Research and development support for automotive

The UK’s research infrastructure is sophisticated and well developed, in both academia and the private sector.

Many businesses have their own research and development R&D operations.

With a network of over 20 specialist industrial R&D centres, working with research universities, the UK is focused on developing technology for three major automotive trends:

  • net zero propulsion
  • lightweight materials
  • connected and autonomous vehicles

Research infrastructure

Catapult network

The Catapult Network has 9 innovation centres across 40 locations in the UK. In each centre, businesses, scientists, technical specialists and engineers work together on late-stage research and development.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapults relevant to the automotive sector are:

  • National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, consisting of Advanced Forming Research Centre and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, both based in Glasgow
  • Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham (Yorkshire), with other centres in Preston and North Wales. The AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials for high-value manufacturing, and powertrain electrification.
  • Centre for Process Innovation in North East England (Wilton, Darlington, Sedgefield, Newton Aycliffe) and Glasgow, Scotland. The CPI is a leader in printable electronic technology, enabling manufacturers to embed displays, lighting and touch sensors onto a car’s curved surfaces.
  • Manufacturing Technology Centre  in Coventry (Midlands), with other centres in Liverpool and Oxford. The MTC specialises in manufacturing technologies and processes including automation technologies for the automotive sector.
  • National Composites Centre in Bristol (South West England) is a major centre of innovation in composite technology with over 300 specialist composite engineers, designers and technicians.
  • WMG is a leading centre for vehicle electrification and connected and autonomous vehicles, based at University of Warwick, in the Midlands.

Major UK research organisations

Find automotive-specific projects and detailed information on the work of research organisations on the websites listed below.

Centre for Automotive and Power System Engineering, Cardiff, Wales
R&D, testing and advisory services focused around automotive, energy storage, power electronics, control systems design and advanced communications.

Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing, Sunderland
Located next to the Nissan factory in the North East of England, this facility has a focus on motors and drives for electric vehicles

Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult, Newport (Wales)
The centre develops technology to use in areas like power electronics and motors for electric vehicles.

Centre for Secure Information Technology, Belfast
Located in Northern Ireland’s capital, the centre’s work has significant cross sectoral applications, including cybersecurity for connected and autonomous vehicles

Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems, Bath
Brings industry and academic researchers together to support the transport industry transition to net zero.

Four major automotive research centres are based in or around Coventry in England's West Midlands:

National Transport Design Centre
Explores new areas of transport design research and new transport technologies

UK Battery Industrialisation Centre
Develops cost-effective, high-performance and recyclable battery technology

Advanced Propulsion Centre
Concentrates on net zero powertrain development and production

National Automotive Innovation Centre
Has 1,000 staff working across design, engineering and research, as well as future engineers on degree programmes.

Research resources

Konfer is an online tool which uses smart matching technology to connect UK universities and businesses.

UK Research and Innovation’s Gateway to Research website gives information on current and past UK research projects, including publications, outcomes and contacts.

Find out more about help for R&D in our guide to incentives, funding and support in the UK.

Tax relief for innovative automotive companies

The UK tax system provides strong backing for engineering entrepreneurs and their investors.

R&D tax reliefs for innovative automotive companies

You can claim corporation tax relief if you are working on an innovative project in science and technology that meets the UK government’s definition of research and development.

There are 2 main types of R&D tax reliefs:

  • small and medium enterprise (SME) R&D relief, for companies with fewer than 500 staff
  • research and development expenditure credit, for larger companies

Get guidance on R&D tax relief on GOV.UK

Capital allowances

If your automotive business is investing in plant and machinery, you may be eligible for generous first year tax reliefs of up to 100% of the cost of these.

Find out more about capital allowances and how to claim them on GOV.UK

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)

EIS and SEIS are UK government schemes that help you if you’re a younger, higher-risk businesses raising finance. They offer generous tax reliefs of between 30% to 50%.

Find out more about the Enterprise Investment Scheme  and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme on GOV.UK.

Funding opportunities for automotive companies 

You can find specific opportunities that could benefit your business on these websites:

Automotive Transformation Fund

ATF is a £1 billion programme to support the large-scale industrialisation of an electrified supply chain. The focus is on batteries including cells, electric machines and drives, power electronics and fuel cells

Faraday Battery Challenge 

This funds opportunities for feasibility studies, industrial research or experimental development.  The overall budget is £541 million, to 2025.

Zenzic

Zenzic brings together government, academia, innovators and developers. The project commits £100 million to develop national connected autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure.

Private equity and venture capital

With a mature and highly sophisticated capital market, the UK is both a leading destination and source of capital investment for companies across the scale spectrum.

Find out about the opportunities available in our Access to Finance guide.

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