NEWS / Affiliate / What a relief: R&D Tax for the Civil Engineering sector


01 MAY 2019


The civil engineering sector is vast and encompasses a number of highly skilled and specialised sub-sectors, many of which are undertaking innovative work every single day.

Often organisations believe that they are ‘just solving immediate issues’ that they are faced with on projects. However, what they may not realise is that by solving these issues, they are in fact undertaking R&D by HMRC’s definition and are therefore eligible to reclaim tax as part of either the Large Company or SME scheme. 

Research and development doesn’t just take place in the lab, but on the construction site. However what constitutes R&D by HMRC?

Below are just a few examples of activity within Construction and Civil Engineering projects, which may be eligible for UK R&D tax relief.


  • Advances in engineering to develop new or unique materials and combinations of materials.
  • Use of automation to speed up construction times and lower costs.
  • Design & build of specialist machines or the modification of existing equipment.
  • Creating, improving or adapting existing construction methods, materials and design for projects, e.g. extreme temperatures and environmental conditions, combining known material types to achieve a unique composite product, achieving above normal tolerances, completing projects with ‘out of sequence’ working methods due to accessibility or site-specific requirements.

Transport and Urban Infrastructure

  • Improved infrastructure design of transportation, water, sewer and storm water networks.
  • Water storage and pump station design.
  • Bulk earthworks design improving cut fill quantities, site drainage and material selection methods.
  • Development of sustainable drainage solutions e.g. green space design, retention and detention facilities or permeable paving solutions.
  • Replacement of old pipe infrastructure using new methods e.g. Pipe Cracking, Cured In Place Pipe (CIPP), lining of existing pipes or improved Horizontal drilling methods for pipe replacement.

Marine and Coastal

  • Improved pile design and/or installation methodology required to support offshore structures.
  • Unique harbour/break water design.
  • Development or improvement of subsea installation methodologies to overcome site-specific challenges.

Environmental and Sustainability

  • Development of improved utility services for residential and commercial properties to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Integration of renewable energy systems into standard building design.
  • Development of low carbon impact materials for building construction.


  • Unique infrastructure design.
  • Optimisation of structural design to reduce amount of materials.
  • Software developments to optimise dynamic analysis.


  • Advances in geotechnical investigation or treatment of ground contamination and land reclamation.
  • Advances in structural groundworks, e.g. piling, retaining systems or tunnelling methods, constructing in difficult sites or ground conditions requiring adaptation to standard construction methods.

Demolition and Waste Management

  • Recycling of building rubble and waste to create new products with higher performance or to reduce costs.
  • Optimisation of demolition process to enable the use of smaller machines to reduce the props required to support the structures.
  • Extensive modification to equipment to overcome issues related to project specifications or site environment.
  • Design of renewable energy infrastructure for industrial and commercial end users.

Utility Services

  • Improved biomass fuel handling and storage facility design & construction at processing plants and power stations.
  • Improving overhead line design or construction (e.g. new pylon design, improved construction methods or new material incorporation).
Ben Vass

Ben Vass

Commercial Team Manager: Innovation