Academia Case Study - Professor Rick Delbridge

Every organisation has its part to play in Wales’ ambition towards innovation, says Professor Rick Delbridge.

And he should know, he’s spent an academic career studying innovation and is achieving a world first right here in Wales.

Professor Delbridge, Cardiff University’s Dean of Research, Innovation and Enterprise, believes all parties need to come together to work more effectively and creatively. “One of the exciting opportunities created through REAP is that it recognises entrepreneurship as a system with multiple players,” he says. “At Cardiff University, we’re developing our capacity to play a role as a key actor to better contribute to the entrepreneurship and innovation agenda – and everyone has a part they need to play.”

This ethos is behind the development of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK), a new world-first facility bringing together cross-disciplinary academic experts with external organisations under one roof. Expected to be built in the next two years within the £300m Cardiff Innovation Campus, the purpose-built space will foster creative and innovative solutions to real world problems through collaboration between academia, business, government and the third sector.

SPARK is a novel initiative which is already attracting international interest,” says Rick who is the university’s academic lead for SPARK. “It’s all about building trust, shared learning and collaboration to solve issues that have previously thwarted us.

The SPARK facility will be all about achieving results, which Rick testaments is the bedrock of true innovation. “Innovation isn’t just about doing something new,” he says. “It’s about the creation of value from a new idea or invention. This value might be economic but could also be social, cultural, public or linked to health and wellbeing. That’s what we really need to be focused on achieving, not innovation for innovation’s sake.”

To kick-start innovation in Wales, organisations must create their own motivation from within and not just leave it to the start-ups.

It’s rare we see radical change happen unless there’s a crisis that demands it,” adds Rick. “But radical change is exactly what we need in Wales to go on and achieve great things. For us to drive success, established organisations have got to keep on evolving and continuing to innovate as part of an institutional entrepreneurship agenda, challenging the status quo.

Innovation needs to be embedded throughout an organisation and be the responsibility of everyone,” continues Rick. “Individuals need to lead change from within and recognise that while they may be a small cog, they’re in a big wheel and can make a difference in promoting and developing innovation within their own organisation.