:26
is retaining equity in these investments.
12:30
So to put it provocatively,
12:34
had the U.S. government thought about this,
12:35
and maybe just brought back
12:38
just something called an innovation fund,
12:40
you can bet that, you know, if even just .05 percent
12:42
of the profits from what the Internet produced
12:46
had come back to that innovation fund,
12:47
there would be so much more money
12:49
to spend today on green technology.
12:51
Instead, many of the state budgets
12:53
which in theory are trying to do that
12:55
are being constrained.
12:57
But perhaps even more important,
12:59
we heard before about the one percent,
13:01
the 99 percent.
13:03
If the state is thought about in this more strategic way,
13:04
as one of the lead players in the value creation mechanism,
13:08
because that's what we're talking about, right?
13:11
Who are the different players in creating value
13:13
in the economy, and is the state's role,
13:15
has it been sort of dismissed as being a backseat player?
13:17
If we can actually have a broader theory
13:21
of value creation and allow us to actually admit
13:23
what the state has been doing and reap something back,
13:25
it might just be that in the next round,
13:28
and I hope that we all hope that the next big revolution
13:31
will in fact be green,
13:34
that that period of growth
13:35
will not only be smart, innovation-led,
13:37
not only green, but also more inclusive,
13:40
so that the public schools in places like Silicon Valley
13:43
can actually also benefit from that growth,
13:46
because they have not.
13:49
Thank you.
13:50
(Applause)
13:52

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About the speaker:

Mariana Mazzucato - Innovation economist
Which actor in the economy is most responsible for making radical innovation happen? Mariana Mazzucato comes up with a surprising answer: the state.

Why you should listen

States and governments are often depicted as slow, bureaucratic, risk-averse. That argument is used in support of making states smaller and the private sector bigger. In her latest book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Private vs. Public Myths in Innovation and in her research, Mariana Mazzucato offers a bold contrarian view: States aren't only market regulators and fixers, but "market makers" -- actively creating a vision for innovation and investing in risky and uncertain areas where private capital may not see the ROI. Yes: Private venture capital is much less risk-taking than generally thought. As an example, the technology behind the iPhone and Google exists because the U.S. government has been very interventionist in funding innovation. Private investors jumped in only later. The same is true today of what promises to be the next big thing after the Internet: the green revolution.

Mazzucato, a professor of economics at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU, University of Sussex), argues that Europe needs today to rediscover that role -- that what the continent needs is not austerity but strategic investments (and new instruments such as public investments banks) towards an "innovation Union."

More profile about the speaker
Mariana Mazzucato | Speaker | TED.com