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What is a sandpit?

Sandpits are defined by UKRI as having “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”. They are a means to develop novel interdisciplinary research.

What is a C-DICE sandpit?

A C-DICE sandpit is exclusively available to postdoctoral researchers to win up to £30k in seed-corn funding.

A C-DICE sandpit is a unique opportunity for teams of exclusively postdoctoral researchers to develop a collaborative research idea to win seed-corn funding and develop the idea further. Awards of up to £30K will be available. The sandpit themes will be around net zero for infrastructure, cities and energy.

C-DICE will be running a series of at least 8 developmental sandpits to create innovative approaches to net zero carbon research and innovation in the area of infrastructure, cities and energy. In addition to the collaborative sessions, the C-DICE sandpit also provides a unique developmental opportunity for postdoctoral researchers to gain multidisciplinary and cross-sector skills and expertise, and to learn more about shaping a tractable, fundable research project, working collaboratively, and writing a good funding proposal. The sandpits will be held virtually in 2022; time commitment will be 4 x half days and 1 x full day.

The complete list of C-DICE sandpit objectives.

If the opportunity advertised below is not relevant to you, do join our mailing list (in the footer) or register on Inkpath to be kept up to date with the next sandpits.

Eligibility criteria for a C-DICE sandpit

  1. Applicants must have either a PhD or at least four years’ experience as a postdoctoral researcher in a relevant field. PhD students are eligible to apply but must have passed the viva with minor corrections before sandpit sessions start.
  2. Applicants must be currently enrolled or employed by a C-DICE partner university or funded by the Faraday Institution or Alan Turing Institute. The list of C-DICE partner universities is available here.

If you are a postdoctoral researcher at a UK university that is not a C-DICE partner, or work in industry, but would like to join a C-DICE sandpit, please contact the C-DICE team to arrange for a preliminary meeting to discuss the alignment of interests. You can only apply if this is indicated after the meeting.

Industry/academics who would like to get involved

There are opportunities for industry partners, academics, project leaders to join in the C-DICE sandpits as mentors, stakeholders, peer reviewers and sponsors. Contact us if you would like to find out more.

Have an idea for a sandpit? Contact C-DICE for further information on how to get involved.

Sandpit 3 – Energy Storage – May 2022 – applications are now closed

Developing efficient and commercially viable short, medium and long term energy storage solutions that can be deployed widely and address the intermittency challenges of a fully integrated zero-carbon energy system.

This sandpit will focus on critical issues related to developing and successfully deploying the energy storage technologies that are essential to enabling the transition to a zero-carbon energy system. Such storage solutions are required mainly because of the intermittency and seasonality of renewable energy generation. But they are also needed to ensure security of supply in response to factors such as large seasonal variation in some loads (e.g. space heat loads in Summer and Winter), atypical weather and geopolitical risks. Moreover, as we transition to net-zero it is likely that dramatic changes in the economic organisation of energy systems will occur, and that interlinkages between once separately planned and operated energy systems will increase. As a result, the storage of energy will take place in a system that is more dependent on interlinkages between consumer, producer, and intermediary owned storage technologies, making it more likely that the overall benefits of adopting a storage technology will not accrue solely to its owner. Developing and deploying storage capacity will therefore be influenced by a complex set of interrelated factors that could include, but are not restricted to, technological, engineering, economic, governance, policy, behavioural and financial issues.

Proposals arising from the sandpit will therefore be expected to have a clear multidisciplinary nature including input from a number of relevant disciplines (e.g., materials science, engineering, economics, and behavioural and social sciences).

Sandpit 3 dates

Session 14 May 202210am – 1pm
Session 29 May 20229.30am – 12.30pm
Session 311 May 202210am – 4.30pm
Optional group work12 May 2022Each group to decide
Session 418 May 202210am – 1pm
Session 520 May 202210am – 1pm

(C-DICE reserves the right to make changes the programme due to circumstance beyond its control i.e. COVID-19).

Participants are expected to attend ALL 5 sessions. Medical or urgent appointments may be accommodated if you contact C-DICE as soon as possible. The session on 12 May is optional and could be used by participants to work on the first draft of their project.

The C-DICE sandpits are an opportunity particularly for the postdoctoral researchers, typically research staff, at an early career stage. Achieving the sandpit aims will require participants from an appropriate mix of diverse backgrounds and relevant disciplines including, but not limited to:

  • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
  • Mathematical and Computer Science
  • Business Studies & Social Sciences
  • Humanities

We encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply for the sandpit. Diversity of backgrounds will be considered when selecting participants to attend.

