EPSRC Sandpit: New Industrial Systems

A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

EPSRC is running an Ideas Factory Sandpit on New Industrial Systems in May 2017. The deadline for expressions of interest is 2nd March 2017.

New Industrial Systems Sandpit

What’s the theme?

The sandpit seeks to address the challenge of competitiveness in the future UK economy by focusing on manufacturing technologies and trends. Four research visions have been identified by the Manufacturing the Future theme:

  • Sustainable Industries (e.g. a future where business models take account of resource usage, resilience and security)
  • Digital Manufacturing (e.g. simulation and visualisation of design and manufacturing)
  • 21st Century Products (e.g. smart and multi-functional products)
  • New Industrial Systems, which sits at the intersection of the other three areas

The sandpit aims to build a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges in developing new industrial systems, identify a common language between disciplines, facilitate interactions between researchers and users, and identify and address the key research challenges in this area. It is expected that up to £5M of EPSRC funding will be made available to fund research projects arising from this sandpit.

Who should attend?

EPSRC give the following examples of disciplines which could apply to attend: engineering, design, materials science, physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, economics, social sciences, sustainability, life sciences, energy systems. Attendees need not have worked on the problem before and need not have previously secured EPSRC funding. The emphasis will be on people who are open to explore new ideas and connections with other disciplines.

What will happen at the sandpit?

The Sandpit event itself will take place over five days from 15-19 May 2017 at Stratford Manor, Stratford-upon-Avon. The events will draw on ideas from a broad range of disciplines so attendees should expect to be able to develop relationships with other participants and communicate concepts and ideas in a way that is understandable and engaging to those outside your immediate area.

There is more information in the guidance on how sandpits work, but they are generally very intensive and rewarding experiences which offer an excellent chance of securing funding (as this is restricted to attendees).

How do I apply?

The deadline for expressions of interest to attend the Sandpit is 2nd March 2017. 25-30 participants will be selected and must be available for the full five-day duration. To apply you will need to complete the EoI form on the call page.

Given the high likelihood of securing EPSRC funding as a result of sandpit attendance, these calls are often highly competitive. The assessment will be based on the ability to develop new, adventurous and highly original research; the potential to contribute to research at the interface between disciplines; the ability to work in a team; the ability to explain research to non-experts. You will need to give evidence of your ability to meet these criteria in the EoI.

Please contact your Faculty Research Funding and Policy Manager if you are interested in discussing this further.


Notes from the EPSRC Engineering Leaders of the Future Workshop

In the sandpit for the first time by ntr23 CC BY-SA-NC 2.0

Neil BeattieAt the end of 2013 Neil Beattie, Senior Lecturer in Physics, attended an EPSRC workshop entitled Engineering Leaders of the Future.  Here are the key points from the workshop:

  • The event was a 2-day workshop at a hotel in the Midlands involving ~50 early to mid-career researchers from across the UK in all engineering disciplines.
  • The workshop focus was on networking, building a profile and forming groups (think speed dating!) to apply for a small (£25k) funding opportunity.
  • Guest speakers included industrialists and senior academics.
  • The second day centred on working up ideas for the funding opportunity which was specifically to enable further networking. Note that only 5% of the funding was allowed to be used for doing science.
  • The funding application was subject to all the usual EPSRC rules (Case for Support, Pathways to Impact, number of times you can apply for a grant, etc.)
  • EPSRC Fellowships within the Engineering theme are undersubscribed.

In the sandpit for the first time by ntr23 CC BY-SA-NC 2.0This approach to scoping ideas for funding is becoming increasingly common amongst Research Councils. Sometimes called “sandpits”, Research Councils first issue a call for expressions of interest to attend a workshop or forum which is in itself competitive. The initial sift is usually undertaken by an EPSRC appointed panel with some independent representation. However, you shouldn’t expect your EoI will be read by a subject expert in your precise field. This means there can be a relatively quick turnaround between the initial EoI stage and the event itself.

At the event, the participants are encouraged to network and develop collaborative ideas and proposals. Sometimes this is in response to specific issues or “grand challenges”, at other times there will be more bottom-up approaches, such as “research speed-dating”. The goal is to come out of the sandpit or workshop with a consortium and a roughly drafted proposal idea which can then be refined over the coming weeks to submit to a deadline in the usual way. Because there was an initial sift of applicants, however, the chances of getting funded at this stage are often very favourable – e.g. 50% or higher – because only participants who attended the sandpit are eligible to submit an application.


Assistive, Adaptive, Rehabilitative Technologies Sandpit

Eye_orbit_anatomy_anterior2 by Patrick J. Lynch CC BY 2.5EPSRC has recently announced a call for participants for its Assistive, Adaptive and Rehabilitative Technologies Sandpit, scheduled to take place 1st – 5th September 2014:

“The EPSRC is running a sandpit in the broad area of assistive and rehabilitative devices in order to try to engender a radical change in the research undertaken in this field in the UK.

The sandpit will be focussed on key research challenges within the sphere of intelligent and intentional assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative technologies. The challenges in this field are likely to need highly multidisciplinary solutions, hence we are offering researchers from a wide range of disciplines the opportunity to come together to innovate scientific and technological solutions to identifiable user needs.”

It is expected that up to £5M of EPSRC funding will be made available to fund projects arising from this sandpit. The deadline for the call to attend the sandpit is noon on the 5th June 2014 and the application is submitted online via the EPSRC website, rather than via Je-S: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/calls/2014/Pages/rehabilitativesandpit.aspx

Key challenges participants may be interested in could include (but are not restricted to):

  • New robotic components and solutions for prosthetics and rehabilitative devices (including sensory devices);
  • Bio-mechatronics;
  • New user-device interfacing and integration approaches;
  • Automatic identification of user intention;
  • ‘Learning’ and self-optimising devices;
  • Better understanding and design of the physical fit of a device;
  • New manufacturing approaches for personalised device;
  • Sustainability in terms of both manufacturing and device power and efficiency;
  • Use of new materials for assistive or rehabilitative devices;
  • Integration of evidence of device efficacy into design.

