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University social science sparks international interest

2 March 2017

Cardiff University’s aim to build the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK) is inspiring academics in Turkey’s capital city.

Cardiff University recently hosted a visit from the Social Sciences University of Ankara (ASBÜ), the first university in Turkey to specialise in social sciences. ASBÜ are creating a new centre to specialise in impact analysis, public innovation, and awareness-raising.

Their visit to Wales was prompted by an interest in learning from successful innovation institutions. Having reviewed international developments, Cardiff University’s SPARK was chosen as a ‘leading light.’

Professor George Boyne, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor Rick Delbridge, Academic Lead for SPARK, met with Professor Dr Mehmet Barca, President of ASBÜ, and his colleagues Associate Professors Erdal Akdeve and Gülsen Kaya Osmanbasoglu.

Discussions focussed on learning from Cardiff University’s development of SPARK as a concept, as well as the processes for making the idea a reality.

SPARK will support world class research and social innovation by housing researchers alongside external partners. They will work together to co-produce knowledge and practical insights that address societal challenges. It will act as a test bed across all disciplines, providing the information that policymakers, charities and industry need to help shape society for the better.

ASBÜ hopes to emulate these developments in Turkey, and Professors Boyne and Delbridge were invited to Ankara to further contribute to ASBÜ's plans.

Professor Dr Barca commented: “SPARK is one of the most significant initiatives we are following. It is inspiring us in terms of operational structure and the enhancement of our capacity.”

Professor Delbridge added: “'We were delighted to learn of the interest that SPARK has generated in Turkey. While a similar initiative in Ankara will need to have specific features to meet local circumstances, the key principles of SPARK - interdisciplinarity, co-production, co-location - are receiving very positive feedback from UK and international colleagues. It's exciting to think that Cardiff's SPARK may be the first of many."

The delegation also met with colleagues from Y Lab to hear about the University's partnership with Nesta. They saw how Y Lab is developing novel approaches to public service innovation and delivery.

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We worked with Nesta to develop the idea of SPARK: a space for creative interaction and problem-solving.