CICS.NOVA's mission is to conduct interdisciplinary research in social sciences, to promote critical thinking and disseminate the acquired knowledge in the concerned communities, both on the national and international level, namely through the action of its regional Poles. The research unit’s interdisciplinary framework brings together knowledge in sociology and geography, as central areas, alongside other social sciences and humanities. In addition, there are strong links with life sciences, environmental sciences and engineering, which render CICS.NOVA's scientific research particularly original and comprehensive.

CICS.NOVA assigns a particularly relevant role to teaching and advanced training, through the coordination and participation in several doctoral programs, master's and open courses, and by welcoming researchers in academic training. An equally important contribution is the co-creation and knowledge transfer alongside policymakers, companies and other civil society organisations, particularly through the activities developed by the Observatories and Laboratories. CICS.NOVA also fosters the dissemination and communication of science and knowledge through a strong presence in the scientific community (organizing conferences, seminars and workshops, and promoting the publishing of scientific journals and books) and in the public space (fostering communities of practice, stimulating the publication of documents for decision making, developing online resources and assisting the researchers with media engagement). These priorities are guided by the interdisciplinary study of territorial systems and human behaviour, the particularities of the institutions' functioning and their relations with the surrounding spatial and social contexts.

In this framework, CICS.NOVA intends to consolidate its position and expand its reach as a national and international reference in the production of scientific knowledge, adopting an approach developed both from theoretical and/or epistemological questions and from real-world social problems, contributing in the latter case with innovative responses that generate positive social impact. For the immediate future, CICS.NOVA is committed to attracting and keeping researchers by promoting their scientific activities, namely through the direct incentives policy for knowledge production and the synergies between teaching and research. The centre also invests in research development that addresses the main themes and challenges established in the national and international agendas, namely through the articulation between researchers and research groups and the integration of the work developed in its different regional centres, in the Azores, in Braga, in Évora and Leiria. Building on the activities of the Laboratory of Ideas, it will also seek to encourage the development of emerging scientific approaches within its scope and within the broader framework of knowledge and scientific areas it encompasses, giving them the appropriate public expression.

The interdisciplinary approach, its broad establishment in the national territory, its integration in various higher education institutions through its regional poles and its openness to life sciences, the environmental sciences and engineering are the main distinguishing features of CICS.NOVA in the context of social sciences research units in Portugal as well as the foundation of its internationalisation.

Human Development and Sustainability
Innovations and Territorial Competitiveness

Human Development and Sustainability

Coordinator: Sérgio Rosendo

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 João Leote

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.