Laudatory speech - Madame De Staël Prize for Cultural Values
08 May 2019
ERC President Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Ceremony for Prof. Mariana Mazzucato on the occasion of the ALLEA 25th anniversary, Bern, Switzerland
Cover image of Laudatory speech - Madame De Staël Prize for Cultural Values

Monsieur le Conseiller Fédéral Guy PARMELIN,
Dear ALLEA President, Professor Antonio LOPRIENO,
Monsieur le Directeur Général, cher Jean-Éric PAQUET,
Dear Mariana MAZZUCATO,
Distinguished guests, Dear colleagues and friends,

It is a great privilege for me to give the laudatio for Prof. Mariana MAZZUCATO, recipient of the 2019 Madame DE STAËL Prize for Cultural Values.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the ALLEA for having chosen the remarkable figure Germaine DE STAËL-HOLSTEIN for its prize , one of the few women of her time with a Europe-wide impact due to her literary work and personal brilliance.

One of her major contributions was to make the cultural values present in different countries of Europe more tangible at a turning point of Europe’s history in the context of a rapidly changing political landscape. Think of the trajectory of France: from the Ancien Régime to the French Revolution, from the Napoleonic domination to Restoration – if bringing up such a narrow vision is acceptable here.

These agitated times and the repeated expression of her outspoken views forced her to seek refuge a few times in her family castle in Coppet, in the canton de Vaud, not far from here.

Therefore it is not surprising to find in ‘Corinne ou l’Italie’, one of her masterpieces published in 1807, the following statement[1]: “Nous vivons dans un siècle où l’intérêt personnel semble le seul principe de toutes les actions des hommes ; et quelle sympathie, quelle émotion, quel enthousiasme pourrait jamais résulter de l’intérêt personnel ! Il est plus doux de rêver à ces jours de dévouement, de sacrifice et d’héroïsme qui pourtant ont existé, et dont la terre porte encore les honorables traces. »

I am sure you see how much Madame DE STAËL’s words resonate with the times we live in.

I would like to suggest that this resonance be extended to Madame DE STAËL’s personality and that of the 2019 recipient, Mariana MAZZUCATO. I am led to this by the words of the ALLEA President himself, Professor Antonio LOPRIENO, who chaired the jury for the Prize.

Here is a quote from him: “Mariana MAZZUCATO is a brilliant and provocative economist who has challenged stories of value creation, innovation and growth. In an ingenious way, she has been able to create new economic narratives to understand contemporary realities in Europe and beyond.

Indeed Mariana MAZZUCATO defines her work as “focused on the relationship between innovation and the direction of growth, with emphasis on building symbiotic partnerships that can create a form of growth that is more innovation-led, inclusive and sustainable.

As a mathematician, that is someone who necessarily has to give a lot of attention to the definition of words and how they are used, I am very sensitive to her critical stand on the misconception of “markets”, which has led to wrong conclusions on appropriate measures to be taken to sustain them.

Another example is the overemphasis of the role of “entrepreneurs”, taken in isolation, when, in her work, she stresses the critical importance of an “entrepreneurial ecosystem”. As a result, she demands a very significant reappraisal of the role of the State in the process of technological innovation. For her, the entrepreneur who takes risks and explores unknown technological territories has always been the government; there is no radical innovation in which the State has not played a leading role, also as an inventor, creator of markets, or even firms.

For me, these contributions of hers – and she never misses an opportunity to raise the issue in her public interventions – are significant in the context of ‘cultivating cultural values’ as they force all people who take the public debate seriously (there are still a few!) to go beyond decorum, which is precisely what makes cultural values alive and relevant.

Mariana describes her domain as “disruptive economics”. Others describe her as "the world's scariest economist [2]". She certainly bursts with intellectual and physical energy; all the characteristics that, of course, remind one of those of the young Germaine DE STAËL. They are helping her change traditional thinking and she has managed to bring and install inventive ideas in mainstream political economics.

In her 2013 book ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, she poses the right questions on current innovation policies. The State plays a central role in establishing the coherence between actors of innovation. This requires a long-term vision, patience and means that private firms cannot or in general do not want to mobilise. In this area, public action is irreplaceable.

In her more recent book, ‘The Value of Everything’, Mariana exhorts “those who will listen” to take action to reform modern capitalism and to change the way ‘value’ is currently understood. She explains how the key characteristics of innovation processes – uncertainty, collectiveness and cumulativeness – can be complementary or oppose each other. Governments play a pivotal role in creating value. The State has been at the source of fundamental technologies (such as the GPS) developed further with commercial purposes by the private sector. She convinces us that the State should stop being viewed necessarily as an unproductive sector, that governments should become active value creators rather than facilitators of the real economy or “savers” during crises, of course with due checks.

Here again she is having an issue with the present use of the keyword ‘value’, so often misused, when not forgotten , especially in the European context. In her messages, both written and spoken, there is no shortage of criticism for either governments, nor the private sector and mainstream economic teaching. She is comfortable being a “disrupter” but she is at the same time a “bridge builder”!

