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PartnershipsPeoplesbarc | sparkSPARK

SPARKing engagement

28 October 2022


In six short months, the Social Science Research Park has fulfilled its acronymic destiny, ‘sparking’ major social science events and programmes and supporting partner collaborations. Here its director, Professor Chris Taylor, outlines a series of recent launches – including the ESRC Festival of Social Science – and looks ahead to the autumn.

‘If the opening of our new home on St David’s Day 2022 marked the start of our runway to future collaborations, then autumn 2022 represents our very rapid take off. New collaborations, events and visits have been taking shape, showing the social and economic value in all that we do.

The University has just launched its partner contribution to the ESRC Festival of Social Science in our sbarc|spark building – Cardiff’s home for social science research and enterprise. The Festival provides an opportunity to celebrate and raise the profile of the social sciences at Cardiff by engaging with public and youth audiences – a key element of ESRC’s commitment to promote awareness of UK social science research to new audiences.

This year’s Festival theme is ‘My Local Area’, and we are working with PhD students, and collaborating with Bangor University, to celebrate all aspects of social science research, from social and economic history, dialects, political landscapes, local businesses and innovators to the future of local high streets and, significantly, public services.

SPARK has given social science research the cohesive brand and collective strength in depth to help improve public services. For example, we recently hosted the launch of the Business School’s Centre of Public Value Procurement, another milestone for the University and the Business School. SPARK hosts three other of their centres: the Centre for Innovation Policy Research, the Wales Centre for Public Policy and the Welsh Economy Research Unit.

Under the leadership of Professor Jane Lynch from Cardiff Business School, the new Centre aims to devise practical solutions that can improve procurement and supply chain management at a critical time for public services.

SPARK’s work is gaining wide recognition. Our stakeholder launch in June attracted major influencers from across the UK. More recently, we have hosted two major events: TGP (Tros Gynnal Plant) Cymru – the leading Wales-based Children’s Rights Charity and member of SPARK – celebrated its 20th birthday with us; and child abuse charity Stop It Now! alongside the Lucy Faithfull Foundation marked a similar birthday with us, celebrating 30 years of their work.

Both organisations have long-standing research relationships with the social sciences in Cardiff. These two anniversary events attracted large audiences of their own partners, and were attended by ministers and policy makers from Welsh Government, underlining the importance of communication.

Talking is the key to future success. Next month, SPARK will be holding its in-house Researcher Networking Event, which allows experts from our SPARK groups and centres to share ideas with peers and our team – sparking projects for years to come.

And, as Wales’ first accredited Living Wage Building, we will be hosting a celebration event for supporters and Living Wage employers from across Cardiff as part of Living Wage Week.’

Professor Chris Taylor, Academic Director, SPARK