The Bennett Institute for Public Policy Annual Conference 2023 explored public policy issues facing governments and populations amidst plans for economic recovery, resilience, and prosperity.
The day’s four panel discussions centred around the Institute’s four key research themes – Place, Progress, Productivity, and Decision-Making in Government – for leading experts to share their knowledge and research across different disciplines.
Our keynote speaker – Prof Anna Vignoles, Director of the Leverhulme Trust – discussed “Ideas need people: building the talent pipeline for R&D”.
View the Conference Programme.
View the Conference photos.
View the Conference session recordings below.
- Prof Michael Kenny, Inaugural Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy
- Peter Bennett, Founding benefactor of the Peter Bennett Foundation, and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Session one: The return of the state in economic policy?
Has the succession of shocks to the economy in recent years started a shift in the consensus about the respective roles of private and public sector in its management? For four decades the dominant philosophy in economic policy has been that markets should be left alone as much as possible to create wealth while the state’s role is to address specific ‘market failures’. However, the pandemic led to massive government interventions almost overnight, while supply chain shocks, the invasion of Ukraine and geopolitical tensions have prompted concerns about national resilience in global markets. Is the time ripe for a rethink about state economic activism?
- Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser at Centre for Economics and Business Research
- Prof Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy, University of Cambridge
- Prof Andy Westwood, Professor of Government Practice at the University of Manchester, and a Director of the Productivity Institute.
- Prof Diane Coyle, CBE, Bennett Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Session two: Measuring progress in a time of crises: how can data help policy?
Official statistical agencies have long gathered social and economic statistics ranging from inflation figures to crime statistics and the census. In addition staff at public institutions from police, courts, schools, hospitals, trade bodies, and ministries collect and analyse terabytes of data every day. One of the goals is that this investment in data collection and analysis will help identify risks, enhance productivity, and improve policy. But it’s not clear that the explosion of data availability and analytical tools has precipitated a marked improvement in policymaking. So how is and could data be used to help policy?
- Prof Ian Diamond, UK’s National Statistician, Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority
- Sarah O’Connor, Journalist and Associate Editor, Financial Times
- Jo Swinson, Director, Partners for a New Economy
- Dr Matthew Agarwala, Economist and Project Leader: The Wealth Economy, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Session three: What role can cultural institutions play in periods of economic crisis and social recession?
What contribution does culture make to the social fabric of communities? Is the UK Government’s concept of ‘pride in place’ the best way to understand the value created by the Arts? And, given the focus upon cutting back public spending, how vulnerable are our cultural institutions? And how might their value be better understood? This panel discussion will explore these issues and more, focusing in particular on the role that culture should play in some of the policy interventions and economic renewal strategies which governments, committed to tackling geographically rooted inequalities, are starting to develop. And it will consider what kinds of evidence should matter as government faces calls to fund different creative industries and local projects.
- Tony Butler, Executive Director, Derby Museums
- Prof Rebecca Madgin, Professor of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
- James Purnell, President & Vice-Chancellor of UAL (University of the Arts London)
- Prof Michael Kenny, Professor of Public Policy, and Co-Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Session four: How big a problem is government short-termism?
Good policy takes time. But politics is often operating at breakneck speed, reacting to events. What can governments do to better carve out the space and time to creatively engage with long-term problems? Panellists discussed whether our leaders are trapped by our systems of government into a cycle of short-term thinking that too readily kicks difficult decisions down the road to allow for the exigencies of the political moment. They considered whether different levels of government are better able to counteract the pressures of short-termism, and what lessons history might offer us for how to do things differently.
- Halima Khan, Independent adviser on public service innovation
- Philip Rycroft, Distinguished Honorary Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, and former Civil Servant
- Catherine Haddon, Senior Fellow, Institute for Government
- Prof Dennis C. Grube, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, and Research Lead in Political Decision-Making, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Keynote: Ideas need people: building the talent pipeline for R&D
A thriving Research and Development (R&D) sector is vital to the many goals that the UK has, from improving productivity to tackling climate change. Our education and skills system is in turn, central to a thriving R& D sector. We clearly need a skilled and diverse R&D workforce if we are to make the research and innovation breakthroughs that can help us achieve better human progress. However, what is often ignored is the fact that behind every researcher or technician lies a long chain of people who are instrumental in developing the skills and potential of that individual, from the early years practitioner, through to the school and Further Education teachers and of course university lecturers. Our R&D capability is therefore inextricably linked to the health of our education and skills system and recognising this will be key to our continued success.
- Prof Anna Vignoles, CBE, Director of the Leverhulme Trust
- Prof Bhaskar Vira, Professor of Political Economy, and Pro Vice Chancellor for Education at the University of Cambridge
Blog: What do we need to do to foster the talent we need for our Research and Development sector? by Prof Anna Vignoles
- Prof Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, and Co-director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy