Professor and Academic Director of 'Y Lab' – the Public Services Innovation Lab for Wales

Cardiff University is looking for an exceptional individual to provide academic leadership for Y Lab, an exciting joint initiative with Nesta, working with Welsh Government and public services providers in Wales and beyond.

The ideal candidate will be a proven academic leader of established international standing and credibility in public service innovation. Experience of attracting and managing large funds, coordinating academics across a range of disciplines and liaising with external parties will be essential.

Responsibilities include providing academic leadership for Y Lab, co-developing Y Lab’s strategy with the Nesta Senior Innovation Programmes Manager, managing research projects and staff, developing new project proposals and generating research funding, PhD supervision, producing high quality research outputs and leading Y Lab’s research impact activities.

You will have:

- Experience of research leadership in a multi-disciplinary academic environment.
- A strong record of research publications in a relevant disciplinary area.
- A successful record of obtaining research funding and managing research projects.
- High credibility in both the academic and public sector communities A commitment to innovation and impact in public services.
This post is full-time and permanent. The appointment to Academic Director of Y Lab will be for three years after which the successful applicant will either continue in the role or revert to a Professorial position in one of the Schools of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Salary: A point on the Cardiff Professorial Scale, and will be commensurate with the experience and achievements of the successful applicant.

Date post advertised: Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Closing date: Friday, 13 October 2017

For further information or to discuss the role please contact Professor Rick Delbridge, Interim Academic Director of Y Lab.  Telephone 029 2087 6644

Please be aware that Cardiff University reserves the right to close this vacancy early should sufficient applications be received.

Cardiff University is committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity and to creating an inclusive working environment. We believe this can be achieved through attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse range of staff from many different backgrounds who have the ambition to create a University which seeks to fulfil our social, cultural and economic obligation to Cardiff, Wales, and the world.  In supporting our employees to achieve a balance between their work and their personal lives, we will also consider proposals for flexible working or job share arrangements.

Job Description

The main duties of the post will include:

  • Co-Leading  'Y Lab', working closely with the Senior Innovation Programmes Manager (employed by Nesta) and Executive Board.
  • Managing a team of research fellows/associates and finances (core funding from Cardiff University).
  • Working with the Welsh Government and other partners to develop a portfolio of high impact, experimental programmes that produce and test innovations to address public policy challenges and social needs.
  • Ensuring that work undertaken by Y Lab provides a basis for excellent research which contributes to the University’s research mission and aligns with Nesta’s charitable objectives.
  • Providing a focus, and generating new opportunities, for the University’s research on innovation in public services.
  • Building Y Lab’s capacity within the relevant research fields through external funding.
  • Presenting the work of the Lab to senior policy makers, practitioners and academics.
  • Working closely to develop relationships with existing institutes and research centres working in this area.  
  • Developing and strengthening the University’s links with the public sector in Wales and other relevant agencies
  • Producing high quality research in peer reviewed journals.
  • Working closely with Nesta to establish an effective communications and dissemination strategy.
  • To ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements in respect of equality and diversity, data protection, copyright and licensing, security, financial and other University policies, procedures and codes as appropriate.
  • To take reasonable care for the health and safety of yourself and of other persons who may be affected by your acts or omissions at work in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, EC directives and the University's Safety, Health and Environment Policies and procedures and to cooperate with the University on any legal duties placed on it as the employer.

You may be asked to perform other duties occasionally which are not included above, but which will be consistent with the role. 

This is a permanent, full-time research and research leadership position, which will include PhD supervision. The specific focus for the first three years at least (subject to the Lab’s success in income generation) will be co-leading and establishing Y Lab on a sustainable basis.

The role will be based at Cardiff University and the remuneration package will be commensurate with the significance of the appointment and the calibre of the successful applicant. The Director will be line-managed by the Head of School to which the appointment is made.

