Research and development support for tech and smart cities

R & D infrastructure and networks

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 Digital Catapult is the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre. It has centres in London, North East and Tees Valley, Northern Ireland and Brighton.

Other catapult centres which relate to tech and smart cities are the Satellite Applications Catapult, the Connected Places Catapult and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network also supports innovative tech companies, providing sector expertise over the full range of tech subsectors.

Research and development clusters in the UK

R & D clusters are closely linked (but not limited to) centres of activity for the industry. These include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Major activity centres round :

  • Oxford University
  • London and London universities, particularly University College London and King’s College
  • Cambridge and Cambridge University
  • Edinburgh
  • Leeds


  • Belfast is a world-leading cyber hub 
  • Cheltenham in Gloucestershire has a large cluster centred round the UK security and intelligence agency, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters)
  • Manchester is a fast growing cluster, containing a GCHQ centre of excellence

Fintech and data

Centres of Excellence specialising in Fintech and related disciplines such as data analytics are spread across the country, including:

Smart cities

Across the UK, different cities are researching and developing expertise in different smart city systems:

  • Smart energy - Aberdeen, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham
  • Smart buildings – Glasgow, Nottingham
  • Smart infrastructure - Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Bournemouth, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Peterborough
  • Smart governance - Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Peterborough
  • Smart mobility - Aberdeen, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Oxford
  • Smart health - Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester, Oxford

Read more on the UK’s research and development support, with links to resources that can help you further your research in our [Research and collaboration in the UK guide] .

Tax relief for innovative tech companies

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

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (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%.

Next steps

Find out about funding and incentives for R & D in our [guide to Incentives and funding in the UK]

Get advice on setting up your research-focused tech business in the UK from UK experts – find their contact details on the Investment Support Directory.

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