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Campus buildings

A Home for Social Science-led innovation

3 September 2019

Leading social scientists are the latest staff to witness construction work first-hand at Cardiff University’s future Home of Innovation.

Spark (the Social Science Research Park) will be based in Innovation Central (IC). The six-story crucible will be the world’s first social science research park, co-locating leading researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

Spark will be based across three floors, bringing together interdisciplinary expertise from ten Cardiff University research institutes with their partners to co-create innovations that can help make society healthier and safer.

Lee Lovering, site project manager with Bouygues UK, led Spark leaders on a tour of the Maindy Road site to see concrete pillars, floor slabs and shuttering being put in place.

Professor Rick Delbridge, Dean of Research, Innovation and Engagement, developed the academic vision for SPARK. “After more than six years of work to develop the concept and see the initiative through to the construction stage, it is really exciting (and something of a relief) to see the building taking shape,” he said.

“We can already see the outline shape of the Oculus staircase, which will be a central feature of the finished building. Seeing the scale of the site development also really helps to bring the artist’s impressions and CGIs to life. Of course, much remains to be done and the real work begins when we ‘get the keys’, but it is a heartening and inspiring sight to see construction well underway.”

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Director of the Centre for Climate Change & Social Transformations (CAST), School of Psychology & Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, also joined the site tour.

‘It’s really exciting to see the dream of creating the world’s first social science research park become a reality – and to appreciate the scale of the building in a way that can’t be appreciated from the paper designs. We also learnt about the importance of sustainability of sustainability, something which is crucial to our new Centre for Climate Change & Social Transformation which will be moving into SPARK when the development is complete.’

Innovation Central will also feature a public events space, commercial units for spinouts and start-up businesses, together with commercial wet lab space. The building integrates a behavioural lab, an innovation lab and a visualisation lab as core facilities and enablers to bring people together across disciplines, opening up new possibilities for collaboration and interdisciplinary activity across and beyond the social sciences.

The core of the building will be the Oculus – an open ‘social staircase’ rising through a slanting void, where conversations and chance meetings can forge collaborations between users. Cardiff Innovation Campus is scheduled for completion in July 2021.