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                                                                                                                                                                                                              December 2023   

Opportunity status: CLOSED

Funders: Science and Technology Facilities Council

Funding type: Research Contract 

Total Fund: £240,000

Publication date: 08/12/2023

Opening date: 08/12/2023 – 10:00am UK Time

Closing date: 19/01/2024 – 17:00pm UK Time

Announcement of opportunity: Invitation to submit a proposal to attend the DAFNI Programme Infrastructure Resilience Sandpit Event.  

The DAFNI Programme’s Centre of Excellence will be hosting two sandpit events. This funding is to address grand-challenge problems for infrastructure resilience and challenges to data sharing, with a focus on Transport and Energy. 

A total fund of £240,000 is available across the two sandpit events, funded at 80% full economic cost (FEC), between 6-to-12-month projects.

Projects from the Transport sandpit will be expected to start on the 1st of April 2024 and finish before the 31st of March 2025

Projects from the Energy sandpit will be expected to start on the 1st of May and finish before the 31st of March 2025.

This funding opportunity will open on the 8th of December 2024 at 10:00am UK Time.

The deadline for receiving applications is 19th of January 2024 at 17:00pm UK Time.



We invite all researchers and other academics from across UK research performing organisations eligible to accept UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grants to submit proposals for projects to be funded through the Centre of Excellence. 

Projects can be from a single institution or involve multiple partners. 

Please read the guidance on institutional eligibility  

A total fund of £240,000 is available across the two sandpit events. We are interested in proposals looking at Infrastructure Resilience in the following two areas, Transport and Energy. 

The DAFNI Programme and it’s Centre of Excellence is seeking to support feasibility studies. We will fund projects which develop and explore scenarios in response to a particular short-term or long-term shock and develop appropriate solutions which demonstrate an aspect of resilience. Of particular interest are scenarios which can be transferred from one geographic region to another, can be scaled up to a national scale, or explore the interactions between different infrastructure systems and with environmental and societal features in a multidisciplinary approach. 

Projects should include how to access, use, and combine data and computational models to evaluate and measure the impact of shocks, and propose appropriate responses and adaptations to further resist, absorb and recover from the shock event. 

Here are some examples of areas we would seek to fund:  


  • Modelling of transport systems to identify pinch points which cause transport systems failures and explore mitigation strategies.
  • Digital twin of a transport system or operational systems to consider impact of failures and potential approaches to mitigation.
  • Simulating the impact of natural and human derived shocks onto transport systems and explore adaptation and mitigation strategies


  • Modelling future energy security in response to global shocks in energy supply and analysing the transition risks as the economy adapts to the net zero carbon target.
  • Digital twin of an energy system to consider impact of failures resulting from unexpected events and potential approaches to mitigation.
  • Renewable Energy Sources:  Diversifying to zero carbon energy sources – modelling of Energy demand and impact of climate on net zero energy sources

    Requirements for projects:

    • Projects should make use of and be made available to stakeholders via the DAFNI platform

    • Projects should include a deliverable highlighting their use of data in the scenario, particularly discussing: 
        • the availability, use and integration of diverse data sources 
        • the organisational and technical barriers to accessing and using those data sources 

    Projects will ensure that all results from their research will be available to stakeholders via the DAFNI platform. We anticipate projects of up to £50,000 at 100% FEC with DAFNI programme funding 80% FEC. We are expecting to fund 3 projects in each focus area, Transport and Energy.  

    Eligible project costs can include: 

    • Staff time cost and overheads (can be included at 80% of the FEC, using research council FEC models) 
    • Appropriate travel and subsistence to support the activities 
    • Consumables associated with public engagement and wider outreach activities 
    • Capital equipment costs (over £10,000) will not be eligible.
    • Postgraduate studentship costs are not eligible.
    • Projects should engage with wider stakeholders in academia, government and industry, and proposers should specify how they plan to interact with stakeholders to maximise impact.
    • STFC will fund 80% FEC.
    • Transport projects must start on 1 April 2024 and finish before 31st March 2025
    • Energy projects must start on 1 May 2024 and finish before 31st March 2025

    You must apply by completing the submitting an expression of interest survey online here, addressing the following points on the application form: 

    • Availability to attend the Sandpits 
    • Background and expertise 
    • Brief description of your proposal (context, challenge the project addresses, aims and objectives and potential applications and benefits) 
    • Personal skills 
    • Other information 

    The expression of interest survey results will indicate participant availability for these dates and their commitment to attend if shortlisted. Please be advised attendance for the sandpit event is mandatory, noting this will be conducted virtually via Zoom. 

