New thinking to solve the economy as £15.7m project gets go-ahead

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The University has announced the creation of a new economics think-tank, designed to meet the challenges faced by the world economy following the 2008 financial crisis.

The new organisation is called INET@Oxford and marks a collaboration between the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and the Oxford Martin School.

Set up by technology mogul James Martin in 2005, the Martin School places great emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach to academia. The new think-tank will draw on experts not only from the field of economics but also political science, computing and even biology.

Professor Ian Goldin, Director of the Martin School, said the new academic approach represented by the think-tank is especially necessary in today’s economic climate: “The aim of INET@Oxford is to develop new conceptual and analytic tools which will improve economic policy-making widely, including but also beyond the UK.

“The advanced economies are in a period of crisis associated with high unemployment, growing inequality and low growth.

“This is the underbelly of turbo charged globalisation, and the associated hyperconnectivity and accelerated technical change. We need to ensure we build resilience and a more sustainable model of economic growth by developing a deeper and more pluralistic theoretical base and understanding of the underlying economic and other forces and associated policy implications.”

Professor Sir David Hendry, head of Oxford’s Department of Economics and one of the leading minds enlisted in the new think-tank, added that the think-tank will differ from other centres of economics academia.

Hendry said: “The key difference is that we will focus on the quantitative research that is needed to underpin policy analyses, and emphasise the empirical evidence.”

But the centre has no intention to take up residence in one of the University’s many ivory towers.  The project’s founders have made clear that INET@Oxford’s ultimate objective will be to “radically redefine the education of the next generation of economists and business and government leaders”.

While Goldin and Hendry were careful to keep their cards close to their chests concerning more specific ties between INET@Oxford and policy makers at Westminster, Goldin did confirm that “a number of the academics involved in the School have had contact with senior members of the Treasury, Downing Street, Bank of England, FSA and other parts of the UK Government”.

But the majority of the £15.7 million budget allocated to the new centre will come not from the University, but from INET’s founder, finance billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. Between 1979 and 2007, Soros is believed to have put around $8 billion (£5 billion) into human rights, public health and education causes.

However, Soros has not always been a friend to the UK economy. Known as “the man who broke the Bank of England”, Soros is estimated to have made over $1 billion (£620 million) short-selling sterling during the Black Wednesday currency crisis of 1992.