Enquire about Stian’s availability


Share this speaker

Topics: Economics

Expertise:  ESG, Technology, Government Policy

Stian Westlake is an expert on innovation, technology and government policy, and co-author of the critically acclaimed new book, Capitalism Without Capital: the rise of the Intangible Economy.

He is currently the Chief Executive of the Royal Statistical Society one of the world’s leading organisations promoting the importance of statistics and data.  A professional body with more than 9,000 members around the world.

Stian was previously a senior fellow of Nesta, the UK’s national foundation for innovation and previously was adviser to the UK’s minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation. He spent 8 years running the world’s leading technology policy think-tank at Nesta. Prior to this, he worked as a strategy consultant for McKinsey & Company in Silicon Valley and in London, and was the founder of a health-data social venture.

Stian is  the author of numerous policy reports on the economics of new technologies, high-growth start-ups, and venture capital, the future of automation, government innovation policy, and the economic measurement and mapping of innovation. Stian was educated at the University of Oxford, Harvard University and London Business School.


In November 2017  Stian Westlake and Jonathan Haskel were co-winners of the inaugural Indigo Prize, (£125,000) awarded for the development of a new approach to the measurement of GDP.


The First Comprehensive Account of the Growing Dominance of the Intangible Economy

Early in the twenty-first century, a quiet revolution occurred.

For the first time, the major developed economies began to invest more in intangible assets, like design, branding, R&D, or software, than in tangible assets, like machinery, buildings, and computers. For all sorts of businesses, from tech firms and pharma companies to coffee shops and gyms, the ability to deploy assets that one can neither see nor touch is increasingly the main source of long-term success.

But this is not just a familiar story of the so-called new economy.

Capitalism without Capital shows that the growing importance of intangible assets has also played a role in some of the big economic changes of the last decade.

The rise of intangible investment is, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue, an underappreciated cause of phenomena from economic inequality to stagnating productivity. Haskel and Westlake bring together a decade of research on how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, showing the amount different countries invest in intangibles, how this has changed over time, and the latest thinking on how to assess this.

They explore the unusual economic characteristics of intangible investment, and discuss how these features make an intangible-rich economy fundamentally different from one based on tangibles.

Capitalism without Capital concludes by presenting three possible scenarios for what the future of an intangible world might be like, and by outlining how managers, investors, and policymakers can exploit the characteristics of an intangible age to grow their businesses, portfolios, and economies.

Selected For:

  • 2017 Books of the Year (Economics and Business), The Economist
  • Best Books of 2017, Economics, Financial Times
  • Best non-fiction books of 2017, Marginal Revolution


“An intriguing book. . . . Perhaps the most surprising facts in a book full of surprises is how large investments in intangible assets–in research and development, software, databases, artistic creations, designs, branding and business processes–now are. . . . Messrs Haskel and Westlake have mapped the economics of a challenging new economy.” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“One of this year’s most important and stimulating economic reads. . . . Read this book.” – Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

“This book shines a wonderful spotlight on the hidden capital that influences our world–measuring and understanding it is a top priority.” – William R. Kerr, Harvard Business School

“RICH economies are full of puzzles. What has caused them to become so unequal? Why is their rate of business investment so low? When will real wages start growing strongly again? In “Capitalism without Capital”,… Haskel and Westlake… offer an intriguing explanation for all these problems. In the process, they introduce a phrase that readers may hear a great deal more of in the coming years: “intangible investment” The Economist

“A book that needs to be read by anyone seeking to understand the nature of modern capitalism and its politics.” – Daniel Finklestein – The Times 

“Superb and important”  Yuval Levin – National Review

“One of the year’s most talked-about books…” John Harris – The Guardian 

“An idea whose time has come” – The Guardian editorial – 26 December 2017