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Knowledge and Innovation is the last stage in a research and training process that began more than thirty years ago, involving a large group of people from various research and civil commitment organizations and developed in dialogue with many academics of different disciplines. In this process, a key role was played by sociologist Giancarlo Quaranta, through his theoretical insights and his capacity to link research with the governance of contemporary societies (for further details see the profile of Giancarlo Quaranta).

This process involved different phases. It began in 1977 with some seminars exploring the epistemological foundations of social sciences and the logic behind them. In the following years, the spheres of study were expanded, while efforts also focused on giving continuity to this commitment, up to the establishment in 1988 of the Istituto di Studi Avanzati di Rocca di Papa, an organisation dedicated entirely to basic research and its links to applied research.

In 1993, the institute changed its name to Scuola di Sociologia e di scienze umane, so as to reflect its focus on interdisciplinary relations in the social sciences. The establishment of Knowledge and Innovation in 2014 saw the beginning of a new phase, marked by the pursuit of two objectives.

First, to strengthen basic research while consolidating, formalizing and making available the many findings reported in these decades of activity, especially as regards the governance of social processes.

Secondly, to engage other researchers and other institutions in joint projects, strengthening an interdisciplinary approach developed not only within the social sciences but also in a dialogue with disciplines usually not associated with them, such as materials development, energy and biomedicine.