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
Sensor technology for liquid biopsy
Application deadline
24 May 2018
Workshop dates
16–18 July 2018
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 July workshop is liquid biopsy: the potential of molecular markers in the blood or other bodily fluids to be used to detect disease state. In cancer, such molecules are released from tumour cells as they die and break apart. However, they exist in very low concentrations relative to molecules from healthy cells. Developing sensor and analysis technology which is sufficiently sensitive and specific in detecting early cancer markers amongst a noisy background signal would be transformative for patient outcomes.

Through the workshop we hope to bring new ideas and technologies from engineering and physical sciences to bear on cancer detection. We also hope to catalyze novel ideas by bringing diverse research communities together for the first time and exposing them to the challenges of cancer detection.

The research ideas you develop at the workshop should:

  • ​Lead to the significant advancement of our understanding of sensor technologies suitable for liquid biopsy
  • ​Consider the practical challenges of low volume liquid usually taken for analysis and the inconsistency of sample preparation across point of care sites
  • Prioritise biomarkers with high specificity for cancer or even for multiple cancer types, including markers specific to cancers that will become aggressive as opposed to non-lethal disease

We welcome applications from a wide range of disciplines, including from those working in the fields of cancer biology, engineers, chemists and physical scientists, mathematicians and statisticians, computer scientists, healthcare professionals, 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 3 days of the workshop in Oxfordshire, 16–18 July 2018
  • Based in the UK

We particularly welcome applications from those working in the physical sciences who have access to technologies 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 24 May 2018 to earlydetection@cancer.org.uk.

  2. We will review your application and successful candidates will be notified week commencing 11 June 2018 with an invition to attend the workshop.

  3. Over the course of the workshop on 16–18 July 2018, 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 31 August 2018 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 Sensor Technology for Liquid Biopsy workshop will be Dr Nitzan Rosenfeld, Group Leader at the CRUK Cambridge Institute and Chief Scientific Officer of Inivata.

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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