Early in her career, Mariana MAZZUCATO rapidly emerged as an original thinker in political economy. She studied stock markets and market share volatility in-depth in some specific industrial sectors, such as the automobile industry, the personal computer industry and the pharmaceutical sector.

One of her central concerns was the impact of technological innovation on the development of the industry in relation to the strategies followed.

Mariana has the ambition to create a new economic policy framework to guide public investments in tackling societal challenges. We can only praise her for that. Europe in particular seriously needs such a framework. Here I quote her: “Many countries across the globe are pursuing growth policies that seek to be smarter, more inclusive and more sustainable. My intervention will argue that the types of long-run strategic investments which such growth requires, means public policy must be justified, nurtured and evaluated in a different way. Instead of policies being motivated purely in terms of ‘fixing’ market failures and/or system failures, policies can be justified and measured in terms of their ability to create and shape markets—with markets as outcomes of the interaction between public, private and third sector actors.

Through her academic work, and more recently, even more so through her books embracing broad areas in which she analyses key dysfunctions, she has created the conditions for making her voice heard in the public arena.

This has led her to be sought after as a contributor to the definition of public policies in various environments: from banking tools to social programmes, from sustainable development goals to research programmes; from the UK to the US, from Latin America to the United Nations, participating in the World Economic Forum Global Future Council. And of course to the European Union in different roles: first as member of the European Commission expert group on the Economic and Societal Impact of Research and Innovation, and more recently as Special Advisor for Mission Driven Science and Innovation.

Commissioner Carlos MOEDAS, who appointed her for this last engagement, said: “I believe that, in innovation and research, the role of the Member States and the Union is essential. It is a very good example where the role of the public sector should not only be to tackle a market failure but also to set directions.” As you noted, this is fully in line with Mariana’s fundamental analyses.

In an interview, Mariana said that probably the highest impact document she will ever write was the strategy paper published last year, in which she calls for mission-oriented EU research and innovation as part of the next EU framework programme, Horizon Europe. In it, she develops her claim that correcting market failures means putting patches on a market that already exists, while States actually have a much more crucial role in dynamically creating and shaping new markets. For her, this is the only way to successfully solve the great challenges that our societies are facing.
It is critical to note that, in this document, she clearly states that “this is not about prescribing specific technologies, but providing directions of change, around which bottom-up solutions can then experiment. Missions are not about prioritising innovation and applied research over the frontier research funded by instruments like the European Research Council.
Elsewhere in the document she says more about how the various components of Horizon Europe will contribute to a common goal: “Under a given mission, it will be possible both to identify some of the most advanced, relevant scientific projects funded by the European Research Council and mobilise them to contribute to a mission; and at the same time to use the future European Innovation Council to look into what the most advanced start-ups are doing and how they can support a given mission. Thus, missions will be a way to combine different and diverse inputs into a more creative, ambitious and effective result.
I must say that Mariana’s contribution to how Europe can approach innovation-led growth is a refreshing shift away from industrial policies aimed at picking the winners. Her emphasis is on the part that public policy and public funding should play in stimulating and, in the end, generating those transformative technologies and solutions that will bring us to markets that do not exist yet. She underlines that to attain this goal requires systemic long-term public policies that draw on frontier knowledge, a permanently rejuvenating territory.
This is a good place to remind us all that funding bottom-up, curiosity-driven research is just crucial for this frontier to remain a frontier, and not something that used to be one. It is therefore essential to prevent the focus on missions making the political echelon comfortable to forget about the importance of challenging researchers, so that they feel welcome to follow their own curiosity! This is a fundamental task of the entrepreneurial state whose critical role Mariana points to. No new markets can be created without it.
Indeed this also sends a very strong message to those who could be tempted to see Horizon Europe as a way to please various clients and lobbies. We are talking here about building a policy where the whole panoply of policy tools is mobilised and articulated: top-down, bottom-up, cooperative, disruptive, cluster-like, etc.

Mariana’s impact on public policies is extraordinary. The reactions to her books are impressive and contribute greatly to renovating and enriching the public discourse on the research and innovation debate, a much needed action. The award she is receiving today is of course one among many. But I hope that by linking her to Germaine DE STAËL and to the ALL European Academies, she feels that it brings a special dimension to her work.

ALLEA writes about Germaine DE STAËL: “celebrated for her conversational eloquence, she participated actively in the political and intellectual life of her times”.
I hope I have convinced you that the same can be said about Prof. Mariana MAZZUCATO, whose active participation in the European policymaking and academic circles is highly visible, and will continue to be highly visible for the years to come.
Mariana, please allow me to express my personal congratulations on this celebratory occasion of your receiving the Madame DE STAËL 2019 Prize.

1. “We live in an age when self-interest alone seems to determine all of man’s acts—and what empathy, what emotion, what enthusiasm can ever grow out of self-interest! It is more pleasant to dream of those times of dedication, sacrifice, and heroism that used to be, and that have left honorable traces upon the earth.”
2. On the back cover of her latest book, “The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy”, in a quote from a Times article.