The University of Edinburgh

About this project

SHAPE is a new acronym developed by the British Academy to denote Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy / Environment.

SHAPE subjects are key to solving major challenges – from achieving Net Zero, to harnessing the benefits of AI, and designing future health and care systems.

Government and funder support for research to inform technological innovation often focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), overlooking the key role of SHAPE.

This tool was developed in 2022 by colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. Its aim is to aid STEM colleagues in exploring how SHAPE subjects can contribute to technological innovation across our major University missions.

Find out more about SHAPE on the British Academy website at

Read Professor Christina Boswell arguing that for technological innovation to be our salvation, we need to bring SHAPE into research much earlier on.

Exploring SHAPE in innovation

We have identified 8 key dimensions pertinent to technological innovation where SHAPE subjects have a significant role to play. These are:

  • Business, innovation and economy
  • Ethics and regulation
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Historical and longitudinal perspectives
  • Place, context and culture
  • Public attitudes and controversies
  • Security, risk and harm
  • User and stakeholder perspectives

Go to the tool to explore how SHAPE at Edinburgh contributes to tech innovation in our key missions: