Call for participants in the SPRITE+ Virtual Sandpit FAQs

To be updated until 14 May 2021

What is a sandpit?

Sandpits are highly interactive workshops involving 20-30 participants: the director, a team of expert mentors, and a number of independent stakeholders. Sandpits have a highly multidisciplinary mix of participants, some active researchers and others potential users of research outcomes, to drive lateral thinking and radical approaches to address research challenges. The director defines the topic and facilitates discussions at the event.

A sandpit is an intensive discussion forum where free thinking is encouraged, allowing the stakeholders to delve into the problems on the agenda to uncover innovative solutions. Ultimately, these discussions should lead to the development of research proposals, which will be pitched to the funding panel at the end of the sandpit.

Usually, sandpits are in-person multi-day events. However, as in-person events are currently impossible, we will be running this sandpit entirely online via Zoom, over several dates in June/July. See the full list of dates below.

Read more about EPSRC Sandpits here.

How will the sandpit work?

The sandpit process can be broken down into several stages:

  • Defining the scope of the challenges
  • Evolving common languages and terminologies amongst people from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines
  • Sharing understandings of the challenges, and the expertise brought by the participants to the sandpit Taking part in break-out sessions
  • focused on the challenges, using creative thinking techniques
  • Capturing the outputs in the form of highly innovative research projects

At the end of the sandpit, project proposals will be presented to a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style panel, who will recommend proposals for funding. The ‘Dragons’ will recommend proposals for funding and those involved will need to prepare a brief written proposal covering their intended activities, with costings (at 80% fEC).

After satisfactorily completing normal contract and due diligence procedures with University of Manchester, projects can start. All grant holders will be expected to complete a short end of project report within 1 month of project completion. Successful project teams may also be invited to present their findings at a SPRITE+ Showcase event.

What are the timescales?

  • 21 April 2021: Applications open
  • 14 May 2021: Deadline for queries
  • 19 May 2021: Applications close
  • 11 June 2021: Applicants notified of decision
  • 02 July 2021: Sandpit session 0 (pre-meet for participants get to know each other)
  • 05 July 2021: Sandpit session 1
  • 07 July 2021: Sandpit session 2
  • 12 July 2021: Sandpit session 3
  • 15 July 2021: Sandpit session 4 (Funding panel)
  • 19 July 2021: Funding Panel give in-principle decision
  • 20 August 2021: Deadline for written proposals
  • End August 2021 onwards: SPRITE+ team will work with the PIs’ research support offices to complete contractual work asap. Projects can start as soon as contracts are in place.
  • 01 November 2021: Latest date by which projects should start
  • 31 March 2021: Deadline for project completion
  • Within 1 month of project completion: Submission of end of project report

Who should attend?

Applications are invited from SPRITE+ Members and Expert Fellows from:

  • Academia (applicants must be eligible to receive UKRI funding, please see the UKRI Eligibility Guide).
  • Professional practice / non-academic research end users

We anticipate that approximately two thirds of places will be filled by academic researchers and one third by non-academic participants.

We want to bring people together who would not normally interact and particularly welcome applications from individuals who have not previously engaged in the ‘TIPS’ community. We encourage applications from individuals working in business and industry, government, police, SMEs and third sector organisations, and from academic researchers from all disciplines, including engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

Can I apply if I’m an ECR?

Yes we encourage applications from Early Career Researchers (ECRs). Applicants will be selected based on their approach to the sandpit rather than their background or publication track record. Participants from academia are welcomed at any stage of their research career if they meet UKRI eligibility requirements to receive grant funding.

Can I apply if I’m based outside the UK?

Yes, but, funds can only be awarded directly to 'lead investigators' based at eligible organisations (academics from UK research organisations). This means that although costs associated with non-UK based colleagues can be included in successful proposals (for academics this will be as 'Visiting Researchers as outlined in the EPSRC funding guidance) only UK based academic researchers can lead projects.

