Build Brains Better

Deakin’s IMPACT Leads Science-Inspired Investing for Brain Health and Skills for the Future

A new neuroscience-informed policy and economics initiative is formalising and advancing the concept of ‘Brain Capital’. This considers brain skills and brain health as an indispensable part of the knowledge economy. The team at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the world’s leading economic policy organization with 38 member countries, are converging a network of interested actors in the medical field, neuroscience, philanthropy and business. 

The exciting initiative is soon to emerge from its developmental phase examining the application of ideas from neuroscience and medicine to economic and social policy including topics such as productivity, gender equality, mental health, education and others.

While todays economy is predicated on the increasing demand for advanced cognitive skills, most economic indicators fail to capture a nations Brain Capital We need a new human-centred narrative of progress, merging brain science and society.  

Brain Health is essential to our ability to create and innovate, and therefore fundamental for us to thrive socially and economically. It is what allows us to be resilient creative and productive in the face of emotional, physical, and disease challenges.


What is Brain Capital?

Dr Harris Eyre, neuroscience executive, co-lead of the OECD Neuroscience-inspired Policy Initiative (NIPI) and Adjunct Associate Professor of IMPACT explains the concept of ‘Brain Capital’, “Brain Capital is a term that refers to the brain health and skills needed to succeed in today’s knowledge economy,”

“We must recognise and highlight brain skills and brain health are a vital component of a successful knowledge economy,” Says Dr Eyre.

The term Brain Capital includes interpersonal factors like critical thinking as well as interpersonal factors like emotional resilience. Brain Capital emphasises the economic importance of our brains.

Our brains are an essential contributor to individual achievement, productivity and innovation, and creativity. It also captures its social component, as a means of collaboration, social connection, family life, and community.

Over people’s entire lifespan, brain health is threatened by many of life’s challenges and stressors, including low educational and professional attainment, poverty and financial inequality, sexual and racial injustice, disease (whether of the brain or cardiovascular, metabolic, and other bodily systems), forced migration due to oppression, climate change or violence, and susceptibility to fake news.

Hon Jay Weatherill AO, CEO of Thrive by Five of the Minderoo Foundation (and former Premier of South Australia), a collaborator with Dr Eyre, says “Multiple barriers exist to overcome these challenges. In essence, we have a Brain Capital ‘gap’ in society, and if we don’t try to close this gap, it will only widen.”

Those who can’t ‘keep up’ in the brain economy will lose their jobs, their purpose, and their hope – leading them towards a vicious cycle of despair.


Another Exemplar for Breaking Down Disciplinary Siloes

“Separation and isolation are features of many mental health problems. Why are they also features of our health systems attempts to fix them? This book is a bold and informed attempt to show a new way.”

Harold Mitchell, AC, Philanthropist, Founder, Harold Mitchell Foundation


“This cross-pollination, ‘whole greater than the sum of its parts’ exemplifies what is needed to address the complex mental health disorders that our community face.”

Prof. Michael Berk, co-editor


Could Australia be the leading nation in Brain Capital building?

Next week, Dr Eyre is an expert presenter at the QUTeX Real World Futures. He will be speaking alongside Hon Jay Weatherill AO, CEO.

The series is aligned with ‘building back better’, a popular refrain for politicians around the world, humanity has a timely opportunity to build up our most enduring assets – our brains.

The OECD-PRODEO Institute NIPI is exploring policy and investment approaches across the life course that could contribute to more resilient, productive and equitable futures.

In his presentation, Dr Eyre outlines new approaches to building brains better at global, national, state and regional levels, and the implications of the emerging ‘brain capital’ paradigm. He will explain how the French Government is showing major activity in this area: they will prioritise neuroscience when they take over the European Union presidency next year.

The live event is now over, you can still watch the recording here.