Research Innovation Workshops

​Our 3-day sandpit workshops foster multidisciplinary innovation in cancer research.

Our Innovation Workshops


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The Process

This intensive but exciting process involves real-time peer review to help workshop participants develop their ideas from start to finish, supporting and transforming research ideas into pilot studies.

Our Innovation Workshops

The workshops are highly collaborative, bringing together a range of experts across disciplines:

  • 25 participants including researchers, healthcare professionals, policy makers and technologists

  • A senior academic guides the workshop and facilitates innovative thinking

  • Subject guides, specialists in their fields, encourage and stretch participants’ ideas by making connections – both between participants and to the wider body of knowledge

  • PPI representatives help participants focus on patient and public benefit

The workshops are designed to foster innovation:

  • The group define the scope of the challenge and build on collective knowledge

  • Challenge themes have included ‘Harder to Reach Groups’, ‘Risk Perceptions’, ‘Early Years’, ‘Decision-making’, and ‘Harnessing Technology’

  • Ideas are developed using real-time peer review

  • Outputs are captured in highly innovative feasibility study proposals

Successful project teams are awarded one year of seed funding to conduct pilot and feasibility work, with the aim that they will then be in a position to apply for further funding to develop the ideas.

Reports from past workshops

Researchers working at innovation sandpit

Early detection: Robotic technologies for enhanced cancer diagnostics — July 2019

This workshop focussed on new research to develop robotic technologies for improved cancer diagnostics. Projects funded include a robotic device for smart sensing of early breast cancer, an AI system to assist clinicians monitoring patients with Barrett’s oesophagus and a sensing device designed for conventional endoscopes to help better identify flat lesions in the bowel. 

Early detection: Novel AI approaches to medical image interpretation — January 2019

This workshop focussed on developing new research ideas utilising emerging technological and methodological insights from computer science, artificial intelligence and image analysis for the interpretation of clinical images, thus providing a novel and innovative approach to detecting cancer early.

Early detection: Sensor technologies for liquid biopsy — July 2018

As part of our wider efforts in early detection, we recognised that this developing field benefits from uniting cancer biologists with experts from fields including chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. We therefore partnered with EPSRC and STFC to run this multidisciplinary workshop focussed on liquid biopsy technology.

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Immunology: Immune homeostasis — July 2017

Advances in the field of immunology are already bringing benefits to many patients, and immunology is a strategic priority for both CRUK and Versus Arthritis. With many opportunities for shared learnings across the spectrum of inflammatory diseases and cancer, our first sandpit workshop focussed on immune homeostasis.

Cancer prevention: Risk perception — February 2015

Cancer risk perception means people’s beliefs about their vulnerability to the disease and their judgements about the probable benefit from intervention. Risk perceptions of cancer are therefore an essential component of health behaviour change. This workshop developped new multidisciplinary research ideas to understand, identify and engage with people’s risk perceptions.

Cancer prevention: Harder to reach groups — July 2014

Harder to reach groups encompasses the broad spectrum of different groups and communities who are not benefiting as much as the general population in terms of improved cancer outcomes. This workshop brought together a diverse range of expertise to recognise, identify and engage harder to reach groups and to generate radical ideas for how to reduce inequalities.

How to apply

Our workshops cover a variety of research fields, and each workshop has a set theme. Browse the upcoming workshops below and click through to find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Early detection: Novel technological approaches for the early detection of pancreatic cancer

Application deadline: 15 September 2020
Workshop dates: 29 November – 2 December 2020


This is a very different experience. Sometimes it puts you out of your comfort zone. But it was such a thrill!

 – Dr Gozde Ozakinci

Read the full story

Thinking differently: innovation in research funding

Find out more about the ways we're funding fresh ideas to tackle cancer.