Person Specification

Essential Criteria

  • An international reputation for high-quality research in innovation and/or the organisation and management of public services.
  • Expertise in leading and undertaking successful and impactful collaborative research with non-academic partner organisations.
  • The ability to provide academic leadership, including working with diverse teams and securing external funding.
  • Demonstrable expertise in evaluating and delivering public service innovation.
  • PhD in a related subject area.
  • Proven record of research including publications in major journals and experience in writing successful research proposals.
  • Evidence of an external contribution to local/national/professional bodies and/or other external esteem indicators.
  • Experience of working in a boundary-spanning role linking academics with practice and bridging disciplines.
  • Experience of leading and effectively managing a team and the ability to work well with a co-Director, building rapport and a good working relationship quickly. 
  • The ability to inspire and motivate,  excellent interpersonal and communication skills and evidence of successful team-working skills, and the ability and willingness to develop interdisciplinary links with researchers in other academic schools to enhance the overall strength of research across the University.

Desirable Criteria

Experience of randomised control trials approach.  


The Person Specification is split into 2 sections: essential and desirable.  Please demonstrate clearly how you meet all of the essential criteria.  Where possible you should give examples of how, when and where you have used your experience, knowledge, specific skills and abilities to match those required for this particular job role.

Please ensure that you communicate this fully by creating a supporting statement document, listing all of the criteria and commenting against each one as to how you meet them.  This will need to be completed before you begin making your application on line as you will be required to upload it.  When uploading the supporting statement the document title needs to read “supporting statement [and should also detail the post reference number ending in BR]” (relevant to the job you are applying for).

The desirable section contains a list of skills, qualifications and experience that it would be beneficial for the jobholder to have.

All short-listing decisions will be based initially on essential criteria, with desirable being used to further select or deselect candidates as appropriate. 

We interview those candidates who are the closest match to the identified criteria. 

Additional Information

Y Lab

Cardiff University and Nesta have established a partnership that combines our respective expertise and capabilities in this exciting new initiative. Y Lab will deploy a range of different approaches and methods to:

  • Build capacity for innovation in public services in Wales.  Helping organisations create change by introducing them to new methods such as user centred design;
  • Help innovators develop, test and scale new ideas.  By providing financial and non-financial support we’ll ensure that new ideas have the necessary support to develop and grow;
  • Research patterns, causes and impacts of innovation in public services.  We find out what works, why and for who by evaluating our own programmes and carrying out new research about innovation in public services.

You can find out more about Y Lab at

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS)

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences consists of 11 Academic Schools with 1,100 staff and 13,000 students. From Business to Law, Music to Journalism, we have an internationally recognised intellectual capacity considering the key theoretical and practical questions in the study of the economy, politics and society.

Cardiff University has considerable research strength in public services and policy, and in public sector management. Cardiff University's contribution to public administration research has been ranked third in the world, in a recent edition of the International Public Management Journal where researchers at Erasmus University ranked the performance of public administration research groups worldwide between 1999 and 2013, taking as their primary metric the number of articles published by each institution in the four top journals in the field.

Whilst predominantly to be found in the AHSS College, high quality, policy relevant social science research is conducted in all three Colleges of the University. Existing strength is concentrated in a number of leading research centres and institutes: the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW), Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), the Wales Governance Centre (WGC), the Centre for Local and Regional Government Research (CLGR) and the Cardiff Health Organisation and Policy Studies (CHOPS).

The research approach proposed with the Lab differs from, and complements, these groups in the way that it brings together academics, service designers and innovators to work intensively and interactively with those in public services to develop and deliver innovative practical solutions and sustained change. The Lab will therefore complement existing centres in extending existing evidence and analysis through a prototyping, experimental, and collaborative approach. 

Social Science Research Park (SPARK) 

The University is building the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK) as part of a new innovation campus. The purpose-built facility will bring together world-leading researchers with practitioners, policy makers and other research stakeholders. The mission of SPARK is ‘to generate economic, environmental and social value through co-developing innovative and effective solutions to societal problems with the public, private and third sectors’. 

Y Lab will adopt the collaborative, cross-disciplinary problem-focused approach delivering high quality research with impact that will be the hallmark of work in SPARK. 

Find out more and apply.