    If you have any questions regarding the survey or the sandpit process, please contact Katie Cartmell, DAFNI Partnership Manager. 

    All Expression of Interest forms should be received up to and including the deadline of 17:00 on Friday 19th of January 2024. If you have any questions, please email info@dafni.ac.uk, with the subject line ‘Sandpit Application – ‘Insert Area of Interest’

    We are conducting this sandpit process to allow people to develop their proposals quickly and form collaborations with other researchers.  

    Sandpit applications will be initially reviewed by the DAFNI Programme team and assessed on the following criteria: 

    • Availability to attend the Sandpits  
    • Must be eligible to be a Principle Investigator on grants according to UKRI Rules 
    • Relevant expertise, background and skills 
    • Project proposed is technically feasible on DAFNI 
    • Able to start on the project start dates

    Participant selection will be based solely on the information provided in the expression of interest form. 

    Within the pool of applicants selected based on these assessment criteria, we will look to ensure a balance of different disciplines, career paths and backgrounds, career stages, geographic distribution and landscape diversity. 

    Achieving the sandpit aims will require participants from an appropriate mix of diverse backgrounds and relevant disciplines. Participants from a diverse range of disciplines from across the UKRI remit are therefore encouraged to apply to attend this sandpit. 

    Once assessed against the criteria and scored, successful applications will be sent a calendar invitation along with further details from info@dafni.ac.uk.

    Overview of the Sandpit Process 

    Stages  Sandpit Process 
    Stage 1  Applicants will complete the expression of interest survey. The DAFNI Programme panel will review applications against the initial criteria. Successful applicants will be invited to the ‘Session 1 Sandpit Event’. 
    Stage 2 

    Individuals/teams will present their pitch in a ‘lightning talk’ format within their theme. 

    After lightning talks are complete, a discussion will be held to confirm if any ideas can be combined, and teams agreed.  

    Stage 3  The PI from each team will be required to confirm their team to the DAFNI Programme team
    Stage 4  Teams will prepare their presentation pitch and outline proposal for the Expert Panel
    Stage 5  Projects will pitch to the Expert Panel
    Stage 6 Expert Panel award funding
    Stage 7  DAFNI Programme will contact all applicants on the outcome. 

    Post-sandpit proposal assessment 

    Following the sandpit, successful project teams will be invited to write a lightweight project proposal document which will include the following information; 

    • Project Outline and Deliverables 
    • Proposed timeline of activities 
    • Data Management Plan 
    • Justification of Resources  
    • Costing Model 

    The deadline for submission of full proposals is expected to be one month post award funding confirmation. 

    Proposals will be submitted to info@dafni.ac.uk. Further guidance on this part of the process will be available at the end of the sandpit process. 

    External Panel 

    We have invited external experts to collectively review your application against the criteria outlined below. The panel will be present at the Sandpit Presentations session and will be individually scoring throughout each presentation. The panel have a follow up meeting to agree on scores, after which the panel will make a funding recommendation. 

    Sandpit applications will be reviewed by the panel and assessed on the following criteria: 

    • Scientific technical excellence 
    • Originality and potential contribution to knowledge, with a focus of the aims of the Building a Secure and Resilience World Programme and DSIT Research Data Cloud Programme. 
    • Research design and methods, including feasibility of work-plan and suitability and sustainability of research within the DAFNI platform. 
    • Value for money 

    Please note STFC will make the final funding decision. 

    Find out more about STFC’s assessment process. 


