We discuss the role of basic research in economic development, and how it is intertwined with technological innovation. While fundamental research investigates issues that common sense believes to be distant from any possible practical application, throughout history it has repeatedly ushered in revolutionary breakthroughs that we use in our everyday lives and which have been triggers of economic development. The crucial factor for this development is diversification in both innovation technologies and scientific disciplines: greater diversity in science increases the likelihood of discovery and innovation, just as greater genetic diversity preserves the variety of different types of life. This is why scientific excellence should be interpreted as a natural side effect of a complex, heterogeneous, diversified, and therefore healthy research system. Scientific research must therefore be guided and supported by State intervention, as it is lies at the heart of the forces driving economic development. Unfortunately, it appears that they still prevail even in this day and age, casting dire shadows on Europe’s future.
The debate on the sustainability of the European single currency seems to have focused exclusively on the requirement that EU member states comply with the macro-economic financial parameters established by the dictates of austerity policies. The absence of a collective reflection on how to boost structural economic development is astonishing at a time in which many European countries—particularly around the Mediterranean—are dismantling the physical and human infrastructure of basic research and academia. On the other hand, it reflects the belief, grounded in neoclassical economic theory, whereby markets should govern economic development.#ScienceEconomicCrisis