EPSRC Sandpit: Trustworthiness of Autonomous Robotic Systems for National Security and Defence

Closing Date: 18/04/2022

Up to £3 million is available to support projects arising from a five-day interactive sandpit focused on developing novel projects on trustworthiness of autonomous robotic systems for national security and defence.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in collaboration with National Security Technology and Innovation Exchange (NSTIx) and UK Government partners, is inviting applicants to attend a five-day interactive sandpit to develop novel projects on trustworthiness of autonomous robotic systems for national security and defence.

The aim of the sandpit is to generate new, innovative and transformative approaches to the creation and operation of trustworthy autonomous robotic systems with a specific focus on addressing the needs and challenges within defence and national security. The sandpit will generate research proposals that:

  • Take into account the needs of customers and stakeholders and consider co-design with end-users.
  • Form new collaborations between researchers, innovators and users in diverse research areas.
  • Create new and transformative research ideas in trustworthiness of autonomous robotic systems.
  • Allow researchers to pitch projects for seed funding to test and de-risk novel ideas.
  • Address the key research challenges that are identified.
  • Cultivate a common language between disciplines.

The sandpit will be an intensive, interactive, inclusive and free-thinking environment, enabling a diverse group of participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to work together. The aim is to immerse participants in collaborative thinking processes and ideas sharing in order to construct innovative approaches.

The sandpit will address key concerns in relation to specific operational contexts, such as:

  • How to minimise the gap between how a robotic or autonomous system (especially its artificial intelligence systems) behaves in a simulated environment and in a real-world operational context.
  • How to ensure robust cybersecurity against malicious attempts to hijack, neutralise or otherwise tamper with a robotic or autonomous system’s functions.
  • How to quantify the risk or confidence deficit that remains after minimising (but never eradicating) the simulation-reality ‘gap’ and the cybersecurity issues.

Through the sandpit, participants will build up thoughts on how these challenges may be addressed and will develop their innovative ideas and activities into research projects. Projects should contain genuinely novel and speculative research. 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.

Researchers from a diverse range of disciplines are encouraged to apply. Applicants do not need to have worked on the problem before, but participants should be able to apply their knowledge, skills and experience across disciplines to develop innovative research arising from different perspectives.

The sandpit will be held over five days from 23-27 May. It is a requirement for attendees to attend all five days of the sandpit event. Part of the sandpit may be conducted virtually.

Attendance at the sandpit does not guarantee UKRI funding. It is planned that participants involved in projects identified for funding will be informed within two weeks of the sandpit. Funding will be conditional on receipt of a full proposal.

Funding body Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Maximum value Discretionary
Reference ID S22718
Category Science and Technology
Engineering and Physical Sciences

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