    DAFNI (Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure) is funded by an £8 million EPSRC investment in the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC). DAFNI provides a national platform to satisfy the computational needs in support of data analysis, infrastructure modelling and visualisation, and encourage whole-system thinking for the UK’s infrastructure research needs.

    The platform will support research that aims to provide the UK with a world-leading infrastructure system that is more integrated, efficient, powerful, reliable, resilient and affordable. It will achieve this by enabling the community to conduct research that is able to generate new insights at a higher level of detail and accuracy than ever before. 

    DAFNI has recently launched the ‘Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis’, which fosters research in the area of resilience in the natural and built environment as part of the overarching UKRI programme ‘Building a Secure and Resilient World’ (BSRW)’, a 5-year programme which seeks to tap the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges for the UK. 

    The Centre is initially funded by a £4M grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), awarded in Spring 2023 to the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Scientific Computing to establish a national Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis, and moves DAFNI into its new phase. 

    Within the Centre, the many strands of research needed to create more resilient cities and societies are being brought together. The aim of this new Centre is to foster multi-disciplinary research and DAFNI, as the support high performance platform, will bring together research areas including engineering, data sciences, environmental science, health sciences and social sciences. 

    Outputs from the Centre are essential to provide researchers with the capacity to advise policy makers, local councils and private companies with the analysis and scenario-planning vital to ensure the UK is prepared for the sudden impacts of extreme floods, water and food shortages, energy failures and other challenges. 

    Using the DAFNI computational platform, researchers in the Centre of Excellence will be able to collaborate online, scale research, integrate computational models, model workflows and deposit and share models and data with the infrastructure research community in the UK and further afield. 

    In addition to the Centre of Excellence, the DAFNI programme is undertaking an investigation on behalf of the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). DSIT are undertaking a pilot initiative to address barriers to data sharing (the Research Data Cloud Pilot project – RDCP).The overall objective of this activity is to test and understand the need for a national research cloud through a series of interventions designed to remove data sharing barriers, in order to identify potential models and options for future national scale initiatives, and to build an investment case and set out the role of Government. As part of this, DAFNI has been funded to explore the barriers and opportunities for data sharing in national infrastructure, with funding in FYs 2023-24 and 2024-25.  

    In line with this investigation, the Centre of Excellence objectives and DAFNI collaborative platform, we are interested in promoting access and integration of diverse data sources and overcoming the barriers associated with using data (such as data sharing agreements and making data FAIR).  

    We are therefore looking to fund feasibility case studies in Infrastructure resilience, looking specifically at the impact and mitigations to improve the resilience using computational modelling on the DAFNI platform, whilst highlighting the challenges and solutions that arise in identifying and accessing the data to solve the infrastructure resilience questions in the areas of Transport and Energy.  

    Applicants are required to reserve the following dates for the sandpits, please note these sessions are mandatory.

    Meeting Transport Energy
    Session 1 – Initial Sandpit 05/02/2024 27/02/2024
    Team confirmation to be emailed to DAFNI Programme 06/02/2024 28/02/2024
    Session 2 – Sandpit Team Presentations 12/02/2024 05/03/2024

    We are hosting a webinar on 10th January 2024 at 12pm. 

    This webinar will cover the following:

    • Background on the purpose/aims of the sandpits
    • How the sandpits will work
    • Sandpit dates/times
    • Information on the announcement of opportunity
    • Q&A

    Please register below.

    The deadline to receive the Expression of Interest form is 19th of January 2024 at 17:00pm UK Time.

    Feedback will be provided with the outcome of your application.

    Contact details 

    If you have any questions or require further information, please contact Katie Cartmell, DAFNI Partnership Manager, Scientific Computing Department, STFC – katie.cartmell@stfc.ac.uk

    Email: info@dafni.ac.uk, include ‘DAFNI Programme Infrastructure Resilience Sandpits’ in the subject line and we will aim to respond within two working days. 


    If you are interested in getting involved and have any questions regarding this funding opportunity, please contact DAFNI Partnership Manager, Katie Cartmell  – katie.cartmell@stfc.ac.uk

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