Innovation Fellowship deliver programme of creative and engaging events to explore culture change in the Social Sciences

The Social Science Division’s Innovation Fellowships are designed to support creative and enthusiastic researchers to advocate for innovation – such as business engagement, commercialisation, and entrepreneurship – and provide an exciting opportunity for innovation to become an increasingly accessible and valued activity for social sciences researchers. 

First launched in 2021, the fellowships are changing perceptions of commercialisation and innovation in the social sciences, highlighting the positive ways it can unlock and discover something new. Innovation, as a concept, continues to mean something slightly different to different research groups and communities, which makes the opportunities presented by the fellowships particularly exciting and inspiring as they highlight the buzz and conversations taking place around how innovation presents itself across our diverse range of research areas. 

Last year’s Oxford Fellows (2022-23) created a rich, varied programme of activities and events reaching several hundred researchers, students, professional services colleagues, and members of the public. As part of the Innovation Fellowship Programme, the Fellows were also able to connect with researchers at our partner universities - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Sussex -to form a cohort of Innovation Fellows, who supported each other as they developed their plans across the year. 

Look at some of the events that took place

Social Sciences Innovation workshop

Dr Fabian Braesemann, (Oxford Internet Institute), led on two interactive workshops with representatives from the Social Sciences Division and different stakeholders from the University innovation ecosystem to explore and identify the broad opportunities and challenges related to innovation in the social sciences. Dr Braesmann explains, “We gathered numerous ideas, opinions, best practice examples, and success stories, which we have summarised as a report to help foster future innovation.” He added, “The fellowship was an enriching experience, which contributes to raising awareness for the value of innovation and commercialisation in the social sciences.” 

The Social Datathon 2023: Finding Green Skills

Innovation Fellow, Dr Fabian Stephany, (also of the Oxford Internet Institute) hosted a one-day ‘datathon’ competition to deep dive into the challenge of identifying opportunities and competencies for new ‘green’ occupations to mitigate climate change. This event brought together colleagues, industry partners, and students to share ideas and think creatively by applying data science tools and techniques to unique datasets.  Dr Stephany explained, “Part of creating innovation is trying something new without knowing its outcome. The SSD (Social Sciences Division) Fellowship gave us the freedom to do exactly that. Looking back at our social datathon on green skills and sustainable jobs, I am happy to say that the plan worked out perfectly."

Seventeen smiling, smartly dressed people stand behind a lectern, some holding copies of a book.

Dr Fabian Stephany with participants at the Finding Green Skills Social Datathon in March 2023.











Innovation in Archaeology  

Professor Ine Jacobs, Robyn Mason, and Dr Aikaterina Vavaliou (School of Archaeology) ran a variety of fascinating events during their Fellowship to raise awareness on how innovation can be used in archaeology, with contributions from speakers in the business, policy, and third sectors. The events explored the use of archaeology as a wellbeing activity through social prescribing, innovation in environmental archaeology, and digital innovation in archaeology. Fellow, Professor Ine Jacobs, said, “Many of our activities during this Fellowship were aimed at bringing academics, practitioners, students, and wider public audiences together to discuss state-of-the-art research questions and themes in archaeology. This proved to be even more stimulating than expected and the feedback we received made it clear that we succeeded in offering fresh and exciting perspectives on our profession.” 

The team also ran several installations of their ‘curiosity cabinets’ in local businesses to capture the imaginations of the local community. Designed in collaboration with archaeological scientists and artists, a particularly popular installation was ‘Pub Archaeology @ The White Rabbit,’ where visitors to the pub could scan a code to discover how the rabbit became white and how the Anglo-Saxons flavoured their ale! 

Robyn Mason, Communications and Outreach Manager at the School of Archaeology, who led the installations shared, “This has proved the value of working with small, local, and independent businesses in Oxford. They are very keen to work with our researchers and are intrigued to discover the often unexpected connections between their high street businesses and our archaeological research questions. We hope to nurture these relationships with further events and ideas sharing.” 

Advertising poster for the Digital Innovation in Archaeology event. A woman in a VR headset walking amongst the ruins of an ancient stone structure in a hot location

Find out more and get involved with innovation and commercialisation opportunities at Oxford

In addition to the Research Venturers programme, the work of the Fellows – both from Oxford and our partner universities - is contributing to a new culture around innovation, commercialisation, and entrepreneurship in the social sciences, where researchers and professional services staff feel confident in exploring the possibilities for scalable and sustainable impact arising from their research. 

Dr Sam Sneddon, SSD’s Head of Research and Engagement, concludes, “our Innovation Fellowship teams have delivered some brilliantly creative events and activities over the last year, and we have been delighted with the level of interest this has generated amongst our researchers and partners.” 

For more examples of how to get involved with innovation or commercialisation opportunities for social science researchers at Oxford, visit or contact the SSD Research Impact & Engagement Team at


The Innovation Fellowships are funded by Aspect and the University’s ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Impact Acceleration Account

About Aspect  

Aspect (A SHAPE (Social sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy) Platform for Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Transformation) is a network for organisations looking to make the most of commercial and business opportunities from Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SHAPE) research. For more information visit  

About Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account 

£1.25 million has been awarded to the Social Sciences Division for activities over the next five years that translate the university’s social sciences research into social, economic, and behavioural impact. For more information visit:  

About Oxford University Innovation 

OUI (Oxford University Innovation) manages the University’s technology transfer and consulting activities. OUI works closely with the Social Sciences Division (as well as the other academic divisions and departments to commercialise both Intellectual Property and methodologies, processes, and knowledge. They support innovation in the social sciences by providing routes to commercialisation. For more information visit:  

Discover more about innovation within the Social Sciences Division

Visit innovation webpages