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International eyes on Social Science Research Park

15 November 2017

AESIS Conference

A team of experts from a leading Estonian university are visiting Cardiff to learn more about plans for the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK).

Earmarked for Cardiff University’s Innovation Campus, SPARK will bring together specialists to find real-world solutions to global societal problems, from cyber security to smoking cessation. Since 2013, its future tenants have attracted over £45m in funding.

The visit by delegates from Tallinn University on 15 November highlights the growing international reputation of SPARK.

Over the past year, experts from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Norway, Romania, the Netherlands and Basque Country have met with senior Cardiff academics to discuss the SPARK model. And David Sweeney, Executive Chair Designate of Research England, has described the vision as “absolutely brilliant”, commenting that the “University is showing real vision in co-locating SPARK alongside new investments in semiconductor research and other scientific disciplines.”

SPARK’s Academic Lead, Professor Rick Delbridge, said: “Social science crosses academic disciplines and national borders. If we are to bring the best minds together to solve society’s problems then international collaboration is vital. The SPARK model brings together applied social science and interdisciplinary research groups alongside partners from the public, private and third sectors in order to create new knowledge, and we are keen to share our ideas worldwide.”

Tallinn University is the largest university of humanities in Tallinn and the third biggest public university in Estonia. It is geared to developing research around ‘intelligent lifestyle,’ finding evidence-based ways of improving Estonian society, and works across five interdisciplinary fields including educational innovation and healthy and sustainable lifestyle. It is also home to an Open Academy, which offers professional upgrading and self-development opportunities.

"Social science crosses academic disciplines and national borders. If we are to bring the best minds together to solve society’s problems then international collaboration is vital."

Professor Rick Delbridge Professor of Organizational Analysis

Professor Katrin Niglas, Vice-Rector for Research at Tallinn University, said: “Our management team is very keen to learn about SPARK and the Innovation Campus, and how Cardiff integrates study programmes with research and development activities. We are keen to tap into Cardiff’s expertise as we are in the process of designing the best possible model for Tallinn University.”

SPARK forms part of Cardiff University’s £300m Innovation Campus development. It will house Y Lab, the public services innovation lab running Welsh Government’s £250,000 Digital Innovation Fund. Estonia has been praised by the OECD for its digitally-led public sector innovation.

Dr Andres Jõesaar, Vice-rector for Creative Activities and Cooperation, added: “Wales’ similarities to Estonia make SPARK an appealing model. Our size and expertise mean we both have the clustering of business, academia and government needed for public sector innovation.”

Times Higher Education ranks the University in the world’s top 100 for social sciences, education, business and economics.

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SPARK updates the science park model, allowing researchers to work creatively with partners on societal challenges.