Nicholas Gruen

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Nicholas Gruen (1957-) is a prominent Australian economist and commentator on innovation and the CEO of Lateral Economics and Chairman of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation and the Open Knowledge Foundation (Australia). He was formerly Chairman of the Australian Government's Innovation Australia and founding chairman of Kaggle. Lindsay Tanner has described him as Australia's leading public intellectual.


Gruen has a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the Australian National University in Canberra. He has a PhD from the Australian National University.


Gruen worked as adviser to Senator and Federal Industry Minister John Button from the early 1980s and was regarded as the architect of the Button car plan, which moved the industry towards freer trade by eliminating quotas, reducing tariffs and assisting exports. From 1990 to 1993 he worked as economic adviser to Treasurer John Dawkins. He was appointed to the Productivity Commission on which he served from 1993 until his departure in 1997 to join the Business Council of Australia where he directed the BCA's New Directions project. In 2000 he founded, economic consultancy Lateral Economics and a finance broker that discounts its services by rebating part of its commission to borrowers Peach Home Loans. In this period he has advised Federal and State Governments as a consultant and as member or chair of various government appointed committees. From 2008 to 2012 Gruen was a board member of Sustainability Victoria. In 2011 he was appointed to the board of Innovation Australia and was subsequently appointed to chair it.

Gruen has become prominent in public economic discussion. He had a regular economic column for the Courier Mail and later wrote regularly for the Australian Financial Review. Other media activities include filling in for Ross Gittins' column in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age[1] by Gittins' request and appearing on the radio station Triple J.[2] He has also is a regular contributor to the popular blog Club Troppo and is an author on On Line Opinion. He has held visiting fellowships at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University.

He has mounted the public case for a range of reforms including

  • refashioning the institutions of government budgeting in the image of monetary policy to inject greater independence and flexibility into fiscal policy as a macro-economic instrument.
  • allowing people to access their superannuation savings (or pension plan) to help raise a deposit for a house
  • paying much greater policy attention to improving information flows in a range of markets such as labour markets (on relative safety and job quality) and markets for professional services (on service quality and likely outcomes).
  • giving citizens and business direct access to central banking services to level the playing field between them and commercial banks

He was a member of the Federal Government's Review of the Australian Innovation System in 2008 and chaired the Government 2.0 Taskforce for the Australian Government.[3] The Government subsequently accepted all of the major recommendations of the Taskforce. In 2013 he was appointed to membership of an independent review panel on Pharmaceutical Patent Extensions reporting to the Minister for Innovation.

Gruen was also the first investor in Kaggle (a Melbourne based data analytics company founded in 2010) serving as its first chairman.[4]


In 2014 Gruen suggested a radical bank reform that would solve eminent problems. According to Gruen ordinary people should be able to use central banks' services as commercial banks can. For big commercial banks get high margins or fees but don't add much value to those services. Due to the internet the Bank of England for instance could easily extend its services to everyone in the UK. For one thing it should offer deposit and savings account to all. [5]


Gruen is the son of prominent Australian economist Fred Gruen and the brother of Federal Treasury official David Gruen.


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