The University of Johannesburg (UJ) honoured Italian economist and author Mariana Mazzucato with an honorary doctorate on Monday, June 12, 2023. The ceremony was held at the UJ Arts Theatre at the Auckland Park Kingsway campus.
Mazzucato is a Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at the University College London (UCL) and the founding director of the UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose (IIPP). Prof Mazzucato also delivered a public lecture titled; “A moonshot guide to changing capitalism: The implications for state capacity.”
Shared values and vision: UJ recognises Prof Mazzucato’s contribution to society
Professor Mazzucato is a leading thinker on the role of the state in innovation and economic growth. Her work has challenged the traditional view of the state as a passive bystander in the economy, arguing instead that governments play a crucial role in driving innovation and economic growth.
It is this view that UJ Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi said resonated with the values shared by the institution.
“This resonates deeply with UJ’s commitment to innovation and reimagining the future as well as our focus on the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our learning revolution, now, is one defined by our societal impact in this endeavour. This concept represents the effect of our research and work in the real world. It represents a shift beyond academia to the economy, society, culture and beyond. It is incumbent on us to lead through ideas, actions, and programmes in ways that deliberately seek to ameliorate these challenges and positively impact on the world around us. As we undergo this shift, I could not think of a better person for us to recognise and honour,” Prof Mpedi said.
Influencing global policy discussions: Prof Mazzucato’s impact on innovation and growth
In addition to her academic work, Mazzucato is also a vocal advocate for social justice and environmental sustainability. She is a member of the South African President’s Economic Advisory Council and the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisors. She is also a trustee of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Council on the Economics of Health for All and the Global Commission on the Economics of Water.
In her acceptance speech, Professor Mazzucato said that she was honoured to receive the award from UJ, which she described as a “forward-thinking institution” with a “strong commitment to innovation and social justice.” ‘’It is especially encouraging seeing all these young faces in the audience today. I was very surprised when I heard this University is only 20 years old, you have a reputation that makes one think you are much older than that.’’
She also used the occasion to call for a new approach to economic development that puts the needs of people and planet first.
“We need to move away from a model of economic growth that is based on endless consumption and towards a more sustainable and equitable model,” she said. “This will require a new role for the state, as an active player in innovation and economic development.”
Mazzucato’s lecture was well-received by the audience, which included students, faculty, and members of the public. She was praised for her insights and her call for action.