Early Detection Innovation Sandpit and Award

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Early career researcher
Mid-career researcher
Established independent researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Health professional
Industry researcher
Scientific theme
Artificial intelligence in clinical image analysis
Application deadline

28 November 2018
Workshop dates

6–9 January 2019
Funding period
1 year
Funding amount

The CRUK-EPSRC-STFC Early Detection Innovation Sandpit and Award will catalyse new multidisciplinary collaborations to drive forward earlier detection of cancer.

To apply for this funding you must attend a sandpit workshop — an intensive and interactive three-day residential event where you will have the opportunity to:

  • Network and form new collaborations spanning diverse research areas and organisations
  • Work in broad, multidisciplinary teams to generate new and innovative research ideas
  • Pitch projects for seed funding to test the feasibility of your ideas

Find out more about what to expect at the innovation sandpit workshop

Scientific theme

The theme for the January workshop is novel artificial intelligence techniques and approaches to clinical image analysis for early detection. Imaging tests are key components of the diagnostic pipeline. Imaging is used as part of the screening programmes for breast and bowel cancers, relying on mammography and endoscopy respectively. Second-line imaging techniques, such as MRI, CT and X-ray, are crucial in screening and diagnosis of cancers in patients presenting with vague symptoms and are particularly pertinent in detecting lung and brain cancers.

Despite imaging being crucial in cancer diagnosis, there are several challenges to be addressed in the area and there is an opportunity for AI to support clinicians in decision-making, freeing up valuable resources in the NHS which could be redirected elsewhere.

The aim of this workshop is to bring in innovative computational approaches from outside of cancer research, and to direct these efforts towards improving medical image interpretation for cancer early detection.

The research ideas you develop at the workshop should:

  • ​Lead to the significant advancement of AI techniques and approaches to medical image interpretation and analysis to facilitate early detection of cancer.
  • ​Consider the challenges involved in the harmonisation and standardisation of image datasets acquired using different protocols.
  • Explore the ‘ground truth’ - establishing what normal looks like and distinguishing that from  a premalignant or early cancerous lesion.
  • Consider the orientation of images and extracting information from multiple images, for example by using a front and side view chest MRI or 3D images.

We welcome applications from a wide range of disciplines, including from those working in the fields of cancer biology, healthcare professionals, computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians, engineers, physical scientists, and those working in the digital and technology space.

You must be:

  • Creative, open-minded, and able to work effectively as part of a team
  • Willing to engage with those working in other disciplines from a variety of backgrounds, and other key stakeholders
  • Able to attend all days of the workshop in Oxfordshire, 6–9 January 2019
  • Based in the UK

We particularly welcome applications from those working in the computer sciences who have access to technologies and approaches which have not previously been explored in cancer detection and from people representing organisations (large or small) that will contribute new expertise and new thinking in early detection research.

We regret that PhD students and junior postdocs are not eligible to attend the workshop.

We provide accommodation, refreshments and meals, and will cover standard class travel costs for the workshop.

Teams who successfully pitch proposals at the workshop will receive seed-funding for one year to cover the costs of pilot/feasibility studies.

How to apply to this scheme

Application process

The application process has 4 stages:

  1. Submit a completed application form and up-to-date CV by noon 28 November 2018 to earlydetection@cancer.org.uk.

  2. We will review your application and successful candidates will be notified week commencing 12 December with an invition to attend the workshop.

  3. Over the course of the workshop, from the evening of 6 Jan to the afternoon of 9 Jan, teams will develop pilot/feasibility study proposals, which they will be able to pitch for funding on the final day of the workshop. Up to five teams will be funded, and decisions will be presented at the end of the event.

  4. The principal investigator for each successful study team will have until 20 February to submit a written version of their feasibility study proposal through eGMS that outlines their group’s intended activities as presented at the workshop, with costings.

Further guidance on the post-award processes will be made available to successful applicants at the workshop.

Before you begin your application

You must:

  1. Read the workshop specification (PDF)

  2. Obtain the approval of your host organisation/employer/board/shareholder(s) (as appropriate), to ensure that your organisation is willing and able to engage in a collaborative project.

Selection criteria will include:

  • The potential to work in trans-disciplinary environments
  • The potential to develop innovative and adventurous approaches to research
  • The ability to work collaboratively with others
  • The ability to communicate and engage with diverse non-academic stakeholders throughout the research process
  • Relevant research expertise and experience

Funding decisions will be made on the final day of the workshop by the workshop director and scientific mentors. The Director of the Applying artificial intelligence techniques to clinical image analysis for early detection of cancer  workshop will be Professor Kevin Brindle, Department of Biochemistry and Group Leader at the CRUK Cambridge Institute.

Decisions are ratified by our Early Detection Research Committee.

Cancer Research UK contact details

Elizabeth Smethurst

Elizabeth Smethurst

Research Funding Manager


Tel: +44 (0) 20 3469 6763

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