The CDE funds novel research with potential defence applications.

Winning funding from the Centre for Defence Enterprise 

The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) funds novel, innovative research with potential defence applications and forms part of the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL). It has awarded more than £23million of research contracts since its 2008 opening.

Drs Nicholas Harmer and Oana Ghita, of the University of Exeter, have both secured grants from the CDE. They have identified some tips for securing funding and managing the award.

What makes an application stand out? 

Dr Harmer, of the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, thinks his project benefited from originality. He said: "It suggested something new – it wasn’t just off the shelf. I think it gave the CDE the opportunity to compare different approaches, which was advantageous."

It is also important to match what the call requests. Dr Harmer's project, which aimed to improve efficiency in providing protein structures for drug design, provided a high throughput, low-cost approach. For example, he explained how his method could reduce the time taken to obtain suitable structures.

How should I complete the application?

Simplicity is important, according to Dr Harmer. He explained: "I feel defence agencies like succinctness, as opposed to many funders who want lots of detail. Good graphics can help get your point across if you can use them."

It is also important your application is worded in a way that matches the submission form and appeals to the judges. Dr Ghita, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering, said: "The on-line application uses a lot of military jargon. Your research idea needs to match or translate into the right military terminology. It helps having somebody knowledgeable with this."

Who can help?

The support of a partner can help. Dr Ghita explained: "I had a strong partner – Airbus Group Innovation, formerly EADS Innovation Works UK - who strongly supported my application due to their interest in the high temperature laser sintering composites."

Dr Harmer requested the advice of colleagues who had worked with and for DSTL before. He said: "They knew what the CDE were looking for. They really helped me simplify the application where needed."

Both Drs Harmer and Ghita enlisted Exeter’s Research and Knowledge Transfer (RKT) office. Other institutions’ research offices may be able to offer similar support.

Dr Ghita added the support of RKT Business Development Officer Tom Hurles – who has a 100 per cent success rate in supporting CDE applications - was useful in navigating the online submission system.

Dr Harmer also valued Tom's support, saying: "In the 'military detail' section, Tom's advice was helpful to work through the jargon, and understand what it actually means. There are also various sections that are very technical about IP, which is not in any way my speciality. Tom helped me to give relevant responses at each stage."

Are there any constraints?

Dr Ghita noted that although the turnaround time for the grant was "faster than for many funders", working on the grant was "intense" due to the short timescales involved.

Calls for proposals

Calls for proposals can be open or themed. Upcoming examples include:

Exeter academics interested in these calls can contact either Tom (email:, tel: 01392 726431) or the University's DSTL relationship manager, Jess Hurrell (email:, tel: 01392 726209), for advice and support.