Last week I served as a mentor for the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council in Cheshire at a one-week sandpit event (a form of interactive workshop, and one that appears to have been misunderstood by Private Eye, as can be seen below). My fellow mentors were Professor Richard Harper of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Professor Bruce Brown of the University of Brighton, and Professor Pete Edwards of the University of Aberdeen. Pete also served as the sandpit director. The aim of the sandpit was to stimulate thinking in promising new areas of the digital economy (DE) research theme.
The DE theme has allocated up to £5M to fund research arising from the sandpit, to be taken up by genuinely novel and transformative approaches. The sandpit thus brought together researchers from a number of diverse research backgrounds, some of whom are already working on DE projects, and others whose research could directly contribute to the theme in the future.
Over the course of the week the 33 participants collaborated with one another, the sandpit facilitators, and the sandpit director and mentors, to develop ideas for research proposals. On Friday morning the participant teams presented their research ideas and a number were selected to be developed into full proposals to be submitted in the new year.
It was a busy and somewhat exhausting week, but also a very interesting and satisfying experience to watch research ideas seed and flourish in such a short timescale.