Participants will also be encouraged to consider how their proposed solutions fit into the clinical context “including the measurement and achievement of improved treatment, the importance of acceptability and user perceptions of technology, consideration of the affordability or cost-effectiveness of an innovation, and the extent to which personalisation or user-centred design can improve the efficacy of a device and the level of patient compliance.”

All interested applicants are encouraged to make early contact with their Research Funding and Policy Manager and Research and Innovation Lead to discuss their proposal.


Workshop on the long-term care revolution

Old by Marco Nedermeijer CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Following the Technology Strategy Board’s announcement in March of its “Long-term care revolution” call for sandpit participants, the Ageing Research Special Interest Group at Northumbria are planning to hold a two-hour workshop for staff who’ve expressed an interest in the call and potential applicants.

This will take place on 22nd May in City Campus, Lipman Building, Room 035 between 12 – 2pm. If you haven’t already, please get in touch with me to let me know if you’d like to attend as space is limited.

The workshop is designed to provide an overview of the call and to start generating potential collaborative research activity in and around this area. It has the following agenda:

  1. A brief overview of the call, including deadlines and what will follow from participation in the TSB Sandpit;
  2. An update from the TSB event in London on 9th May: the kinds of ideas that might be considered ‘revolutionary’; the sorts of people and organisations who are likely to be involved; and the strategic context of the call;
  3. A chance to get to know other members of the group and work out who you might be able to collaborate with, either on this call or subsequent related funding calls. Rather than the usual technique of going round a table asking everyone to introduce themselves, we are going to try “Research speed dating”. For those who haven’t done this before, this is based on the concept of romantic speed dating, which is a formalized matchmaking process whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people quickly. You will have 30, 45 or 60 seconds (depending on numbers) to get your message across to the person sitting opposite you. The other person has the same time to get their message across. It will be informal and fun, but experience has shown that this approach is effective at generating collaborations. Paul Rodgers (Professor of Design Issues), who has experience of running this kind of event, is going to facilitate this;
  4. Following this we plan to split into small groups to discuss either applications for the TSB call or other potential areas of research collaboration which may emerge during previous discussions and the speed-dating section.



Technology Strategy Board – Long Term Care Revolution – Sandpit

care homesThe Technology Strategy Board is inviting applications for participation in a revolutionary sandpit workshop in the autumn looking for novel thinking to blow apart conventional thinking about institutional long-term care.

The challenge of turning around previously disenfranchised segments of the population to create a vibrant and empowered consumer group, along with their families and carers, requires radical thinking, risk taking and multidisciplinary approaches.

The aim of this sandpit is to bring together a varied group of up to 25 individuals, who might be new entrants or existing players from across the UK, with the expectation that they work together to develop radical, risky and novel ideas that can then be developed into full proposals for industryled Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) projects. Following on from the sandpit we will be awarding up to £2.4m in such projects. Academics can be fully involved as sub-contractors in the proposals.

Who do we want to join? You could be from any industry sector, for example: built environment, engineering, media, tourism, aerospace, robotics, even the military. Or from an academic field, for example engineering, design, ICT, maths, management and business studies, sociology, economics, geography, legal studies, anthropology, social policy or creative arts.

Closing Date  for registration is 5 June 2013


EPSRC Previews Major Healthcare Technologies Calls

The EPSRC has flagged two major upcoming calls on healthcare technologies in the latest edition of Connect:

Healthcare Technologies announces two major calls

Their large research collaborations call will involve networks of research organisations, industry and end-users with up to £25M funding over 5 years. The focus will be on building critical mass in research on disruptive sensing technologies for transformative impact on diagnosis and monitoring in healthcare with the latest Fab CBD treatment.

There will also be a sandpit event to be held in September 2012 focusing on modelling and mathematical sciences for future healthcare technologies.

More information will be available from the EPSRC over the next few months.

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EPSRC Wants Innovative Solutions to Flood Risk

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Council are looking for an interdisciplinary mix of researchers to attend a “sandpit” event on Innovative Solutions to Flood Risk in April 2012.

Sandpits are collaborative residential workshops where small groups of researchers (20-25 people) from a range of disciplines work together over a number of days to generate project proposals for a specified theme. The benefits of taking part are significant: you get to collaborate with other leading researchers on a relevant topic, and there is a relatively high chance of proposed projects being funded. More details are given in the call for participants [PDF]:

The scope of the Sandpit will address the three Risk Themes identified in the report:
• Understanding Risk
• Managing Probablility
• Managing Consequence

It is not expected that these themes will operate in isolation as there are many issues which may be seen to cut across these themes. The Sandpit intends to explore the engineering and physical science aspects of these key areas whilst recognising that this is a multidisciplinary area.

The call document strongly emphasises the fact that EPSRC are not focusing on one particular disciplinary area: “Applications are encouraged from diverse research areas across engineering, physical sciences, natural environment, life sciences, the social sciences and the arts and humanities”. Nor is track record in flood risk management or engineering solutions to flooding essential to success: “Please note that we are not looking for your academic publication or research track record but rather evidence of how you might approach multidisciplinary problems in a novel area.”

The assessment is based on the following criteria:

  • The ability to develop new, adventurous and highly original research ideas
  • The potential to contribute to research at the interface between disciplines
  • The ability to work in a team
  • The ability to explain research to non experts

To participate you need to fill in a two-page expression of interest form and send to sandpit@epsrc.ac.uk by 20th February 2012.