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Grand Challenges and Hot Topics

At TCCE, we work intensively with our research communities to respond to the challenges and opportunities that present themselves to us in a rapidly changing research environment and indeed wider world. We regularly engage in one-to-one and group conversations with researchers and others to identify and explore emerging ‘hot topics’; i.e. those which are likely to be of importance and relevance to individuals from a range of disciplines and backgrounds and that can make a real difference in the world. We bring people together via our Sandpits, Ideas Labs as well as our TCCE Impossible Partnerships initiative.


Sandpits are quarterly gatherings open to academics and creative entrepreneurs, of around 30 persons in size.

They offer brainstorming, networking and collaborative opportunities for cross-disciplinary projects which are rooted in knowledge exchange. During our sandpits, we define the scope of an issue, agree upon a common language amongst diverse backgrounds and disciplines, and use creative and innovative thinking techniques to focus on a problem.

Our Sandpits are recorded by scribes, to ensure a boost to the legacy, and they may be followed by an invite-led publication. We welcome ideas for Sandpits, which are evaluated against current research trends, future funding opportunities and knowledge exchange potential.

The Crafts Council and The Culture Capital Exchange ran a RobotTechCraft Ideas Lab in July 2016. The event aimed to build a network of academics, makers, artists and entrepreneurs interested in applied robotics, and provided a platform to come together and explore the future considerations, applications and sector crossovers.

Stimulating and worthwhile events. I engaged with a great variety of participants and learned something from their diverse perspectives.

Professor Jeremy Strong,
Professor of Literature and Film,
University of West London

Impossible Partnerships

Impossible Partnerships is a brand-new series of small-scale, informal meetings, created by TCCE and co-developed with our research communities to boost the Knowledge Exchange potential of collaborative projects and topics.

We actively seek to map common trends among research practitioners, artists, entrepreneurs or other agencies concerned with developing solutions to complex issues. Once issues are identified, we create an event to tackle it from a variety of angles and reinterpret it through the eyes of a diverse array of practitioners. As a result, an aggregate of collaborative networks thrives, develops across institutions, and outreaches beyond the academy. More info and booking here.

The Resilience event was different from similar academic gatherings because it challenged ideas from a diverse range disciplines and viewpoints in quite unexpected ways.

Peter Bennett,
Course Leader BA(Hons) Photography/FdA Photography,
London School of Film, Media and Design

Ideas Labs

Ideas Labs are designed to bring together researchers from a diverse backgrounds who have mutual interests in particular topics and who are interested in meeting other colleagues with a view to exploring future research bids and/or encouraging conversations with interested parties beyond the academy.

Our first Ideas Lab took place in February 2016 on the topic of Ageing and the Arts and Culture Sector in collaboration with the Drama Department at Queen Mary and Split Britches Theatre Company. The second was Museum of Futures, in April 2016, in collaboration with The Community Brain, a discussion about how the engagement with Museums, Galleries and Archives will be re-shaped in the near future.

The labs present an opportunity for open, preliminary, exploratory and, as such, potentially quite experimental conversations between researchers from different disciplines can lead onto further activity as appropriate e.g. a Sandpit or funding proposal.

In February 2016 we ran an Ideas Lab in partnership with the TCCE. It included academics from across disciplines and art sector professionals discussing issues around aging and the arts, and began to identify strategies to counteract the current lack of elders either working as either practicing artists or art sector workers. The Ideas Lab was a fantastic way of bringing different people together to think about a pressing issues.

Gini Simpson,
Development Director,
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