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The UK engineering sector is broad. It includes all disciplines, from mechanical engineering to electrical and civil engineering. The industry has developed massively over the years. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to see many engineering companies invest in research & development (R&D) to help resolve complex problems faced in the design and construction process. As we know, engineering involves solving technical issues and inventing and improving next-gen infrastructure. Civil engineering is a branch of engineering that deals specifically with constructing, designing, and maintaining our physical environment foundations and systems. These include buildings, roads, airports, canals, and bridges. Civil engineering is all about in-depth research and development. It’s mainly focused on three things; design; construction; and maintenance.

Innovation is a driver for long-term growth for the industry. It can drive competitive advantage, improve productivity and enable companies to capture high-value components of the value chain. Therefore, understanding the funding available is critical for the sector’s future of productivity and competitiveness. This article aims to explain research and development and how it’s related to civil engineering.

What is R&D in Civil Engineering?

Research & Development involves activities that generate new products and solutions or improve existing ones. The primary objectives are to add to a company’s bottom line and improve processes. For civil engineering, this can apply to different engineering stages; at the beginning of a project, during, or even once, they produce the final output.

R&D innovation in engineering is often unnoticed and viewed as just day-to-day business activity. Why? Because the industry is full of invention, constantly bringing new technologies to the forefront. Such technologies and processes improve design methods, efficiency, safety, and performance. These advancements most likely qualify for R&D tax credit funding. The funding received can benefit the engineering industry by allowing companies to re-invest in innovative solutions or fund new staff, encouraging a bright future for the sector. Last year, the civil engineering and construction sector saw a 51% increase in R&D benefit claims compared to 2019. However, the engineering professionals at FI Group believe there are many more eligible R&D projects not claiming funding support.

Examples of R&D Innovation with the Sector

Common examples of research and development projects that are eligible for R&D funding include, but not limited to:

  • The development of new materials and combinations of materials.
  • Use of automation to lower costs and speed up construction times.
  • Design & build of specialist machines or the modification of existing equipment.
  • Creating, improving, or adapting existing construction methods, materials, and designs for projects.
  • Solutions designed around sustainability, or low-impact development (LID)
  • Innovative wastewater technology development.

Technical Uncertainty

Scientific or technological uncertainty is key to any R&D tax claim, and it’s an undeniable fact that technical uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges faced by most engineers today. Civil engineering projects involve rapid adaptations to project requirements. For this reason, uncertainties may occur, and engineers must develop innovative solutions to overcome them. We often see an example of this in the piling process. Non-conventional piling solutions designed to overcome issues associated with conventional piling processes overcome a current problem. Therefore, this makes them likely to qualify for R&D funding.

Bespoke Software

Following technical uncertainty, the second example of R&D in civil engineering is software development. Bespoke software is a custom-designed computer application that helps engineers to create innovative design and construction processes. This software helps to improve productivity and cut costs. The civil engineering industry often develops bespoke software tailored to the project requirements. These alternative methods are not only cost effective but are also highly effective. In addition, the creation of new information management systems has allowed real-time sharing. This real-time communication of images and data has made it possible for construction workers to communicate with each other. This speeds up tasks and cuts costs- A perfect example of an automated solution eligible for R&D tax credit funding.

Sustainable Infrastructure–R&D Innovation for the Future

The challenge to meet the net-zero carbon commitment by 2030 means that civil engineers should constantly consider innovative solutions to green energy architecture. Engineers can develop new, sustainable methods and processes. Still, by claiming R&D tax credits for previous innovative solutions, such as those mentioned above, engineering companies can invest in the education required by the industry to meet their goals concerning sustainability. The new generation of engineers must understand how their projects can reduce the harmful impact on the planet associated with traditional construction methods. Receiving R&D funding is one way to achieve this.  

Though you may not consider your civil engineering solutions to qualify for R&D funding, they likely do. If you would like to talk about whether your company is eligible for R&D Tax Credits, get in touch with our friendly team today.