Step-by-step: Collaborative Research & Development (CR&D) Projects

Our Collaborative Research & Development (CR&D) projects utilise the capabilities available within Scotland’s research community to address business-defined challenges. These short-term projects, which typically last 6-18 months, are delivered in partnership between CENSIS, an industry partner(s), and one or more of our partner universities.

Our in-house engineering team can work with industry to undertake consultancy on specific needs, e.g., integration-level needs or suitability to meet operational requirements. If you would like more information about our consultancy services please get in touch.

This section will explain more about the benefits of working with us on CR&D activity, and the steps involved in getting your project started. Read on to find out more, download the documents for further reading, or contact us to discuss your ideas. No matter what stage your idea is at, we are keen to hear from you.

Project Principles

  • Collaborative R&D projects are to be led by industry, addressing market need with the aim of solving a business-defined problem to generate economic impact.
  • When it comes to creating a project proposal, we follow a process of discussion and refinement to develop something that meets our criteria and, where applicable, an external funding provider.
  • CENSIS does not issue project funding calls. This means that as well as not having deadlines to adhere to, we ensure that your project is dealt with on its own merits and not considered alongside a collection of competing proposals.
  • Please note that Academic researchers seeking an industry partner to commercialise an idea should approach their own institution’s Research and Knowledge Exchange office for advice and assistance as CENSIS is unable to provide a bespoke company partnering service for university research programmes.

Getting Started

To begin exploring your idea, please contact our Business Development team for an informal chat. You can also get in touch through your SE/HIE representative if you are an Account Managed company, or via any of our university partners if your company or organisation already has a relationship with an academic researcher.

Your project idea has to:

  • Show direct economic impact through business benefit to the company involved.
  • Provide a strong description of market needs, solution gap and economic benefit.
  • Demonstrate innovation content and technical risk.
  • Show a clear financial commitment from the industry partner.
  • Show clearly identified outputs from the academic partner(s).

We can develop a proposal with you and any funding partners, and will remain in close contact throughout the application process. By talking to us at the earliest possible stage, we can working with you to ensure that we:

  • Establish your suitability for CENSIS support.
  • Evaluate potential third party funding routes, and other funding partners where required, with a minimum of duplication.


Our CR&D projects focus on the exploitation of sensor and imaging systems (SIS) knowledge or technology mainly between Scottish-based companies and the Scottish research community. The nature of our funding – from the Scottish Funding Council, and the Scottish development agencies Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise – means there are certain restrictions on who we can support:

  • Industry: To be eligible for support, industry partners must have a research or operational base in Scotland and show that the likely economic benefit from a project will come to the Scottish site. Companies without a Scottish base may still participate in a CR&D project but cannot receive direct support from the Scottish development agencies.
  • Public Sector: Scottish public sector organisations can be project partners, however there are limits on the level of support available. Usually a public sector partner will need to show that a private sector partner, capable of taking the deliverables to market and generating the extended exploitation impact, is also involved.
  • Universities: Our academic partners must include one or more Scottish universities. Again universities from outside Scotland may still participate in a project but would not receive direct support.

Contracts & IP

Each of our university partners has signed our Collaboration Agreement. This includes a set of underlying contracting and IP principles and approaches in line with our objectives, as well as common, pre-agreed, Heads of Terms through a template Project Agreement.

Clauses in both Agreements address our guiding principle that industry has the rights, and the means, to exploit Foreground IP developed as a result of a CENSIS collaborative project.

Support & Intervention

CENSIS supports Scottish-based businesses in developing SIS projects and in finding resources to realise their SIS objectives. We can help you to assemble a fundable technology development plan and also have the in-house capabilities to become one of your project delivery partners should this be required.

As well as CENSIS funding, we can present opportunities to access funding from Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Innovate UK, Horizon 2020 or other specific sectoral schemes.

Successful applicants can expect CENSIS, or CENSIS and its funding partners, to meet between 25% and 50% of eligible costs for CR&D projects. Please note that, along with many other programmes, CENSIS is governed by overarching regulations that limit the level of aid the state can provide to companies. Additionally, CENSIS cannot provide funding directly to industry: our funds may only be used to support the costs of Scottish university project partners.

Our aim is to work with all of the project partners to agree a project scope and financial split that delivers value and benefit for all parties.

For fuller information on support and intervention, please read our downloadable document on Collaborative R&D Projects. Additionally, our Business Development team will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Your Application

Our Business Development team will help develop your idea into a short Expression of Interest (EOI), capturing the technical, commercial, and economic opportunity of the project. Once we have this information, we can give you technical and business feedback, including our view as to whether, in principle, there is scope to work up a detailed proposal.

We will then work with you to develop a full proposal, which will include help from our own in-house Project Managers and engineering team. The full project submission will look at deliverables, costs, benefits, risks, resources, and contributions from all parties.

Assessing your Proposal

A final decision on approving your project rests with the CENSIS Governing Board, who will review the quality of your application and its suitability against the strategic objectives of CENSIS along with the:

  • Potential for commercial growth and competitive market advantage to Scotland.
  • Degree to which the project is motivated by an end-user challenge; and the level of commitment of the industry partner(s).
  • Potential to deliver the route to impact through the collaborating company/companies; taking in to
    account the expected markets.
  • Level of collaboration and interworking between all the partners (academic and industry) and the associated potential for longer-term relationships.
  • Potential for staff mobility between the industrial and academic sectors, both during and after the project.
  • Robustness of the project schedule, resource plan, and costing taking into account the anticipated technical and commercial risks (including mitigation).
  • Potential to identify and protect new IP.

In the event that a proposal is not successful, we will provide feedback and, where appropriate, suggest further actions of help to identify other funding sources.

The Project Lifecycle

Support from CENSIS does not end when a project starts. A CENSIS Project Manager will work with all parties, including any CENSIS engineering staff and university researchers, to ensure that the deliverables and deadlines agreed are met and the project is delivered in time, on spec and within budget.

At the end of project, we will review lessons learned, and work with you to identify next steps or future challenges.