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Vice-Chancellor news

A post-pandemic Home of Innovation

27 April 2021

The doors swing open this autumn on the biggest innovation facility of its kind in Wales. Cardiff Innovation Campus (CIC) has reshaped a disused railway yard into a Home of Innovation, where thinkers will meet collaborators and funders to spark answers to society’s challenges. Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan explains how CIC can help strengthen social and economic wellbeing in Wales after Covid-19.

Sbarc | spark is emerging into the spring sunshine, and I recently visited the Maindy Road site to witness progress. By early May, contractors Bouygues UK will have removed the supporting framework that currently shrouds the centrepiece Oculus staircase inside our flagship innovation building.

A wider vista will open up, not just of the material building, but of imagined conversations that might be had on the shared ‘social’ section at the foot of the stairs, which are designed to facilitate casual catch-ups and conversations between collaborators, students and the 400 social science researchers who make up SPARK – the Social Science Research Park.

Chance social interactions can forge great ideas. And it is in sbarc | spark – and the neighbouring Translational Research Hub – where research ideas will be generated and transformed into processes, products and services that will serve Wales and the world in the 21st Century, as people return to collective working after Covid-19.

Packed with ideation spaces, laboratories and test-beds to trial new ideas, sbarc | spark is a magnet for innovation. It is part of our biggest Campus upgrade for a generation, and has already attracted a wealth of funding from research councils, governments, funding bodies and businesses. At the foot of this blog, you’ll find a roll call of organizations who’ve supported us on our journey.

CIC will be completed at a challenging time for the innovation landscape in Wales. In the Chancellor’s recent Budget, UK Government pledged to invest £93m in Wales to “turbocharge” a green recovery, with accelerated funding for three City and Growth deals. Despite this positive news, there is concern over the long-term future allocation of UK Research and Innovation funding and whether the UK’s status as a ‘science superpower’ will be maintained.

Closer to home, the Research Wales Innovation Fund (RWIF), through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, is supporting Cardiff’s work to increase capacity across Business Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, Commercial Development, Civic Mission and Public Engagement.

Providing the right policy levers for innovation is key. Professors Rick Delbridge and Kevin Morgan recently called for a new National Innovation Body for Wales, working closely with Welsh Government, but acting independently to mobilise activity that will secure funding opportunities in R&I, particularly innovation funding.

Challenge-led and mission- driven models of innovation must be at the heart of this change. In effect, a better ‘socio-ecological ’understanding of innovation can strengthen the links to the work of social science-led research centres like those in SPARK. The introduction of Innovation Collaboration Zones — featuring R&D and innovation drivers, from fiscal and tax levers and incentives and deregulation of land use, through to co-location of expertise and research facilities — would help to deliver commercial missions from research through to development and innovation.

The need for places to act as magnets for innovation, and policy changes to unlock research, formed the crux of our arguments for investing in Cardiff Innovation Campus. CIC will deliver on our commitment this autumn.

My colleague, Professor Karen Holford, Deputy Vice Chancellor and John Boughton, from Bouygues UK, will provide a Zoom update of progress at Cardiff Innovation Campus on 13 May from 3pm to 4pm. If you would like to join the event and find out more, please sign up here.

A photographic summary of progress on site can be seen by clicking here. As we head towards completion, it is clear that there is still much to do to beyond the built environment to recharge society for the challenges ahead.

Professor Colin Riordan, Cardiff University President and Vice-Chancellor

With thanks to:

#UKRI #HEFCW #WelshGovernment #welcometrust #ESRC #ERDF #EuropeanSocialFund #CSACatapult #EPSRC #wolfsonfdn #DSV_AS #NestaUK #FutureGenCymru #PublicHealthWales #SocialCareWales #NIHRResearch #CardiffCapitalRegion #MedicalResearchCouncil