UKRI has been working to strengthen coordination around digital technologies for health and care and to identify opportunities in this area.
One of the areas which has been highlighted for strengthening is building coordinated and well-informed research and innovation communities, with the appropriate multidisciplinary and cross-sector skills and expertise in digital health.
As a result, UKRI would like to run a sandpit to bring the different communities in this area together.
This is the second sandpit, in a series of three.
The theme for this sandpit is novel digital technologies to monitor, diagnose and treat the population remotely.
The sandpit will be held virtually over three days in the second half of October 2021.
The sandpit will be an intensive, interactive and free-thinking environment.
A diverse group of participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds will get together for three days, away from their everyday worlds. They will immerse themselves in collaborative thinking processes in order to construct innovative approaches.
It will be led by a director, who will be supported by a team of mentors.
We are pleased to announce that Professor Matt Jones (Swansea University) will be the director for this sandpit.
The director, mentors and a small number of stakeholders will attend the sandpit but will not be eligible to receive research funding. Instead, their role will be to assist participants in defining and exploring challenges in this area.
The process can be broken down into several stages:
- defining the scope of the challenges
- evolving common languages and terminologies amongst people from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines
- sharing understandings of the challenges, and the expertise brought by the participants to the sandpit
- taking part in break-out sessions focused on the challenges, using creative thinking techniques
- capturing the outputs in the form of highly innovative research projects
- a funding decision on those projects at the sandpit using “real-time” peer review.
Participants should be able to apply their knowledge, skills, and experience across disciplines to develop innovative research arising from a systems perspective with the potential to deliver results focused on transformative change in digital health and care.
As the sandpit progresses, participants will build up thoughts on how the identified ‘challenges’ may be addressed and develop their innovative ideas and activities into research projects.
Projects will contain genuinely novel and speculative research.
Please note that the participants will pitch an idea at the end of the sandpit which will be assessed by the panel of director and mentors.
The director and mentors will act as independent reviewers, making a funding recommendation on the projects emerging from the process through a “real-time” peer review process.
The broad aims of the sandpit are to generate research proposals which can:
- form new collaborations between key researchers, innovators, and users in diverse research areas
- create new and innovative research ideas in digital health and care based on health, clinical and social care challenges
- allow researchers to pitch projects for seed funding to test ideas
- address the key research challenges that are identified
- cultivate a common language between disciplines
- consider co-design with end-users
- address issues around scale up and adoption experienced by current digital tools.
Successful projects from the sandpit should either have a new approach to:
- monitor, diagnose and treat the population remotely to relieve pressure on the increasingly overstretched NHS and social care system
- deliver efficient, effective, patient-centric care in the community.
These smarter interventions should:
- reduce the time that the public spends engaged with the traditional healthcare delivery system
- improve health outcomes
- enable better community-based or home-based healthcare delivery.
UKRI wishes to explore innovative new research ideas through this sandpit.
The research ideas that will be developed at the workshop could investigate some or a combination of the following:
- technologies to support early detection of disease and disease prevention, including secondary prevention
- technologies which relieve pressure and burden on hospitals
- technologies which allow efficient and effective care in community settings
- supporting people with physical (including disabilities) and mental health conditions
- enabling patients to manage long-term conditions including adherence to medication or other interventions for example.
The research themes discussed will be dependent on the participants. Hence, achieving the sandpit aims will require participants from an appropriate mix of diverse backgrounds and relevant disciplines including, but not limited to:
- physical sciences
- mathematics and computer science
- social sciences
- life sciences
- medical sciences.
We will encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply for the sandpit. Diversity of background will be considered when selecting participants to attend.
Researchers from a diverse range of domains are encouraged to apply to attend this sandpit.
We are not defining the disciplines that should be represented but asking potential participants to indicate how their expertise can address the challenge of novel digital technologies for remote monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of the populace.
Applicants need not have worked on the problem before. However, emphasis will be placed on working across disciplines to foster new collaborations and bring new thinking to the problem.
We encourage applicants to:
- consider technologies that are people centred and ensure health equality, particularly the impact of any resulting technologies on health inequalities
- address issues with uptake and adoption of digital technologies for health and care (at an individual and organisational level) including acceptability, usability and inclusive design enabling a diverse population to access them.
Applicants should ensure they consider how they will be co-designing the digital technologies with healthcare professionals and users.
Early end-user engagement is particularly important to the successful design of a project in healthcare.
Researchers working in this area are required to consider carefully how they will undertake their work in a manner that maximises the opportunity to generate real-world impact at scale.
Some issues that should be considered are:
- stakeholder engagement including people with lived experience
- research integrity
- regulation and quality
More information can be found in the EPSRC impact and translation toolkit.
It is expected that up to £1.5 million of UKRI funding will be made available to fund research projects arising from this sandpit.