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

This process involved several phases. It began in 1977 with some seminars on the epistemological foundations of the social sciences and the logic behind them. In the years that followed, the areas of study were broadened and efforts were made to give continuity to this commitment, until the Istituto di Studi Avanzati di Rocca di Papa was founded in 1988, an organisation entirely dedicated to basic research and its links with applied research.

The institute is now called Scuola di Sociologia e Ricerca Interdisciplinare (School of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Research) to reflect its focus on interdisciplinary relations in the social sciences. In 2014, the establishment of Knowledge and Innovation marked the beginning of a new phase, characterised by the pursuit of two objectives.

First, to strengthen basic research by consolidating, formalising and making available the many findings reported over these decades of activity, particularly with regard to the governance of social processes.

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