Business, Markets and the State

The debate on the role of business, markets and states in development has a long history, marked by divergent and often strongly held perspectives, but also relatively rapid shifts in understanding about what is feasible and desirable. Only two decades ago debates were framed in terms of the state versus the market. Today, questions relates more to the appropriate roles of each. There is general recognition that business, including through its interactions with the state, has a major impact on human development and the natural environment, contributing both to failures and to new market-focused solutions, initiatives and partnerships.

Our research generates new evidence and addresses pressing knowledge gaps in this field. We employ diverse theoretical perspectives which include political economy, value chain analysis and market systems approaches, for example, alongside a fine-grained understanding of the ways in which states and businesses engage and influence one another. Our work focuses on six thematic areas that are crucial for economic systems to deliver inclusive development. These are: Work, Enterprise Development, Trade, Finance, Alternative Economies and Food & Nutrition.

To understand our unique mix of expertise and how we work with others toward inclusive economies and sustainable development, see our Business, Markets and the State Position Paper Series.

Our Business, Markets and the State cluster also manages the IDS Business and Development Centre.



Key contacts

Anabel Marín

Research Fellow, Cluster Leader


+44 1273 915882



Amrita Saha

Research Fellow

Ayako Ebata

Research Fellow

Carlos Fortin

Research Associate

Dirk Willenbockel

Research Fellow

Edward Jackson

Honorary Associate

Emilie Wilson

Communications and Impact Officer

Evert-jan Quak

Research Officer

Jing Gu

Research Fellow, Centre Director



Innovation and Complementary Capabilities for Vaccines

The global competition to develop vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has collapsed the typical timescale in which new technologies gain market dominance and leave alternatives behind. Despite the high number of vaccines in development, at the start of this study only three have been...


Conceptualisation of Earmarked Taxes to Support Food Fortification

Food fortification is one of the most rapid, cost-effective, scalable and evidence-based impactful strategies to reach hundreds of millions to combat micronutrient malnutrition, when delivered as intended (Horton, 2006, Keats et al., 2019; Mbuya et al., 2020; Saha et al, 2021). However, the...


Urbanisation in Africa and China

As African countries experience rapid urbanisation, there is a need to ensure that this process is well managed, and underpinned by strong public policy and social governance, to support economic development and social welfare. China has much to share from its experience of rapid...


Foresight for new collaborative platforms to support LMIC science systems

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it has become clear that we require systemic change across societies, and that as a consequence we need transformational pathways of development. This in turn requires knowledge that is transformative, both in terms of its focus, and how it...

Recent work

Past Event

Inclusive trade

Trade Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Agriculture

Nowhere are the links between sustainable and inclusive international trade more visible than in agriculture. Agricultural commodities account for a significant share of exports in many developing countries, and agricultural global value chains facilitate the exchange of products, ideas, and...

2 February 2023


Trade Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Agriculture

IDS Policy Briefing 208

Trade policy provides a powerful set of levers for accelerating a transition to more inclusive and sustainable agricultural practices. Yet, trade in agriculture is often reliant on unsustainable methods of production, misaligned to tackling hunger, inadequate in support for decent farmer...

Anna Sands & 2 others

31 January 2023