Professor Heidi Williams, Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, gave the 2024 IFS Annual Lecture on "Innovation and productivity policies: a budgetary perspective".

The recent slowdown in productivity growth across the UK, US, and other industrialised nations has generated renewed interest in what changes to innovation policies – e.g. R&D investments and eased restrictions on high skilled immigration – could encourage productivity growth. Such policy debates would ideally be informed both by evidence on which policies are most effective at stimulating innovation, and by comprehensive estimates of the budgetary impacts of the proposed changes. If government debt continues to grow, the role of budgetary estimates in such debates will likely grow in importance in the coming years. 

In this talk, Professor Williams presented evidence from a series of case studies suggesting that current US budgetary practices – many of which are analogous to current UK budgetary practices – capture a substantially incomplete share of the budgetary impacts of changes to innovation and productivity policies. Building on these examples, she discussed potential approaches for broadening the scope of budget estimating to more consistently provide comprehensive estimates of the budgetary impacts of policy changes.

Heidi Williams is a Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College. She is also lead editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives; Director of Science Policy at the Institute for Progress, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington DC; co-chair of J-PAL’s Science for Progress Initiative; and co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Innovation Policy working group. Heidi received her AB in mathematics from Dartmouth College, her MSc in development economics from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and her PhD in economics from Harvard. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, and is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2015). 

This event is funded by