A flagship centre where ideas will spark invention has been ‘topped out’ by Cardiff University and Bouygues UK.
sbarc | spark – Cardiff’s #HomeofInnovation – brings together researchers, entrepreneurs, student start-ups and academic spinouts in a state-of-the-art building at the heart of Cardiff Innovation Campus.
More than 70% of site contractors and labour are based locally, bringing economic benefits to Wales during the construction phase.
Featuring commercial units, a visualisation centre, auditorium and fabrication lab, the hub provides the seedbed in which Wales can nurture and grow tomorrow’s big ideas as the UK recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, with dedicated space for student entrepreneurs.
It is the largest innovation facility of its kind in Wales, featuring 12,000m sq of floor space across six storeys, with commercial units and lab spaces for spinouts and start-ups.
Expert academics from 11 social science research groups – collectively known as SPARK – will share spaces with public, private and third sector partners to create, test and incubate fresh ideas that can help build a better society.
Cardiff University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: “Our committed investment in sbarc | spark brings hope of igniting new ways of working that can help Wales recover as lockdown eases. Working with Bouygues UK, we have been able to provide a space where collaborators, funders, business entrepreneurs and student-led enterprises can thrive, helping Wales emerge from the socio-economic downturn which will affect all our lives.”
SPARK Director, Professor Chris Taylor added: “SPARK is dedicated to studying how society works, and our member groups tackle issues ranging from public health and crime to poverty and climate change. The concept of a Social Science Research Park – a world’s first for Wales – has never been more relevant.”
Professor Damian Walford Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, oversees the delivery of sbarc|spark.
“The topping out of the sbark|spark building is duly marked – necessarily at a distance, but with appropriate fanfare around what each beam, bolt and panel was always meant to enable: the delivery by Cardiff researchers and students, and by our external partners, of life-changing social and economic benefits – needed now as never before.”
Up to 800 people will eventually work in sbarc|spark. Designed by award-winning architects Hawkins\Brown and due for completion next year, the building stands next to other specialist hubs including the Translational Research Facility (under construction) and Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre.
In addition to bringing future economic and social benefits to Wales, the construction of this latest phase of the Campus has created immediate construction and supply chain jobs. To date, more than 1,000 people have been enrolled to work on the site.
Rob Bradley, CEO, Bouygues UK, said: “Driving innovation is a key priority for the Group so we are very proud to have reached this key milestone on a building that has been designed to encourage innovation and collaboration between like-minded professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds.
“We have sought to positively contribute to the Welsh economy throughout the duration of our work for Cardiff University and to date have procured 74% of our contractors from Wales, with local labour totalling 71%.”
The building will bring benefits to the local community. The ground floor will be a public open space with a café, a flexible auditorium for TEDx style events and an open staircase – the ‘Oculus’ – designed to drive social engagements and collaborations within the building.
A member of the Russell Group, Cardiff University has specialised in turning research into real-world applications for over 125 years. The University generates more than 95% of IP income amongst Higher Education Institutions in Wales, working with hundreds of international and national organisations across all sectors to create social and economic prosperity.