Democracy, innovation and growth (exploring the innovation puzzle within the EU’s regional development policies and the global economy)

Democracy, innovation and growth (exploring the innovation puzzle within the EU’s regional development policies and the global economy)

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 - 12:30pm
European Studies Centre
Francesco Grillo (Visiting Academic, St Antony’s College)
Yaprak Gursoy (SEESOX Academic Visitor, St Antony’s College)
ESC Lunchtime Seminar

Visiting Academics’ Seminar Series.  A light lunch will be served.







Democracy, innovation, and growth. These may well be the three characterizing dimensions which  have positively singled out  Europe and, more broadly, western liberal democracies for more than fifty years. It was the better performance in each of these three dimensions that was advanced as the explanation of the success of liberal democracies  against authoritarian regimes, up until the fall of the Berlin wall, when this event was even purported to mark the end of the history of confrontation  between liberal and authoritarian regimes (Fukuyama, 1989). Instead, since that epochal moment contemporary history appears to have changed gear and reversed direction.

Less democratic countries have expanded their economies at a pace which has been twice that of more liberal ones, and amongst developing countries democracy seems to have been a constraint rather than a facilitator of development, as the comparison between India and China may suggest (Friedman, 2007; Sen, 1999). In western countries the distance between citizens and institutions has never been so wide and “populist” movements born out of scepticism towards traditional mechanisms of democratic representations are on the rise (Huntington 2004; Judis 2016). Even technologically driven innovation appears unable to deliver on its fundamental societal promises of prosperity. Indeed, notwithstanding the exponential increase  of information accessible to everybody at the individual level, overall productivity stagnated, and the potential for positive social change remains  largely untapped (Solow, 1986; Gordon, 2000).

The impact of these trends is that the positive relationship between democracy, innovation and  growth appears not to be certain any longer. Important questions arise which call for a response. Is the dimension of ‘openness’ of their societies a pre requisite for nations (or regions or cities) to be innovative? Is innovation per se necessarily leading to the increase in productivity and economic growth? Which substantive advantage did democracies display  when they performed at high levels of  economic efficiency? In recent years, is such an  advantage being transformed into a liability? And, to what an extent has the very definition of the three dimensions of democracy, innovation and growth  evolved and how should  we measure them?

These are some of the (ambitious) research questions that Francesco Grillo – affiliated with Sant’Anna University in Pisa and visiting scholar at the St Antony’s college of Oxford University – is  investigating with his colleagues.

His current research agenda takes off from and  expands his Phd work at the London School of Economics where he began to explore under which institutional conditions, expenditure on R&D in less developed European regions may be effective in making them converge towards the more prosperous ones. That initial work has been elaborated further in  the book with co-author Raffaella Nanetti (Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois and now teaching at LUISS - Rome) which was recently published by  PALGRAVE (“Innovation, democracy and efficiency: exploring the innovation puzzle within the European union’s regional development policies”). The investigation to find answers to the research questions is now being scaled to a more global scale in the work Grillo  is carrying out at the St Antony’s College of Oxford University with the support of Jan Zielonka, Professor of European Politics and Ralf Dahrendorf Fellow at the European Studies Centre of the St Antony’s College.