An LSE-led partnership, set up to promote entrepreneurship based on social-science research, has been awarded five million pounds by Research England.
The funding, part of the Connecting Capability Fund, will support ‘ASPECT’ (‘A social sciences platform for entrepreneurship, commercialisation and transformation’) – a pioneering collaboration between leading universities and businesses to develop the commercial potential of social sciences. Led by the London School of Economics and Political Science, ASPECT is a partnership with the University of Manchester, University of Sussex, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield, alongside business investors.
While the creation of commercial spin-out companies based on STEM research is well established, social sciences have traditionally lagged behind in this area, with research more commonly applied to policy makers, rather than the private sector. ASPECT seeks to re-address this balance.
A key part of ASPECT’s work will be based on an innovative approach piloted by the LSE’s partner ‘company-builder’ Zinc. It will bring together the best social science ideas with top entrepreneurs to create new products and businesses which will both solve pressing social challenges and improve productivity, a key aim of the UK Government’s recent Industrial Strategy.
Programmes will be mission-led, with cohorts of participants facing up to a specific economic or social problem. The aim of each cohort will be to fulfil an unmet need of at least 100 million people in the developed world through the creation of 10-15 investable businesses.
Zinc’s first cohort, for example, has over 50 individuals from diverse backgrounds- including computer science, entrepreneurship and medicine- in place to create businesses and products to tackle the crisis in women and girls’ emotional and mental health. As part of a six month incubation programme they have access to insights from leading research, entrepreneurial mentors and potential investors.
Commenting on the funding and establishment of ASPECT, LSE Pro-Director for Research, Professor Julia Black, said:
“Although social science research has had enormous positive impacts on society and policy making, its potential to contribute to businesses has not been fully realised. Now more than ever, we need to harness the insights from the social sciences so they can better contribute to the wider economy and productivity, and achieve social benefits.
“ASPECT seeks to make this ambition a reality and, in time, establish itself as a global centre of excellence, providing best practice and case studies for developing the commercial potential of social science research.”