Guidance to help you write a CDE proposal on the portal.

You can also view presentation slides of the guidance given here.

Important points

Your proposal forms your contract with CDE if you’re successful, so you must include all relevant information and be very clear on what work you’ll do.

Make your proposal a standalone document - don’t make references to websites and other sources that you expect assessors to visit or read to understand your proposal. Assessors will only have about an hour to read your proposal, come to an opinion on its strengths and weaknesses, and record their feedback into the portal. This is why it’s very important to be concise.

No classified information should be submitted to CDE.

You should also read CDE terms and conditions and contract guidance.

What to include in your proposal

Your proposal should fully cover the following points:

  • the idea
  • the benefit
  • the impact
  • your approach
  • the deliverables

The idea

Our assessors will look for evidence that you identify and describe a highly innovative technology idea.

These innovative ideas are often new materials or processes, which are low technology readiness level (TRL), usually TRL 2 to 4, and aren’t commercially mature. For a description of TRLs, see in the Acquisition System Guidance.

Assessors will also be looking in your proposal for clearly described scientific principles that underpin your idea.

The benefit

Your proposal should clearly identify and describe what you think are the valuable benefits to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The level of benefit must be significant.

Assessors will look to see if your proposal will build or improve science and technology capabilities in much-needed areas. They’ll also look to see if the benefits offered might have wider defence and non-defence applications than those given.

You must state how you’ll measure the performance improvement and the baseline the measurement starts from.

Assessors will also make a high-level value-for-money and timeliness assessment, based on the activities in your proposal versus the likely level of benefit.

The impact

What is the likely impact of your work? CDE is looking for game-changing advantage for our armed forces and work that pushes the boundaries of science and technology. But assessors will also look for potential barriers that may limit the impact, eg existing regulations or integrating with current systems.

You should explain your vision of how the technology will be used in the future. CDE funding is for the initial proof-of-concept work, but assessors will look for an idea of the future development you think might be required to produce a usable military capability.

Your proposal should describe the evidence that will be produced from the CDE-funded work that will allow a decision to be made on whether further investment is required.

Your approach

Assessors will look for a robust and quality approach to your proposed research.

Your proposal should provide a clear description of each of the main work packages you plan to carry out.

The flow of work packages should be logical and the outputs of each work package should be consolidated into the final proof-of-concept deliverable.

A Gantt chart or work-breakdown structure attachment can help assessors understand the proposed approach (see important information on adding attachments).

Assessors will look for evidence that you have credible expertise and experience in the areas of science and technology necessary to complete the work proposed. Where expertise or experience might be lacking, assessors will want to see if you are proposing to partner with others. Collaborations can often strengthen your proposal.

You’ll need to have legitimate, safe access to any facilities you need to carry out the proposed work. Don’t rely on MOD providing equipment, information, datasets or other support. We strongly recommend that if you need such things, you search for commercial alternatives and state the costs of using these in your proposal.

We also don’t recommend that you make your first task in your planned approach a ‘requirements-capture’ activity. It’s unlikely that MOD will be able to provide you with a list of requirements or validate ones you supply. We recommend you state your assumptions about a military requirement and work from that basis.

If your proposed research requires any human participants it must meet nationally and internationally accepted ethical standards. Approval is through the MOD Research Ethics Committee. CDE projects are for proof-of-concept research, so ideally you should be able to avoid research that requires ethical approval at this stage. If you’re unsure if your research project will require ethical approval, you should contact before submitting your proposal to CDE.

The deliverables

CDE assessors need to see what it is that your research project will produce. They need to be sure about what you are offering as your proposal submitted through the portal is what will form your contract with CDE if you’re successful. These ‘deliverables’ could be trials or demonstrations, material samples produced, computer simulations etc supported by a written report.

Assessors need to be confident that your deliverables will clearly demonstrate that progress has been made, for example the performance is better than any rivals or the TRL of the innovative technology has been increased.

To do this effectively you should describe some credible measures of performance that your trials or experiments will provide the data for.

How your proposal is assessed

Your proposal will be assessed by subject matter experts from Dstl, MOD and sometimes wider government using a performance assessment framework (PAF) against the categories of:

  • operational relevance
  • likelihood of exploitation
  • builds critical science and technology (S&T) capability to meet UK needs
  • scientific quality/innovation
  • pushing the limits (S&T risk)

We also consider relevant programme priorities and value for money to the UK taxpayer when deciding which proposals to fund.

The PAF scoring system used for CDE assessments is:

How your proposal is assessed

Where to put the information on the portal

It’s important to save your work regularly. Do this by selecting the ‘Save’ button in the ‘Options’ task box.

Don’t exit the ‘Manage Opportunity’ page by using your web browser’s ‘back’ button. Navigate around the portal using the tabs and buttons instead.

The portal has 3 technical information tabs, called ‘Military, ‘Inventory’ and ‘Supply’. The fourth tab is the ‘Commercial’ tab.

