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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Social innovation can be defined as innovation with the primary aim of improving social outcomes for people through collaboration or co-creation.

The innovation may take place in the public, private or charitable sectors, or direct with user communities.

The ‘sandpit’ was organised in collaboration with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

It is a residential interactive workshop to facilitate knowledge exchange between sectors and organisations in the area of social innovation, and has stimulated interest from the academic and professional communities across the UK.

The sandpit and its activities were designed to support attendees to collaborate, develop projects and pitch them to a funding panel on the final day.

Input from external experts was carefully designed to stimulate ideas and project development. The panel was impressed by the quality of the projects developed at the sandpit. 

David Sweeney, Director for Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said:

‘I am delighted with the quality of projects developed at the social innovation sandpit which we co-designed in association with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.’

The six learning pilot projects announced today will apply existing research and knowledge in order to focus on a range of pressing social issues including: young men’s mental health; equipping student leaders to address sexual violence on campuses; bringing together local and university communities; preventative healthcare for young people; promoting tolerance amongst diverse groups of young people; and examining how university and community can work together to address food poverty in six localities through an alternative local food system. 

The social innovation learning pilot projects receiving funding are:

  • Appetite for Change
  • A Silicon Health Valley for Greenwich
  • Boys Don’t Cry
  • Let's Talk about sex: Equipping student leaders to address sexual violence on campuses
  • ‘On the Town’: A Local Ambassadors’ Programme
  • Talking Heads.

Find out more about the projects

Read our blog post about the social innovation sandpit