Can I apply if I’m not a university academic?

Yes. We hope that about one third of places will be allocated to non-academic research users. See ‘Who should attend?’ above for details. Whilst we expect non-academics to be part of successful proposals, funds can only be awarded directly to 'lead investigators' based at eligible research organisations. The costs associated with non-academic partner services can be included in the budgets for successful proposals and should be administered via the formal procurement process audited by the lead investigator's institution.

Should I bring an idea for a project to the sandpit?

No, the idea of the sandpit is that participants will work together to create proposals and bid for funds. You should come to the sandpit prepared to share ideas and work as a team to create projects from scratch.

How will decisions be made?

Applications to attend the sandpit will be reviewed by an expert panel. Participants will be selected based on the information provided in the application form. The selection criteria are set out in the call document. In addition, we’ll be aiming for a balance of participants from across diverse sectors, disciplines, organisations, career stages, backgrounds, and geographical locations.

Note that we do not assess your academic publication or research track record as part of the process. We are more interested in your ability to engage creatively and constructively in a multidisciplinary environment to generate novel ideas, and the way in which you approach the research challenge (Digital Vulnerability).

How will funding be allocated via the sandpit?

During the sandpit, research teams will form to develop highly innovative projects to address the challenges of Digital Vulnerability. We expect that the research teams will include both academics and non-academic stakeholders representing a diverse range of disciplines and experiences. Each research team should identify an eligible Principal Investigator (PI) as the project lead.

At the end of the sandpit, research teams will present their proposals to a funding panel who will assess the proposals for novelty, relevance to the challenge theme, potential impact, capability of the team, and involvement of end users. We anticipate that no more than five projects will be funded.

Please note that funding can only be allocated directly to academic researchers as described in the UKRI Eligibility Guide. The costs incurred to non-academics and team members based outside the UK can be covered and will need to be included in the overall budget and administered by the lead organisation.

Funds will be awarded to successful proposals at 80% fEC in line with standard UKRI practice. In practical terms, this means that SPRITE+ will fund 80% of the total costs outlined within successful proposals.

How will payment be received?

In line with standard UKRI funding practices, the PI’s institution will receive payment directly from the University of Manchester following the submission of itemised bills based on 100% fEC and then invoices at 80% fEC.

Funds, contracts and award documentation will be issued to the PI’s institution only as per standard UKRI funding practices. Funds will be awarded under standard non-negotiable UKRI grant terms and conditions. It is the responsibility of the lead institution to organise sub-contracts with collaborating institutions and non-academic organisations if appropriate. The PI must ensure that all funds are spent in line with UKRI guidelines and for any subcontractors involved in the project, including payments.

Who owns any IP generated?

If activities generate new research, this will be subject to standard EPSRC guidelines. These state that the IP generated through the grant rests with the research organisation that holds the grant. However, awardees will be expected to share the IP generated with the wider SPRITE+ community, for wider public benefit and for the purposes of achieving our objectives. There will be no payments for this use of IP. If working with a non-academic stakeholder, it is the responsibility of the lead institution to issue and appropriate collaboration agreement, including details regarding IP.

How will my data be treated?

SPRITE+ is fully compliant with GDPR. We will treat proposals as confidential and share only with the Management Team and peer reviewers. Unsuccessful applications will be destroyed after the evaluation process. Copies of successful applications will be destroyed within 3 months of the Sandpit. Anonymised statistics will be recorded to inform the organisation of future Sandpits and to monitor efforts to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds.

Please note that the information you provide in sections 1, 2, 3 and 6 of your application form may be shared with other participants prior to the sandpit.

For details of how SPRITE+ handles Members’ data more generally, see our Privacy Policy.

Applications are open to individuals from academia and professional practice (non-academic) to attend an online sandpit on Digital Vulnerabilities in July 2021. Up to £160k of SPRITE+ funding will be made available to fund interdisciplinary projects.