The ‘Military’, ‘Inventory’ and ‘Supply’ tabs provide you with the ability to select an option and sub-option. The purpose of these is to help you to enter your proposal information in a structured way. Please only use them if you really understand what they mean, if you have any doubts about their meaning use the ‘Any’ entry and explain your meaning in there.

You don’t need to use every single option and sub-option. This would produce a very lengthy and repetitive proposal, which is not what the assessors are looking for.

Each sub-option description box can have up to 1000 characters. This includes spaces, symbols and punctuation. If you go over 1000 characters you won’t be able to ‘publish’ your opportunity. You can add more paragraphs if 1000 characters is not enough. Click ‘Add’ after typing each paragraph, then move on to the next.

The content of your CDE proposal needs to be entered into the portal forms under the tabs and the fields under them. You should not put the main content of your proposal in attachments. Attachments should only be used to add additional information to support your proposal, such as images and graphics.

You must attach these to the ‘Military’, ‘Inventory’ and ‘Supply’ tabs, not the ‘Commercial’ tab, if you want the technical assessors to see them. You can only add 1 attachment per tab.

Attachments must be:

  • in PDF format (the portal no longer accepts Microsoft Word document attachments)
  • no more than 1MB file size
  • no more than 4 pages long
  • portrait orientation only

The fourth tab in the portal is the ‘Commercial’ tab. You must also complete the ‘Commercial’ tab for your proposal to be accepted for assessment.

Military tab

The first field under this tab is ‘Military Scenario - In what situation might you innovation be used?’

Your innovation might have multiple uses such as in training at home in UK or overseas on deployed operations. Where it has multiple uses you should clearly and concisely describe the differences here between each type of use.

Where you believe there might be some constraints with your innovation then let us know about them here. If assessors are left with doubts about the use of your innovation because you omit detail here then your likelihood of success is reduced.

The second field under this tab is ‘Military Organisation - Who might use your idea in defence?’

Assessors are looking to see who in defence you think might use your innovation. Without a user your innovation will lack exploitation potential.

We understand that many science and technology providers who have not worked in defence before struggle here. We’re not necessarily expecting you to know military organisational structures in detail.but you could think about, for example, will this be used by soldiers rather than airmen or sailors? Or someone carrying out signalling or electronic warfare tasks? Does your innovation require specific tasks to be carried out?

The third field under this tab is ‘Military Capability - What military capabilities are to be improved?’

Here you should tell the assessors how you think your innovation will provide military benefit to those users you have identified.

This section is very important to help assessors answer the question ‘so why should we invest in this?’. You need to clearly explain what new capability your innovation will provide that defence needs but does not currently have and what the benefits are from having it.

Where your innovation replaces or improves a current capability, you should clearly explain how performance would be improved. This needs to be backed up by credible scientific principles and you need to state how this claimed benefit will be measured, including the baseline from which your measurements begin.

Inventory tab

The first field under this tab is ‘Requirements - What functions will your innovation perform?’

Here you should fully explain all of the functions you believe your innovation will perform. Don’t leave out steps here that could result in assessors not fully understanding how your innovation will perform its function(s).

The second field under this tab is ‘Solution - How does your innovation work?’

Here you need to explain clearly what your innovative idea is all about. You should logically and progressively describe your innovation, including the underpinning scientific principles, so that it’s easy for assessors to follow.

You could attach diagrams or photos to explain how things work.

Include the development history of your idea here so that assessors get enough background to understand what development has happened to date.

The third field under this tab is ‘Critical Parameters - What factors are most critical to the success of your innovation?’

Here the assessors are looking for evidence that all the things you think you will need to make a success of your research project are likely to be available.

Include any significant barriers that might affect your proposed research and add information on how you might overcome or manage these. Do be open and honest here as this will help add credibility to your approach in the short term, and to the potential for exploitation in the long term.

The fourth field under this tab is ‘Performance Assessment - How will you assess the performance of your innovation?’

Here you should clearly explain what kind of experiments or tests you’ll carry out to show how your innovation works in line with your claims of performance.

Where a trial or demonstration, a material sample, a computer model etc is proposed, your proposal should say:

  • where the test(s) will be carried out
  • the conditions of the tests
  • how data will be gathered and the measures of performance you’ll use
  • the scientific principles that support the results and conclusions

Where possible, you should gather quantitative data through reliable measurements to produce scientifically robust evidence that supports your claimed benefit(s).

The fifth field under this tab is ‘Intellectual Capital - What IP is associated with your innovation?’

In this section you should tell the assessors what background intellectual property (IP) is involved with the development of your innovation.

If you don’t hold the rights to the background IP that you need to develop your innovation, you should use this section to explain to the assessors how you will gain access to it if it’s not already open source or publicly available.

This helps assessors understand the maturity of your innovation and the approach you intend to follow to develop it.

The sixth field under this tab is ‘Stakeholder Management - How will the defence community benefit from your innovation?’

You’ll have told us who you think will be the main defence users of your innovation, but in this field you should tell us who else you think might be involved. Are there any others who’ll benefit from your innovation?

