Why an MPhil in Technology Policy?

Advanced technology is increasingly fundamental to business, industry and government.

The MPhil in Technology Policy programme provides the context and skills needed to cope with the rapidly evolving environment in many technology-rich sectors, including information and communications technology, defence and aerospace, energy and electricity, manufacturing, transport and logistics, pharmaceuticals and health. Many of the largest companies in the world operate in these sectors, which define a nation’s critical infrastructure, and because of the vital importance of these sectors to societal well-being, governments have sought to intervene and influence their evolution. We seek to train students to bridge the divide between business and government and place them in leading institutions that operate along that boundary.

Government policy & business

There are many ways in which government policy can affect business and the behaviour of markets, and effective working of markets may often call for government intervention. In many spheres, government policy operates largely independent of business or firms, and for many firms, laws and policies largely act as constraints on business. In key sectors of the economy that are driven by shifting technology with significant network externalities or public good properties, however, government and business come crashing together. In these areas of the economy, the market is not only governed by externally-generated regulation but fundamentally shaped by government decisions – in setting national and international standards, in decisions to concentrate research funding in some areas rather than others or subsidise one technology over another, and in pursuing a range of industrial and innovation strategies. The evolution of AI or pathways to reaching a net-zero economy are inextricably linked to the interplay of public and private sector decisions.

Crucially, government policies can vary greatly from one country to another and exert different effects on the economic system they aim to influence. These can have dramatic effects on private profits and market shares. For example, the specification of the carbon market or spectrum auction determines winners and losers. The aluminium sector in Europe wins if it is allocated free emissions permits and loses if it is not. Obviously, this is not an area where firms in these sectors can simply sit back and operate subject to government-determined outcomes, but they actively seek to analyse and influence.

Shaping the evolution of business & government

To better understand this landscape, we emphasise the complex interplay between the public and the private sector and its rationales, dynamics and outcomes. Building on a foundation in economics and policy, we aim to provide fundamental knowledge and techniques that can be used by business to adapt to and shape policy, and by policy-makers to adapt to and shape the emergence and evolution of markets. Beyond simply understanding and analysing policies, our goal is to teach students how to be proactive by making the case for alternative metrics, instruments and goals as a means of gaining competitive advantage.

In spite of the fundamental importance of these critical infrastructure sectors to national economies, the channels of communication between government and industry are often weak and there can be significant difficulties in spanning the divide, complicated by the fact that the content is often quite technical and not easily accessible. Our central goal, therefore, is to prepare our graduates to move along and across these frontiers and to understand, influence, intervene and shape the evolution of business, government and the intersection of the two.