The Oxford Martin Programme on

Technological and Economic Change

The Challenge

The exponential improvement in computing power has led to radical breakthroughs in machine intelligence, with autonomous vehicles and the disintermediation of long established business models indicative of the revolutions to come.

Progress in genetic sequencing and nano materials will have transformative effects upon health and medicine, as well as agriculture. Robotics, the internet of things and 3D printing will transform manufacturing, supply chains and control systems. Meanwhile, dramatic improvements in the efficiency of renewable energy sources and the need to rapidly reduce carbon emissions are leading to radical changes in energy, transport, food and other systems.

New technologies have the potential to fundamentally disrupt economic growth, investment, savings, consumption, employment, incomes, pensions, careers and productivity. Yet our understanding of what this will mean for the global economy, and how it will impact on markets, cities and societies is, at best, limited.

The Technological and Economic Change programme aims to identify the key technological disruptors and consider their impact on the global economy and society. The programme is unique in its approach of combining the expertise of leading scientists and technology experts with economists and social scientists.

The programme also works together with researchers from the School's Technology and Employment programme as part of a consortium on the Horizon 2020 funded 'Tecnnequality' research project. This research aims to understand how technological innovations affect the size and nature of social inequalities as well as the labour market outcomes in the EU. It also looks into policies and institutional configurations that will reduce technology-driven inequalities.


Focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the largest economies (USA, China, India, Japan, UK and Europe), the researchers will seek to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • What can we learn from previous periods of disruptive technological change and how is this period of disruption different?
  • Is innovation slowing down or speeding up, and, if it is accelerating, how do we explain stagnant productivity growth in many leading economies?
  • What is disruptive technological change likely to bring for key sectors and firms, and which cities and countries are likely to be the winners and losers? And what impact will disruptive technologies have on employment and inequality?
  • What is the implication of these disruptions for savings and investment? Could these technologies lead to stagflation, unemployment and more unequal growth? And what is the implication of rising life expectancy for pensions, retirement and savings?
  • What are the risks posed by new technologies themselves, for example ‘runaway’ artificial intelligence and cyber warfare?
  • How can policy, regulatory and other interventions shape and affect technological change?

The programme will provide fresh insights into the nature of rapid technological and economic change, and its implications for policy makers, government, business, investors and society. It will provide perspectives on education, skills and infrastructure, and investigate potential changes required to frameworks for intellectual property, competition and regulation to enhance productivity, savings, investment and more equitable growth. It will also investigate whether traditional measures of GDP and productivity adequately take account of the different dimensions of progress and technological change.