Call for participants in the SPRITE+ Virtual Sandpit: FAQs


To be updated until 9 June 2020

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. The timescale for each project will be no longer than four months, and each project funded is expected to be between £5,000 and £25,000 (at 80% fEC).

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

Read more about EPSRC Sandpits here.

How will the sandpit work?

A sandpit is highly interactive and involves participants from different disciplines and backgrounds exploring and developing innovative approaches to a challenge. UKRI sandpits traditionally take place in person over between two and five days, to allow participants to immerse themselves fully in collaborative thinking.

As in-person events are currently impossible, we will be running the workshop entirely online via Zoom. Full-day online interactions can be tiring for participants and may be difficult to manage for those with caring responsibilities and/or with children at home. We are thus running the sandpit over five half-day sessions. In between the formal sessions we would encourage and expect participants to explore ideas together informally.

At the end of the sandpit, project proposals will be presented to a ‘Dragons’ Den’ panel which will include members drawn from our Advisory Board, Expert Fellows group, and other stakeholders. 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). The deadline for submission of proposals generated at the sandpit will be 17 August 2020.

After satisfactorily completing normal contract and due diligence procedures with University of Manchester, projects can start. All grant holders will be expected to present their results at the 2021 Expert Fellows meeting on 14 January 2021 (in Belfast or online, depending on Covid-19 restrictions). The deadline for submitting a final report on funded activities is 31 January 2021.

What are the timescales?

  • 27 May 2020: Applications open
  • 8 June 2020, 17.00 BST: Deadline for queries
  • 16 June 2020, 17.00 BST: Applications closed
  • 30 June 2020: Applicants notified of decision
  • 13 July 2020, 09.30-11.00: Sandpit session 0 (pre-meet for participants get to know each other)
  • 16 July 2020, 09.30-13.00: Sandpit session 1
  • 20 July 2020, 09.30-13.00: Sandpit session 2
  • 23 July 2020, 09.30-13.00: Sandpit session 3
  • 27 July 2020, 09.30-13.00: Sandpit session 4/Funding panel
  • 17 August 2020, 17.00 BST: Deadline for written proposals
  • From 24 August 2020: Start dates for projects (depending on contracts)

Who should attend?

We welcome applications from all SPRITE+ Members, including Expert Fellows.

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

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 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. Researchers from any stage of their research career are eligible to apply.

Can I apply if I’m an ECR?

Yes we encourage applications from Early Career Researchers. Applicants will be selected based on their approach to the sandpit rather than their background or publication track record. Please check the EPSRC rules for eligible researchers.

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

Yes we encourage applications from non-UK based SPRITE+ Members. However, funding can only be allocated to researchers based at a UK eligible organisation, in line with standard UKRI practices.

Can I apply if I’m based outside of academia?

Yes we hope that approximately one third of places will be allocated to non-academic research users. Whilst we expect non-academics to be part of successful proposals, funds can only be awarded to 'lead investigators' based at eligible organisations, which include all UK HEIs that receive grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies

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.

How will decisions be made?

Applications will be reviewed by an expert panel. Participants will be selected based on the information provided in the application form only. 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 . Applicants should also demonstrate an appreciation of the challenges of trust, identity, privacy, and security in the post-Covid Digital Economy.

How will funding be allocated?

Funding will be agreed in principle in the final sandpit session on 27 July via a Dragon's Den style panel. Please note that according to the EPSRC funding guide, funding can only be allocated to eligible researchers based at eligible lead organisations, which include all UK Higher Education Institutions that receive grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies. However, we expect non-academic members (e.g., from SMEs/industry and third sector groups) to be part of the successful projects, although any costs incurred to them as part of the project 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 practical terms, this means that SPRITE+ will fund 80% of the total costs outlined within successful proposals. The lead academic institution will be required to itemise bills based on 100% fEC and then invoice for the 80%.

How will payment be received?

The lead 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.

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.

Call for Events is now open! We're supporting Members and Expert Fellows to lead activities that explore aspects of TIPS in the Digital Economy. We will help to organise the activity with up to £5,000 to cover the associated costs.