EngD in Sensor and Imaging Systems

PhD-level research distinguished by industry interaction

The Engineering Doctorate in Sensor and Imaging Systems is four-year programme offered by the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde. These longer-term research partnerships are designed to allow participating companies to drive and influence a student’s research while simultaneously benefitting from the research and teaching environment provided by a university partner.

Distinguished by the possibility to create a portfolio thesis of smaller industry-focused projects, EngD is emphasised by industry interaction. Research Engineers, as EngD students are known, have at least one industry sponsor, and split their time between a company and a university research group. 

Read our interactive brochures on the EngD programme for industry and for academics.

Read EngD Research Engineer profiles:

What is EngD?

EngD is a four-year vocational research degree for people who want to work in industry. Academically equivalent to a traditional PhD, it places an emphasis on research in a commercial environment, supplemented by Masters-level technical training and MBA courses.

All projects have at least one industry sponsor. Research Engineers spend up to 75% of their time working on-site with a company, working under the direction of an industry supervisor and an academic supervisor from one of the EngD partner universities.

Industry Benefits

A cost-effective solution for companies of all sizes to engage in high-level R&D, EngD improves the relevance of research degrees to industry, and increases the exploitation of engineering research. Particular benefits include:

  • Advanced, commercially valuable research, driven and directed by company need.
  • Opportunity to create a ‘portfolio’ thesis of linked, themed projects.
  • Access to expertise at a leading research institution including access to equipment.
  • Minimal administrative intervention with programme managed by the University of Glasgow.
  • Excellent value for money compared with costs of hiring a new graduate.
  • Potential tax credits funds spent on R&D.
  • Student is not part of company headcount (no NI contributions).
  • Excellent vehicle for recruitment and retention: EngD offers routes for employee secondment on very favourable terms.

Academic Benefits

Particular benefits for academics involved in supervising EngD projects include:

  • Routes to collaborative research and development activity with an industrial partner.
  • Annual allowance for each project, to be use as supervisors as they please to support their own research.
  • Potential access to industry facilities.
  • Potential route for exploitation of academic IP.
  • EngD REs are considered as PhD students within university assessment and measurement activities.

Research Themes & Company Eligibility 

Projects are invited from a company engaged in any market sector support by CENSIS and in a subject relevant to the strategic objectives of CENSIS. Companies and organisations of any size may benefit from EngD. To receive support from CENSIS, industry sponsors must have a research or operational base in Scotland at which the research project will be carried out.


Working alongside the partner institutions, projects are advertised using a combination of advertising and our network of academic and industrial contacts.

A two step application process applies with candidates assessed for their academic ability as well and suitability for industrial research. Following an initial interview with the Programme Director, candidates then have a second interview with the sponsoring company to assess for suitability and fit within the organisation.

Most projects start in September. It may be possible to start at other times within the academic year.


Suitably qualified and residentially eligible students receive an award comprising tuition fees, an enhanced, tax-free student stipend and funding to support training, conference attendance and travel. CENSIS contributes around £80k to the studentship over four years.

Sponsoring companies make an annual cash contribution for each student they support: £10k pa for SMEs/£15k pa for large companies. Throughout the duration of the programme, the sponsor does not pay pension, NI contributions, benefits etc for the RE, and the RE is not part of the company payroll or headcount.


Each project is supervised by a member of academic staff, as well as an industry advisor. Academic supervisors ensure the project is of academic equivalence to a PhD; the industry advisor drives the project to guarantee that the research makes a significant contribution to the performance of the company and has a commercial outcome.

Programme Structure

All projects must have at least one industry sponsor, and research students can spend up to 75% of their time working on-site with a company. All REs study 180 credits of postgraduate technical and business courses. The one year of study (working to gain 180 credits) may be split across 2-3 years, with 120 credits gained from the degree of MSc in Sensor and Imaging Systems, and 60 credits from the MBA programme at HWU’s Edinburgh Business School.

Intellectual Property

Agreements with IP are discussed between the university and the company on an individual basis. IP developed by the EngD student during the course of the programme is normally owned by the sponsor.

Research Project

The project must have objectives capable of making a significant contribution to the performance of the sponsor, i.e., of benefit to the company no matter whether or not the EngD was also an issue. Projects should:

  • Be industrially relevant and make a significant contribution to the business of the sponsor, normally requiring a large portion of the time to be spent on site with the sponsor
  • Demonstrate innovation in the application of knowledge to the engineering business environment
  • Include analysis stages at the outset and the conclusion
  • Allow demonstration of competence in expert knowledge of an engineering area, project planning, management and control, and teamwork and leadership

Project work must demonstrate innovation, i.e., that something new is being done or that some familiar problem is being tackled in a new way. At one end of the spectrum this could involve engineering research in which new knowledge or inventions are generated, at the other it could involve an operational change.

The sponsor is fully supported by academic staff in project development and supervision. The processes are similar to PhD; initial analysis (theory), practice (experiment) and achievements and conclusions (final analysis). The quality of the project is not diminished by it being a practical innovation in applying knowledge, provided that there is a good analysis of the problems and options at the outset, and of the outcomes at the end.

‘Normal’ management tasks are not suitable for EngD, i.e., tasks where someone else has set the parameters and execution of those tasks is simply delegated to the RE. Students are not expected to normally work on routine company business or on a ‘student’ project designed to keep them busy and therefore on the outside of the sponsor’s research.

Thesis Submission & Portfolio

At the end of the four year programme a thesis is submitted. Research must be equal in intellectual challenge to PhD, show originality and make a significant contribution to knowledge of the subject. Unlike PhD, EngD can focus on the ‘development’ side of R&D and research can be in an area others have previously investigated.

EngD allows a traditional PhD-type and/or a ‘portfolio’ thesis – smaller, linked projects under a central theme, with a covering dissertation justifying the RE’s claim to have met the criteria for award of the degree. This element of the EngD structure makes the programme attractive to industry: projects evolve in ways which are not feasible in a traditional PhD allows the research theme to evolve over time. This is a different approach to that of the traditional PhD and enables research to remain current in the fast moving arena of sensor and imaging systems.

The portfolio thesis option comprises the submission of a series of reports, scientific papers and articles. It should include reports on research completed during EngD, along with other evidence that supports a case for being awarded the EngD, e.g., journal or conference publications, project or financial plans. Portfolio projects normally last 9-12 months, but each is looked at on its merits. There is no set length for each report and no single structure to be followed. Individual portfolios will vary, but should address the following areas:

  • Have a theme, logical structure and be well presented
  • Be worthy of publication or be patentable
  • Demonstrate background knowledge
  • Show evidence (data) to support conclusions and recommendations
  • Use appropriate analysis of this evidence
  • Demonstrate innovation in the application of knowledge to the engineering business
  • Be industrially relevant
  • Identify the potential value of the innovative recommendations
  • Make clear the RE’s own contribution

Portfolio theses are excellent for allowing companies to change the direction of the project over time to supports the company roadmap. It ensures the research always remains relevant to a company’s global aims and objectives.


Companies interested in understanding more about the benefits of EngD, or companies with an idea for an EngD research project, are invited to contact CENSIS for an informal discussion.