UNSW Sydney, UNSW Business School


UNSW Sandbox Method for Transformative Research

Innovation Statement

The UNSW Sandbox Method is a translational, multidisciplinary research methodology for co-creating business and social impact that aims to bridge the academic-practice gap and provide a platform for high-impact research.

Call to Action

Calls are growing louder for universities to bridge the research-practice gap. This requires innovative methodologies to more effectively engage industry and other end-users in the pursuit of shared research interests. The need for business schools worldwide to pursue these opportunities may never have been more critical. This comes at a time when there is growing pressure from various stakeholder groups—students, practitioners, community members, and legislators—to increase the overall impact and visibility of the academic research they fund and support. Stakeholders want a more transparent and explicit link between academic research and practical solutions, especially in tackling some of the real-world business and societal challenges. Bridging this academic-practice gap is especially important in a tight funding environment where a better return on investment in research is increasingly expected.

Innovation Description

The Sandbox Method is a platform for transformative research that aims to convert digitally enabled innovation into measurable impact. The method is based on a transdisciplinary approach, early involvement of industry partners, and a focus on visible outcomes for all key stakeholders of research. The key to the success of each Sandbox is beginning with a problem formulation that has immediate practical value for the participant organization while simultaneously having broader theoretical implications. This ensures that in addition to the practical artifacts of interest to the industry partner (usually in the form of a prototype system, simulation, or algorithm), each Sandbox also provides the foundations for academic and practitioner insights on issues of interest to other organizations and the broader community. Furthermore, it is expected that many of the Sandboxes will result in materials that will be valuable teaching tools for educating future practitioners. The UNSW Sandbox Method is composed of a six-step Sandbox Method process and a Digital Sandbox Platform for research data and project management. The Sandbox Platform will enable industry users, researchers, and students with shared interests to visualize, simulate, and experiment with real data. The platform also incorporates depositories for knowledge, analytical capabilities, domain expertise, and evidence of impact.

Innovation Impact

A major distinguishing feature that sets the planned Sandbox Method apart from current models of industry engagement is an emphasis on generating the triple outcomes of high-quality academic publications, direct organizational/community impact, and valuable teaching resources from every project. Currently, industry engagement, when present, is often distinct from research activity. However, a broad variety of stakeholders want a more transparent and explicit link between academic research and practical solutions. The UNSW Sandbox Method has and will continue to have a significant positive impact on all of these key stakeholder groups. From a societal perspective, it helps channel research effort toward important issues that will make an immediate practical difference while also contributing to building knowledge. From a student perspective, it provides opportunities for more engaged learning and practice-centric learning materials. From an academic perspective, it enables work on interesting and impactful problems while simultaneously allowing balance in the numerous challenging career demands related to impact and engagement, high-quality research output, and teaching excellence.

Reference Links

Innovation Partners

  • Partners for Social and Community Impact: Humanitix Social Listening Sandbox, Humanitix, Australia; IAG Cyber-Threats Intelligence (CTI) Sandbox, IAG, Australia; The Roles of Virtuality Reality for Disability Sandbox, Disability Innovation Institution, Australia; Tiger and Wildlife Conservation Analytics Sandbox, Karnataka Forest Department, Government of Karnataka; India Digital Platforms for Refugees Sandbox, CORE Community Services, Australia
  • Partners for Business Impact: IAG Cyber-Threats Intelligence (CTI) Sandbox. IAG, Australia; Marketing Analytics in Financial Sector AxiCorp, Australia; Ecosysnet Blockchain-enabled Reward System Sandbox, Ecosysnet, China; Berjaya Retail Innovation (BRI) Consumer Analytics Sandbox, Berjeya Inc, Malaysia


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