Research and knowledge exchange

ECR Dragons' Den

Research meets the 'Dragons' - what's your pitch?

The 2023 call for applications has now closed- Stay tuned for the next round

The Dragon’s Den final been recorded and will be uploaded shortly, so look out for it!


The Sussex ECR Dragons' Den was taking place on 6 July as part of the one-day ECR Symposium, in the main hall of the Student Centre.

It was an opportunity for early career researchers, either as individuals or groups, to bid for research funding, and to gain experience in bid-writing and pitching to a non-specialist audience.

Funds of up to £3,000 were available to resource projects and activities which, in line with Sussex Research with Impact Strategy, support the development of knowledge that challenges conventional wisdom, extending the boundaries of research drawing on technological and intellectual advances.

The Dragons' Den prioritised bids that support the development of external funding applications either by an individual or by an interdisciplinary group of researchers that identify new and exciting research ideas.

Learn more about Dragons' Den 2023 via our new story:

Early Career Researchers win funding at Sussex’s first Dragons’ Den

ECR Dragon’s Den winner Ulla McKnight: "I've learned from researchers with very different approaches to my own''

ECR Dragon’s Den People's Choice winner: "The best way to have an impact on young people is to ask their opinions''

ECR Dragon’s Den People’s Choice winner Su Morris: “Our work will provide insight into young people’s perspectives”


How does it work?

For a chance to present at the Dragons' Den, eligible researchers must submit a research project application and proposal for assessment by our ‘Dragons’.

Fifteen successful applicants received training in writing, communicating and pitching from Sam Knowles, before presenting to the Shortlisting Panel in the semi-final on 26 June 3-5pm (on campus). From this, six finalists went forward to pitch to the Dragons at the live event.

Our finalists stepped into the ‘Den’ and had five minutes to pitch their research ideas to the Dragons. After the pitch, the Dragons had ten minutes to ask questions about the research and proposed activities before the winners were selected. The audience had a chance to vote online for a People’s Choice Champion.

Please understand that by submitting the application you confirm that you have had the discussion with your PI or recruiting manager about your proposed research. 

Semi-Final on 26 June 2023:

The applicants had five minutes to present pitch ideas and the Shortlisting Panel had five minutes to ask questions. This year, the Semi-Final were judged by Dr. Erika Mancini, Associate Professor; Prof. Debbie Keeling, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor Knowledge Exchange and Katy Stoddard, Researcher Development Officer.

Final on 6, July 2023: 

There were five minutes for six finlaists to present their research ideas and ten minutes for Dragons to ask questions. 

Key Dates

ECR Dragons' Den Timeline

5 May Open for applications
29 May Close applications
26 May Applicants receive confirmation
7 & 8 June Training in-person - half-day session (7th) + 2-hour session (8th)
19 June Final written proposal and slide deadline
26 June 3-5PM Semi-final and shortlisting by the Panel (at Woodland 5, Student Centre)
30 June Abstract & title submission
6 July Dragons' Den


Our Dragons for the Final 2023 round were Prof Debbie Keeling, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor Knowledge Exchange; Dr John Thompson, Deputy Director of SSRP; Dr Martin White, ECR Lead in Engineering and Informatics; and Dr Lincoln Colling, ECR Lead in Psychology.


1st Prize: £3,000

2nd Prize: £1,500

People's Choice Champion, voted by the audience: £1,500

Dragons' Den 2023 Results

Winner: Ulla McKnight (Law, Politics and Sociology)

2nd Place: Eleanor Jayawant (Brighton and Sussex Medical School)

People's Choice Award: Amanda Ferrell and Su Morris (Psychology)

Meet the presenters

Ulla McKnight (Law, Politics and Sociology )- Crafting A Speculative Map of Young Women of Colour’s Sexual Health Care Practices And Their Effects

Dr Ulla McKnight is a Sociologist with a fine art background. Her Dragons’ Den pitch draws on a collaborative NIHR funded workshop that she led using art-based participatory methods to explore women of colours ‘unsayable’ experiences of reproductive trauma. Her proposed project will use Artificial Intelligence and embroidery to co-create a speculative participatory project that explores the possible effects of sexual self-care practices with young cis/trans women of colour in Brighton.

