University innovation to spark economic growth in Wales

2 October 2014

Model of the proposed Social Science Research Park
Model of the proposed Social Science Research Park

An ambitious vision for innovation-led growth that will boost the Welsh economy has been announced by the Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Colin Riordan has outlined plans for the University to become an internationally recognised engine for future prosperity, health and growth in Wales, the UK and the wider world.

He proposed that around £300m will be invested in new buildings to bring his vision to life.

This includes plans to build the world's first Social Science Research Park, which would be able to turn world-leading research into solutions to pressing problems facing society and the world.

He revealed his vision to an audience drawn from business, industry, government and academia at the University's first Innovation Fast Forward Festival on Thursday.

Working in partnership with key stakeholders and investing in facilities and people, the University aims to become a magnet for enterprise, creativity and innovation for the Cardiff city-region.

The University wants to further develop relationships with business, government, the voluntary sector and civil society in all arenas including the life sciences, engineering, manufacturing and the creative and digital economies.

Four planned new buildings would transform a site on Maindy Road from a disused, former industrial space into a cutting-edge campus:

Social Science Research Park (SPARK)

The proposed first Social Science Research Park in the world would act as a magnet for national and international research leaders. It would increase capacity for postgraduate research and encourage a collaborative learning and working environment for creating, sharing and applying new knowledge.

Innovation Centre

The planned Innovation Centre aims to offer start-up companies high-quality, affordable space, advice and support on flexible terms so that their companies can grow and become independent. University spin-outs, staff and graduate entrepreneurs or local people with bright business ideas would all be able to access the Innovation Centre and benefit from its entrepreneurial environment.

Translational Research Facility

The multidisciplinary research facility would support turning academic research and innovation into practical, real-world applications delivering benefits for society, healthcare, culture and the economy.

Research Institute for Compound Semiconductor Technology

A unique facility in the United Kingdom, the proposed institute would demonstrate and test compound semiconductor technology in realistic environments. It would provide cutting-edge facilities that allow for greater engagement with industry, and excellent research and development, to strongly position Cardiff to become the UK and European leader in translational research in this area.

Professor Riordan said: "Cardiff Innovation System matches a multi-million pound investment with a vision to put innovation and entrepreneurship at the heart of our strategy.

"Working with the Welsh and UK governments, local authorities such as Cardiff Council, the NHS in Wales, business partners and civic society, Cardiff Innovation System can establish the University, the City and Wales as international leaders in innovation.

"Cardiff Innovation system will help us demonstrate the relevance of our work to the communities we serve, better connect industry, business, government and charities with our academics, and nurture student entrepreneurship and grass-roots business development.

"Promoting Wales as a capital for job and wealth creation, a source of highly skilled-graduates and a thriving centre for innovation and commercialisation, is a powerful message to send to the international community.

"Through Cardiff Innovation System we can take the strengths we have at Cardiff University and effect a change such that Wales becomes an exemplar of the knowledge economy."

Professor Riordan also outlined how the University would develop and embed an ethos of innovation across the University.

Plans include a practitioners/innovators-in-residence programme, high-level training and skills development for postgraduate students and the development of existing enterprise education and opportunities to strengthen the culture of entrepreneurial and innovative thinking among students.  

Business cases are being developed for the proposed new buildings and are subject to the approval of the University's Council (its governing body).