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
Robotics and robotic technologies for diagnostic delivery
Application deadline

23 May 2019
Workshop dates

14–17 July 2019
Funding period
1 year
Funding amount

The CRUK-EPSRC 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 July 2019 workshop is applying robotics and robotic technologies for diagnostic delivery and cancer early detection. How we detect and ultimately diagnose cancer in a patient is often a multi-stage process, which can include biomarker tests, imaging, physical examination and more invasive diagnostic procedures. Robotics and robotic technologies offer the opportunity to speed up the diagnostic workstream, reducing error and relieving the current staffing strain on the health service.

Robotics and robotic technologies have the potential to deliver precise, minimally invasive interventions to detect and/or remove disease. Human-robot interaction can be considered from both clinician and patient perspectives; how does the robot aide the clinician in cancer detection? In what ways does the robot interact with the patient to provide the necessary information to deliver a diagnosis? Is this process controlled or automated? We are also keen to apply new robotic tools and technologies with the potential to disrupt how early cancer detection tests and examinations are delivered to patients, to improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis, and to detect early cancers locally without the need for biopsy.

Our goal is to improve deployment of early cancer diagnostics to the population, recognising that the innovations made at this sandpit workshop will likely be upstream of clinical impact.

The research ideas you develop at the workshop should:

  • ​Consider how robotic technology could aid in diagnostic delivery/guidance
  • Aim to minimise invasiveness of diagnosis (e.g. through localised imaging, real-time histopathology/biopsy)
  • Improve speed and precision of the diagnostic workstream, simplify delivery, lower costs
  • Explore opportunities for both cancer detection and delivery of treatment, if necessary

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, 14–17 July 2019
  • Based in the UK

We particularly welcome applications from those working in clinical technologies, control engineering, human-computer interaction, image and vision computing 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 23 May 2019 to earlydetection@cancer.org.uk.

  2. We will review your application and successful candidates will be notified week commencing 10 June with an invition to attend the workshop.

  3. Over the course of the workshop, from the evening of 14 July to the afternoon of 17 July, 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 27 August 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

Dr Alexis Webb

Dr Alexis Webb

Senior Research Funding Manager


Tel: +44 (0) 20 3469 5232

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