Henry Dore (Engineering and Informatics)- Measuring harmful emissions from resin-based 3D printers

This research will measure the harmful emissions from resin-based 3D printers. While first generation 3D printers using heated plastic filament have been extensively studied and found to emit toxic nanoparticles and volatile organic compounds, the risk posed by second generation printers using liquid photopolymer resin has not been well-established. This knowledge gap is concerning considering the increasing personal and occupational use of these printers. We will evaluate emissions from second generation printers using high-resolution low-pressure particle impactor technology. This technology will provide real-time data on particle quantity, size, and mass, and allows for advanced chemical analysis. By identifying the specific pollutants generated during 3D printing, we will develop interventions, technologies, and informed health and safety policies. This research has great potential for generating intellectual property, patents, and significant changes in 3D printing operational policies, offering both a high return on investment and commercial opportunities.

Eleanor Jayawant (BSMS)- Identifying novel therapeutic targets in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Chemotherapy drugs are harsh, and the treatments used for blood cancers are no exception. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) treatments can wipe out patients’ immune systems by killing all B cells, leaving them vulnerable to potentially life-threatening infections and resulting in poorer disease outcomes. Clearly, there is an urgent need for new therapeutics in DLBCL.

I aim to identify kinder treatments with fewer side effects, by finding new targets which will selectively kill cancerous DLBCL cells whilst leaving healthy B cells unaffected. By comparing the gene expression of cancerous B cells from the lymph nodes and healthy B cells from the circulating blood, I can establish which proteins in the cancer cells should be targeted with existing approved drugs. Through this work and follow-on work, DLBCL patients will experience improved outcomes and enhanced quality of life by reducing side effects and providing more effective treatments.

Amanda Ferrell and Su Morris (Psychology )- Prepared for Life? Perspectives of Young People and Schools about Life Skills Education

Life skills training, including personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in the UK is a non-statutory subject (PSHE Association, 2017), despite the World Health Organization (1999) and the UK National Curriculum describing life skills as essential for healthy development. Although Relationships & Sex (RSE) and Health Education became compulsory in September 2020 (, 2019), there are many aspects of life skills education still not mandatory. In fact, Ofsted (2016) noted only 4 out of 40 secondary schools were adequately preparing young people for work, highlighting the need for improvement. This project will collect the opinions of young people (aged 18 to 20) to find out how prepared they felt for independent living, including financial awareness, being involved in societal processes, and emotional intelligence. This much-needed foundational knowledge will identify opportunities for improving PSHE education, leading to a future PhD project where this can be addressed in greater depth.

Laurence Bush (Engineering and Informatics)- Extremely Accurate Binaural Recording Device

We are determined to revolutionise our understanding and accommodation of diverse hearing experiences. This project has far-reaching implications, extending beyond the gaming industry to profoundly impact how we perceive and design real and virtual spaces in relation to their effects on people's well-being. We propose to use £3,000 funding to create a unique, personalised binaural recording device. Just like a Madame Tussauds waxwork, this tool, shaped from individual moulds, emulates a person's auditory perspective. It allows us to 'hear' through another's ears, offering an unrivalled peek into their auditory world. It's a lifelike listening experience for the model it replicates. Crucial in creating a database for game-sound designers and public space planners, it aids in acknowledging auditory sensitivities. Our project aims to transcend the uncanny valley of hearing, stepping towards a future where unique auditory experiences are recorded and replayed with original authenticity. Let's make this future a reality.

Gemma Aellah (BSMS)- Why do people hate trees? A comparative study of what works, why people care, and why they don’t, in citizen-led forms of tree-planting in East Sussex and East Africa.

This project is about People and Trees, and more specifically how we can get the two working together. Governments love the idea of tree planting. However, failure rates of large scale planned projects are incredibly high, because tree-planting is more complicated than it sounds, and so are people. Citizen-led, grassroots forms of tree-planting have the potential to be more successful at producing long-last changes in treescapes, but they also struggle with managing love/hate human-tree relationships… What can we learn from them? And how can we best help?

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