CICS.NOVA mission is to undertake high quality and innovative interdisciplinary research for critical thinking in social sciences and policy-making. Accordingly, it is given equal importance to fundamental and applied research from an interdisciplinary perspective, taking into account the complexity of territorial systems and human behavior, the particularity of the functioning of institutions and the relationship with the surrounding spatial and social context.

CICS.NOVA aims to consolidate and expand its recognition as an international reference in the scientific knowledge production, from an interdisciplinary approach to a more efficient response to complex challenges. The strong interdisciplinary strategy connects and enhances the knowledge in Sociology and Geography, as nuclear areas, and other Social Sciences, but also in Environmental and Natural Sciences, in its fundamental and applied components. CICS.NOVA also encourages the pursuit of new ways to develop, innovate and communicate science and social knowledge, as well as to contribute to efficient policy and decision-making.

The first years of activities revealed the existence of points of convergence between the different Research Groups, CICS.NOVA’s core work structure, and different Regional Poles, which led to the identification of two thematic lines: Human Development and Sustainability / Innovations and Territorial Competitiveness. The aim is to increase the opportunities for cooperation between researchers, namely those belonging to different research groups, and to develop transversal research interests; to enable the launching of innovative and experimental approaches; to satisfy the needs of researchers with several scientific interests; to stimulate closer connections with public policies, business firms, other organizations and individual actors.

Besides enabling a transversal approach between the participating regional research poles andrespective scientific domains, the Research Groups and Thematic Lines propose to address some of the main themes and challenges set in the international communities research agenda. Thus the priority given to some areas in the broad CICS.NOVA research design, or to some topics to be explored in its framework.

Human Development and Sustainability
Innovations and Territorial Competitiveness

Human Development and Sustainability

Coordinator: José Fernando Bessa Ribeiro

Human Development and Sustainability Thematic Line aims to expand the fruitfulness of human dimensions rather than simply emphasising the economy in which human beings live. Rather than assuming that economic growth leads to greater well-being, income growth is seen as a mean to development rather than an end in itself. Human development focus on people’s lives, their opportunities and choices that can reinforce the mechanisms of social inclusion and cohesion. In the past, CICS.NOVA researchers have strongly invested on these issues. Now, as part of the RU strategy, we intend to reinforce their centrality, giving priority to the human development approach as a leading axis of our future research agenda. All RG will develop research focused on several issues related to opportunities and choices in order to improve people's lives, such as developing people’s capabilities by giving them a chance to use them, not forgetting the concern about how to deal with the need of conservation of natural resources and the necessary adaptation to climate changes. Human development is, fundamentally, about having more choice. It is about providing people with opportunities.

CICS.NOVA research agenda gives priority to the driven processes of human development, in order for people, individually and collectively, to reach full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they can value.

This Thematic Line keeps up with the international community priorities, which move toward implementing and monitoring the 2030 agenda, where the human development approach remains crucial in trying to improve people’s well-being by guaranteeing an equitable, sustainable and stable planet.

CICS.NOVA researchers have already invested on the basic pillars of human development - equity, productivity, empowerment, cooperation and security - and will continue to do so in the future. Human development essentially predicates a long and healthy life (Research Group 5), access to education that leads to filling an attractive job (Research Groups 6 and 2) and access to a wide range of goods and services (Research Group 1). In this context, sustainability boosts human development, based on the idea that human activities are dependent on the surrounding environment, such as the quality of natural resources or the effects of climate change (Research Groups 1, 3, 4). The health, social security and economic stability of society are essential in defining a sustainable quality of life (Research Groups 5, 1 and 2). The interdependence between HD and sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) reflects the specificity to this beginning of the millennium. These trends translate the increasing opportunities for cooperation between different research groups, by developing transversal research interests and launching innovative and experimental approaches.


Innovations and Territorial Competitiveness

Coordinator: Maria Regina Faia Martins Salvador

Innovative processes are frequently based in a competition that prizes the most adequate proposal for a pre-defined problem. Most of our work concerning innovations is territorial based and related to competitive environments. This Thematic Line intends to articulate the various research initiatives related to innovations and territorial competitiveness in order to better support policy and decision-making.

Innovations must be considered in a broad sense, including their different dimensions, with emphasis on the technological and social one. On one hand, we want to study the way technology is transforming human lifestyles and behaviours and the need for its development to better steer territorial systems, as through the increasing use of digital infrastructures as IoT (Internet of Things). Having in mind the perspective of social innovations, we must consider the way new strategies, concepts, ideas and organisations meet social needs, incorporating studies on the social processes of innovation, as well as their purposes and social impacts. On the other hand, innovations are closely related to territorial competitiveness and have a true spatial dimension.

Our other goal is to achieve a stronger knowledge about the underlying processes of territorial capacity building. Emerging territorial and social complexity, together with new forms of governance (higher number of players and diversity), demand new theoretical and technological tools of scientific inquiry, modelling, analysis and visualization. Following an ecological perspective, innovations are conceived and analysed through identified ecosystems favourable to processes of change, in easy adaptable contexts. Case studies are identified in labour and industrial environments (Research Group 2), in health organisations (Research Group 5), in schools (Research Group 6) and also in legal procedures against discrimination (Research Group 1), but the main focus of this thematic line is on how the effects of innovations link with territorial change (mainly Research Groups 3 and 4: city and landscape renewal, gentrification processes, coastal zones and blue policies, agriculture and food studies).

This take us to another dimension. Hence, there is a need to develop innovative models and technology-based solutions for decision-making support, namely for public policies design, implementation, monitoring and assessment. Data is becoming more and more a key asset for organisations and territories, and the increase and diversity of data sources and models (e.g., VGI - volunteered geographic information, 3D, social networks analysis, analytical models, etc.) constitute ongoing opportunities for empirical and theoretical research developments. The challenge is, while the core research topics of this Thematic Line remains in Research Groups 2, 3 and 4, to boost future crossings with the other Thematic Line research topics. Cooperative research between different research groups is already conducted at the Observatory for Technology Assessment and in Jean Monnet Chair OCEANID and can be strongly increased under this Thematic Line.