Is it possible to create a sustainable, human-centric, resilient economy that achieves diverse objectives—including growth, inclusion, and equity? Could industry provide prosperity beyond jobs and economic growth, by adopting societal well-being as a compass to inform the production of goods and services?

The policy brief “Industry 5.0,” recently released by the European Commission, seems to reply positively. It makes the case for conceiving economic growth as a means to inclusive prosperity. It is also an invitation to rethink the role of industry in society, and reprioritize policy targets and tools.

The following reflection, based on insights gathered from empirical research, is a first attempt to elaborate on how we might achieve this rethinking, and aims to contribute to the social economy debate in Europe and beyond.

A new entrepreneurial genre forged by the values of social entrepreneurship and fueled by technological opportunities is emerging, and it is well-poised to mend the economic and social wounds inflicted by both COVID-19 and the unexpected consequences of the early knowledge economy—an economy built around ideas and intellectual capital, and driven by diffused creativity, technology, and innovation.

We believe this genre, which we call social-tech entrepreneurship, is important to inaugurating a new generation of place-based, innovation-driven development policies inspired by a more inclusive idea of growth—though under the condition that industrial and innovation policies include it in their frame of reference.

We believe social-tech entrepreneurship can play a central role in designing fully integrated social and industrial policies. It can also give concrete sense to a broad and contemporary conception of a purpose-driven economy—one that includes a wider range of players than traditionally defined in social economy models, and that shifts in the behavior of organizations and individuals toward generating benefit for people and the planet. To accomplish this ambitious political task, however, technology and research institutions must step forward and assist the third sector and social entrepreneurs.

Read the full article about social-tech entrepreneurship by Mario Calderini, Veronica Chiodo, Francesco Gerli, and Giulio Pasi at Stanford Social Innovation Review.