Research Political Sciences

MINTS, a New Research Unit on Monetary Innovation

, by Fabio Todesco
The research unit and an observatory will be launched on Wednesday 18 December, with the conference The Future of Money, which will analyze the implications of innovation on central banks and their monetary policies

Complementary and alternative currencies, Bitcoin, Libra and stable coins are just some of the terms that, in recent years, have enlivened the debate on monetary innovation. To systematize the study of these issues, at Bocconi (and more specifically within the BAFFI-CAREFIN, Centre for applied research on international markets, banking, finance and regulation) a research unit and an observatory have been created, that share the label of MINTS - Monetary Innovation, New Technologies and Society.

The two MINTS Co-Directors, Massimo Amatoand Luca Fantacci, and the BAFFI-CAREFIN Director,Donato Masciandaro, will present the initiative on Wednesday, 18 December during a conference entitled The Future of Money.

Professors Amato and Fantacci, two economic historians, have been studying alternative money systems and complementary currencies for fifteen years, long before the bitcoin phenomenon. MINTS will therefore take into account that monetary innovation is not only technological innovation. On the contrary, the most important aspect, and that which holds together the various lines of research of the unit, is the innovation in institutional architecture: who issues money, how they do it, for what purposes, with what characteristics and circulation.

In MINTS, Prof. Amato and Fantacci will be supported by economists, sociologists and scholars with technical knowledge of the functioning of crypto currencies, but in continuity with their previous activities. «As historians, we can say that traditionally in Europe there has always been a plurality of currencies for different purposes», recalls Prof. Fantacci, «an internal currency for local exchanges and a currency for international exchanges, but also a plurality of currencies/tokens to perform various functions. The idea of a single currency is a recent phenomenon, dating back to the gold standard of 1800s. Moreover, even before coins were minted, the currency existed as a unit of account, an aspect that re-emerges with the digital currency». MINTS fellows include Everardo Belloni(lecturer at the School of Business of the Politecnico di Milano and former Director of the risk department at EY), Paolo Dini(computer science, University of Hertfordshire; media and communication, London School of Economics), Stefano Lucarelli(economics, University of Bergamo) and Laura Sartori(sociology, University of Bologna).

One of the most interesting aspects of the recent innovations, and which will be addressed in the conference, is the interest of these phenomena for central banks and their monetary policy. The alternative and complementary currencies, so far experienced only as a threat, could actually turn into an opportunity if they allowed central banks to innovate, in turn, monetary policies and especially the workings of the transmission mechanisms of their policies, that today seem bit cumbersome.

«MINTS' "S", which stands for Society», concludes Prof. Fantacci, «underlines the fact that monetary innovation is not only technological. We consider innovation to be everything that brings money closer to its main purpose, i.e. to make economic and social relations between people effective and fair».