At Cardiff University we are proposing to build the world’s first purpose-built Social Science Park (SPARK).
There is increasing recognition that major research breakthroughs require cross-disciplinary activities and that the most impactful research often stems from close collaborative working, with a variety of research partners from the earliest stages of problem definition and research framing. Recent research has affirmed the vital importance of the ‘buzz’ that face-to-face interaction provides in tackling particularly complex and ill-defined challenges where information is imperfect, rapidly changing and not readily codified. These are precisely the characteristics of some of society’s more intractable problems. Problem-focused and cross-disciplinary research is seen as necessary for tackling these grand societal challenges and this research approach will be central to the SPARK way of working..
The SPARK is a collaborative learning and working environment for creating, sharing and applying new knowledge. One of the key activities will be producing prototypes of ideas that can be tested with citizens, consumers and end-users. The forms these activities will take vary depending on the context and specific problem but because of their common grounding in the social sciences they will all tend to have some social dimension:
• Social innovation: new start-up organisations with explicitly social goals;
• Social business/commerce: commercial businesses or R&D based on social science insights
• Social invention: the development of new tools and practices capable of delivering large-scale social change;
• Social technology: technological innovations related to social problems;
• Social policy: policy innovations, evaluations and interventions that deliver improvements in policy content and/or the delivery of policy.