Assessors want to know about your strategy for taking your idea to market and whether there might be potential for wider wealth creation through exploitation routes outside of defence.

You should also include who you think you might need to work with in future development activities beyond the proof-of-concept phase.

Supply tab

The first field under this tab is ‘Contract Scenario - In what business situation might your innovation be delivered?’

Assessors want to see in detail here the activities you’ll carry out during your research and how long you think the activities will take.

You should also include approximate costs and timescales for further work after the proof-of-concept project. Providing this information will help assessors understand what further development you think will be needed to exploit your innovation. This will help them to understand ts affordability and timeliness.

The second field under this tab is ‘Supply Organisation - Who do you think you need to work with to develop your innovation?’

Here you need to tell us who is going to be involved with the work in your planned approach.

It may be that you’re going to do all the work yourself, which is fine. However, if you intend to collaborate with other companies or academic organisations please tell the assessors here who you’re planning to work with and why. The need to work with others won’t be seen by assessors as a weakness. Collaborations can often strengthen a proposal.

Relying on MOD for significant technical input isn’t recommended as our resources are limited.

The third field under this tab is ‘Supply Capability - What functions do you require from the supply network?’

Here you can tell the assessors what resources and equipment you’ll need. We’re interested to know where you will source these things from if you don’t have them yourself. This is especially important if you’re proposing to work with hazardous materials.

We recommend that for proof-of-concept research, you don’t rely on the use of facilities or equipment provided by government. You should identify commercial alternatives and aim to use those. Include the cost and timescales for using these commercial alternatives within your proposal.

Commercial tab

There are 4 main areas under the commercial tab that you need to fill in by selecting table entries. These are:

  • entering resources
  • contracting terms
  • deliverables
  • stage payment schedule

There is no cap on the value of CDE proposals but the average value range is £40,000 to £80,000 for the proof-of-concept research, usually of 3 to 9 months duration. The total funding available for a funding competition will be on the competition page.

Under ‘Entering Resources’ we’re aware of a bug in published proposals that means costs are displayed in earlier financial years so you can ignore it if your costs appear to be in FY09/10 when you review your final proposal. We recommend that you’re specific in your ‘Description’ and ‘Unit Costs’ for all resource types. Ambiguities won’t help your proposal, particularly regarding bought-in items or subcontracts.

Requested funding must be completely VAT free. If VAT is incurred (eg in sub-contractor or bought-in goods costs), this can be claimed back when invoicing.

We understand that all businesses have overheads and that you may need to recover them through the work you carry out. When you enter your business overheads here, either add them as a clearly identified separate line items or state that your labour rates include them.

Under ‘Contracting Terms’, ‘Seed Corn Funding’ isn’t used by CDE as it’s for work below £30,000 and when it’s uncertain that the outcome will generate any significant IP. ‘Shared Funding’ is where a joint venture between you and MOD is being proposed. Here you should state the amount of funding required and the proportion that you will be contributing, which should be greater than or equal to the amount being requested from MOD.

The most common contract type by far used by CDE is ‘Def Con 705’. This is used where you expect to contribute less than MOD or you require full funding for your research. You can find a description of Def Con 705 in the Acquisition System Guidance. Under Def Con 705 all IP generated through the work done under the contract belongs to the contractor.

Use the ‘Justification for Choice’ field to add a short description to explain your choice. As most people select Def Con 705, you can put something like ‘Standard terms and conditions’ in here.

‘Percentage Profit’ should be reasonable and proportionate with the other rates included in your cost breakdown.

Under ‘Deliverables’ you should clearly identify each deliverable with an appropriate description. It’s useful if your deliverables have the same name as detailed in the ‘Performance Assessment’ field under the ‘Inventory’ tab. This helps assessors clearly see what is going to be delivered from each strand of your proposed work.

The ‘Deliverables’ section is part of the mandatory information required to accept your proposal. Without the deliverables being included here in the ‘Commercial’ tab, your proposal will be rejected and you’ll have to re-submit your idea by starting a new opportunity.

The final field in the proposal is the ‘Stage Payment Schedule’. MOD doesn’t pay in advance for work to be carried out. However, we do recognise that cash flow can be critical for small companies. If you think that waiting until you have finished your proof-of-concept research work won’t be possible, you can request stage payments. These must be linked to some form of deliverable, which could be as simple as an interim progress report highlighting the work done so far and results obtained to date.

For successful proposals, it’s likely to be around 2 to 3 months after the competition closes before commercial contracts between you and MOD are in place. This could be a bit longer for first-time contractors. So when putting together your work plans, please consider that this might impact on the start and finish dates of the proposed work.

Remember that attachments added only to the ‘Commercial’ tab won’t be seen by the technical assessors of your proposal, so anything vital in describing your innovative idea must be added to the ‘Military, ‘Inventory’ or ‘Supply’ tabs.

Centre for Defence Enterprise

Building R103
Fermi Avenue

Harwell Oxford
OX11 0QX

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Please email for the quickest response.