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New academic leadership for SPARK

24 September 2019

Prof Chris Taylor 2019

Professor Chris Taylor has been appointed as the new academic director of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK).

Professor Taylor brings significant experience to SPARK from his roles as Professor of Social Sciences at Cardiff University and as the Cardiff Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD).

As one of the most exciting developments in the UK social sciences landscape – and the world’s first social science research park – SPARK builds on the excellence that has made Cardiff University a leading institution for social science-led research, with a focus on innovative research with transformative social impact.

To be located in a purpose-built home on the university’s Innovation Campus alongside external partners from a range of sectors, SPARK catalyses connections between ten impactful university research entities.

On taking up the role, Professor Taylor outlined the SPARK vision: “We want to create a unique and innovative research environment that encourages ground-breaking approaches to the many ‘wicked problems’ we face locally, in Wales, across the UK and internationally. This includes the aim to strengthen multi-disciplinary collaborations between the social, physical and biological sciences across the University...”

“SPARK involves the unique co-location of various private, public and third sector organisations, working in close collaboration with academics across the University, enabling us to improve the design of our research to ensure it has maximum impact and supports the research capabilities of these other organisations.”

Professor Chris Taylor Academic Director, SPARK

Professor Rick Delbridge, Cardiff Business School, who led the foundation of Spark, said: “I’m delighted that Chris is taking up the SPARK academic director role. It’s great that we have someone as capable and committed as Chris to lead SPARK through the next phase of its development. I’m very proud of what has been achieved to date and pleased to see that SPARK is in safe hands.”

After completing his PhD at the University of Leicester, Professor Taylor joined Cardiff University as a Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences in January 2000. He became a Professor in 2012 and took on the Co-Director role in WISERD the following year. During that time he has been involved in over 40 funded research projects worth over £35 million. He is a leading proponent of interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research in the UK and has published extensively in a wide range of disciplines.

He also has a considerable track record of working with non-academic organisations, particularly with government, charities and funding bodies, which has meant that much of this research has had a direct impact on policy and practice. In 2017 he was recognised for his contribution to educational research in Wales with the inaugural Hugh Owen Medal by the Learned Society of Wales and was made a Fellow of the Society in 2018.

Professor Damian Walford Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, says of the appointment: “We sought an exceptional individual to provide leadership for SPARK and have found that in Chris. At the heart of SPARK are the ideas of co-creation and collaboration: people working together across academic disciplines and with practitioners across private, public and third sectors to address some of society’s most pressing needs.

“As academic director, it will be within Chris’s remit to deliver on these ambitions – to support the development of research that transforms lives; establish new partnerships between the University and private, public and third sector organisations that are partners in that transformation; and ensure that SPARK connects excitingly with research, teaching and the student experience across the university.”

SPARK will be housed in a new 12,000m2 building, which is due to open in spring 2021. The centre and its activity will be at the heart of the University’s £300m multidisciplinary Innovation Campus, alongside world-leading research clusters in neuroscience, compound semiconductors, mental health and catalysis.

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