Written on 23 Apr 2019 by Professor Michael Kenny and Professor Diane Coyle

The Bennett Institute - 1 year in

We marked the first anniversary of the Bennett Institute last week with a well-attended, day-long conference, held at Churchill College, which explored some of the key themes central to our programmes of research and policy engagement.

Bennett Conference 2019

Lord David King, former UK government chief scientific adviser, chaired a panel on our Wealth Economy project. This project, funded in its first year by LetterOne, launched formally earlier this year with a one-day workshop. Strands of work are now under way on natural capital (initially, accounting for climate damage in international supply chains) and social capital (including deriving economically-informative social capital measures from values surveys). From the Institute Matthew Agarwala and Dimitri Zenghelis presented their early work, and our visiting fellow Yan Zhang discussed her research into the links between the environmental and social systems. The team leaders will shortly be visiting the Office for National Statistics to discuss how this work can contribute to the official statistics and the next revision of the UN’s national accounts standards (the revision will include updated natural capital accounts for sure).

The second panel – chaired by Tony Curzon-Price of the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy – reflected some of the themes of our ‘place and public policy’ programme, and included contributions from Sir Richard Leese, deputy mayor of Greater Manchester and Penny Mealy of the Bennett Institute, as well as Eoin O’Sullivan of the Institute for Manufacturing. Several new lines of activity have opened up in this programme, including ideas for a major new research project on “The left behind across Europe”. We have also been developing research examining the different economic fortunes of towns across the UK, and exploring different kinds of policy intervention in relation to them.

Our colleagues at the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge organised a session on policy making in contexts of great uncertainty, covering bioterrorism, geopolitical risk and foresight processes. The Bennett Institute’s collaboration with CSaP and Churchill College also includes a new project which will help support the development of an online resource on our website aimed at mid-career researchers in several scientific disciplines (and also available more widely).

This panel was followed by a fascinating conversation about the role of technology in democracy, steered by Professor David Runciman, who will this Autumn be launching a brand-new Centre for the Future of Democracy at the Institute. Laura James from the University’s Computer Lab, Josh Simons, from Harvard, and Diane Coyle joined him in exploring the kinds of challenge posed by the largest tech firms, and the various ways in which democracies might meet these.

The day was rounded off by a keynote from Dr Ben Goldacre, who was both entertaining and compelling in describing the many ways the medical system fails to use evidence as effectively as possible. His account of the importance of communication and advocacy in the propagation of evidence-based policy thinking resonates strongly with the ethos and mission of our own Institute.

This was an exhilarating and immensely enjoyable day. The Institute has made great strides in the last twelve months, employing a talented team of researchers and hiring two new lecturers, and supporting public policy research at Cambridge in different ways – including the funding of new studentships and the establishment of a brand new prize, awarded jointly with Prospect magazine (the first winner was announced at the conference – Dr Eric Lybeck from the University of Manchester, whose winning essay can be read in Prospect online).  As well as a healthy roster of academic publications from our researchers, we have published reports, working papers and numerous blog posts on all of the main themes of our work.

We have been delighted and humbled by the level of interest which the Institute, its programmes of research, and the intellectual agenda we have set, have attracted – from policy-makers, researchers and academics across the world. In the last year we have developed a sound infrastructure, appointed a talented team of researchers and established a powerful platform for the development of critical and engaged thinking about public policy. The Bennett Institute has taken great strides on its journey from newcomer to established and respected member of the growing community of public policy community that spans the UK, Europe and the wider world.

Michael Kenny and Diane Coyle

  • About the author

    Professor Michael Kenny, Co-Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy

    Professor Kenny directs the Institute’s place and public policy programme.   Learn more

    Mike Kenny
  • About the author

    Professor Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy

    Professor Coyle co-directs the Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes.   Learn more

    Diane Coyle 2018