Solar panels with windmills in the background

How we will assess your application

Applications to attend the sandpit will be anonymised and then assessed by a selection panel consisting of the sandpit director, Dr Dave Filipovic-Carter, and C-DICE academic partners.

As a sandpit is predicated on an ethos of innovative collaborative working, applicants must demonstrate both enthusiasm and appropriate personal attributes for cross-disciplinary collaborative research, and a willingness to engage in professional development. The sandpit approach is about bringing together people who would not normally interact.

The assessment criteria for participant selection are:

  • An interest in developing new, adventurous, and highly original research ideas.
  • An interest in partaking in innovative research at the interface between disciplines.
  • A willingness to engage fully online (camera on and open microphone) with appropriate technology to access online webinars and tools.
  • The ability to work in a team.
  • The ability to communicate research to a wide audience.
  • Support from your institution to take part.

Within the applicants selected, based on these assessment criteria, the selection panel will look to ensure a mix of discipline and experience, although all participants should be at the postdoctoral level. It is therefore important to give evidence of how you meet the criteria listed above in your application.

We are not defining the disciplines that should be represented but asking potential participants to indicate how their expertise can address the challenge.

Applicants need not have worked on the problem before. However, emphasis will be placed on working across disciplines to foster new collaborations and bring new thinking to a problem.

In the event of this opportunity being substantially oversubscribed, C-DICE reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Please note that we will not be able to give individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants, however we will provide some general points of feedback.

Post-sandpit assessment

Following the sandpit, investigators involved in those projects recommended for seedcorn funding will be tasked with writing a full proposal covering their intended activities as identified at the sandpit.

The deadline for submission of full proposals will be around five weeks after the close of the sandpit, to be advised in the sandpit.

Successful proposals will demonstrate:

  • novel, highly multidisciplinary research projects, clearly reflecting the distinctive opportunity for creating such projects that the sandpit provides
  • clear evidence that the team have the capability to deliver their project as a high-quality multidisciplinary activity, provided both through the proposal and their activity during the sandpit
  • clear relevance to and the potential to make a distinctive and novel contribution to addressing the research challenges in this area.

It is anticipated that participants will be provided with funding decisions within eight weeks of the end of the sandpit, although these will be conditional upon the subsequent receipt of a fully, worked up proposal document.

Any collaborative project funded through the C-DICE programme must have a signed collaborative agreement between the partners before the start of any grant.

Please note that attendance at the sandpit does not guarantee C-DICE funding.

Sandpit objectives

The broad aims of the sandpit are to allow researchers to develop interdisciplinary, creative and innovative solutions to the problem, to develop (in teams) a proposal for using the seedcorn funding which can form new collaborations, propose topics, deliver a plan, a final product and a plan for future direction e.g. £30k to leverage £1m, create new and innovative research ideas in infrastructure, cities and energy research challenges. The sandpits will provide postdoctoral researchers with the experience of developing and pitching an interdisciplinary funding application, and the opportunity to reflect on the skills developed in that process.

The objectives of the C-DICE sandpit are to:

  • Enable researchers to develop interdisciplinary, creative and innovative solutions to the problem.
  • Develop in teams a proposal for using the seedcorn funding (C-DICE, or C-DICE plus external sponsor).
  • Propose topics, deliver plans and/or a final product, and plan for future direction.
  • Provide developmental opportunities for postdoctoral researchers whilst addressing ‘real-world’ problems and leading to ‘real-world’ outcomes.
  • Benefit from peer-review to develop the quality of the projects
  • Engage in the funding application process as both a learning opportunity and the chance to be awarded seedcorn funding.
  • Develop participants’ research skills, in particular project development, collaboration and applying for funding.

Previous sandpit topics

Sandpit 1 (November 2021): Maximising progress towards Net-Zero in cities and infrastructure industries while promoting convergence to a circular economy.

This sandpit focused on Net-Zero solutions that are compatible with promoting circular economy convergence. 

Sandpit 2 (December 2021): Unlocking user power and behaviour to promote and enable systematic transformation towards a Net-Zero future.

This sandpit explored approaches to promoting user-driven adoption of Net-Zero solutions or changes in user behaviour instrumental to achieving Net-Zero targets.