ASPECT Social Science Innovation Fellowship Programme

ASPECT Social Science Innovation Fellowship Programme

Are you an engaged or entrepreneurial social scientist who is passionate about innovation and wants to encourage others to get involved?


Would you like an opportunity to lead a programme of activity to create culture change in your department and across the social sciences?


Could you be our next ambassador for social science innovation, advocating for business engagement, commercialisation and entrepreneurship for the social sciences both within the University and externally?


This scheme encourages innovation across Social Science at the University of Oxford in the areas of research commercialisation, business engagement and entrepreneurship.

We are looking to invest funding in creative and enthusiastic individuals to be advocates for innovation and help drive an inclusive, supportive culture of innovation among social sciences researchers. The initial Innovation Fellowship programme ran from October 2020 to June 2021.

We hope to reopen the scheme in autumn 2021 so please check back if you would like to apply. Enquiries can be sent to

Guidance and how to apply

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The aim of the Innovation Fellowship Programme is to support academic-led culture change. In the current research funding climate, innovation is becoming an increasingly important component of research activity. By funding a cohort of Fellows whose main objectives are to a) advocate for innovation, and b) provide us with academic input and leadership for new initiatives, we hope to create a step-change in innovation activities in the social sciences, making it easier for researchers to engage in innovation and to make it a more valued part of research. This is a great opportunity for someone to get involved at this stage of our journey, especially those keen to develop leadership, change management and advocacy skills.

Proposals are therefore sought from researchers to lead, support, and facilitate culture change within their departments; with the aspiration that innovation becomes an increasingly valued and recognised activity for social sciences researchers to undertake.

Innovation Fellows will receive an award of £5k to use for their research, impact or engagement activity. 

Fellows must already be employed by a department of the University and will be expected to report briefly how the award money has been used at the end of the Fellowship. Fellows will be expected to organise and/or lead a programme of activities, as well as participate in an Innovation Advisory group and act as ambassadors and advocates for innovation within the University and externally.

To enable this programme of activities, the Fellows will have access to an events’ budget to help them run their choice of events, workshops and training to support their goal of developing the innovation ecosystem as well as administrative support from the division to assist with event management.

This programme is funded as part of the ASPECT network, a joint programme to transform society through Social Science innovation, consisting of a partnership between LSE, University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, Sussex University, Glasgow University and the University of Oxford. As such, Fellows will also be expected to attend some ASPECT events.

We are looking for Fellows to take on the following responsibilities:

  • Advocate for innovation, research commercialisation, business engagement and/ or entrepreneurship at the department and divisional level, soliciting views and opinions from the wider research community. This may also mean acting as a spokesperson at divisional groups and committees
  • Liaise and network with others with an interest in innovation in departments, other divisions and beyond the University
  • Participate in a Social Sciences Innovation Advisory Group
  • Work with the divisional Research, Impact and Engagement team to develop material explaining the value proposition around social sciences for businesses
  • Experience of innovation through research commercialisation, business engagement or entrepreneurship, including through innovative impact and engagement work
  • Advocate effectively for the benefits of innovation across a wide range of stakeholders (ECRs, Heads of Department, etc.)
  • Be proactive in identifying ways to improve communication around innovation with research staff/postdocs, as well as Heads of Department and senior colleagues.
  • Develop a programme of events that will stimulate more engagement with innovative activities across Social Sciences at the University of Oxford

Maximum time commitment is approximately 5 full working days spread out over the period. This will depend upon the mechanisms used for liaising with the research staff community

This call will reopen Autumn 2021. Please enquire via

Full applications should include ALL the following components:

  1. your CV (maximum 1 page)
  2. a brief outline of your proposed programme of activities, and a short statement of why you are interested in applying for this role and the particular strengths and experience that you will bring to it (maximum 2 pages)
  3. a short statement from your Head of Department supporting your application.

Shortlisted applicants may be asked to make a short presentation to a small assessment panel on their contribution to a programme of activities which would create an inclusive innovation ecosystem.


The range of possible strategic activities that can better support innovation culture change is varied and may include one or more of the following activities:

  • Showcase event – Run a showcase event of examples of innovation in Social Sciences to raise awareness among researchers
  • Build a community – create a network to support researchers looking to do innovation
  • Hackathons – Develop a hackathon series to explore novel applications for research
  • Skills for innovation – Run digital skills workshop to help researchers develop tools to aid with innovative research in data science or coding
  • Develop partnerships – Explore a partnership with government or business to pilot research ideas

This list is not exhaustive, and applicants are encouraged to try out new ideas for fostering a culture in which innovation can flourish.

Meet our current Innovation Fellows

Professor Laura Rival

Professor Laura Rival smiles as she stands at the front of classroom, teaching a class of young adults. The classroom walls are bright green, the students and teacher are wearing clothes for hot weather, and out of the window a lush rainforest is visible.

'Oxford's Department of International Development comprises a thriving community, which is known worldwide for its ground-breaking work on technological innovation for human development.'

'My Fellowship will directly contribute to this work through a programme of events geared to help reframe entrepreneurship and successful commercialization from plural perspectives; to deepen our collective reflection on how we should address the burning issues of development in the face of the climate and ecological crises; and to map out and rally ODID’s extensive network of business partners.'

Laura Rival, Social Science Innovation Fellow and Professor of Anthropology and Development based at the Oxford Department of International Development and at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography

Patrick Thomson 

Portrait of Patrick Thomson

'My main aims for this Fellowship are to develop an innovation network within the Social Sciences Division for the exchange of ideas and experience with other like-minded people, and to link that into the existing innovation ecosystem, with a particular focus on the social entrepreneurship through the Skoll Centre and Oxford University Innovation.

'I believe that social scientists’ understanding of the cultural factors, institutional structures, and power relationships that shape our world can be the special sauce that enables a creative or inventive idea to mature into a real innovation working in the real world.'

Patrick Thomson, Socal Science Innovation Fellow and Senior Researcher, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment


aspect logo with tag line "transforming society through social science innovation"