FAQs - Central Research Laboratory Skip to main content


I'd like to know more about CRL - what's the story?

CRL (Central Research Laboratory) is London’s first accelerator and coworking space for hardware entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. A place for entrepreneurial designers and engineers who want to create amazing products and grow innovative new businesses focused on hardware.

We provide workspace, prototyping kit, world-class mentoring and investment opportunities to help bridge the gap between prototypes and production.

We are a collaborative community of innovators, designers and inventors that share a commitment to making the world a better and more interesting place through the products we create.

Our hardware-focused accelerator programme for startups provides an unrivalled package of support to new businesses. Head to our accelerator page to read some of the programme’s success stories.  Alongside this, we also provide coworking space.

Why are you called Central Research Laboratory?

Our inspiration for creating CRL at The Old Vinyl Factory site in Hayes came from the history of this amazing place. At its peak, over 20,000 people worked for EMI and HMV in this part of London – in skilled jobs spanning design, technology, IP, investment and manufacturing. Part of that enterprise was the old Central Research Lab (CRL). CRL was effectively the R&D division of EMI. It was a collaborative innovation hub that spawned and commercialised inventions that changed the world; from stereo sound for home use to the first CAT Scanner and Airborne Radar. We want to recapture that spirit of innovation for the 21st Century.

Who are the strategic partners behind CRL?

In short, U+I, Brunel University London, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and ERDF: the European Regional Development Fund. 

CRL as a company is owned and managed by U+I. U+I is one of the country’s most innovative property companies. They design, develop and invest in land and property, but always recognise that their true role is as an agent for social, cultural and economic change. U+I is constantly striving to find innovative ways to build inspiring communities in the places in which it works and the CRL is an example of that commitment in action. The Old Vinyl Factory is one of U+I’s largest and most ambitious urban regeneration projects and it needed some big thinking to make it a success. To that end, creating the CRL has been about putting Hayes back on the map again – as a hotbed of innovation in a special part of West London. But U+I couldn’t do that alone. It needed world-class partners to inform the model and make it a reality…

That’s where Brunel University London comes in, along with the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Involved from day one, Brunel has helped to shape the vision for CRL. And perhaps most importantly, many of the teams in our previous cohorts have one or more founders who recently graduated from Brunel’s product design and engineering courses. 

More recently, ERDF (the European Regional Development Fund) has joined as a strategic funder of our activities, to help us support businesses even more and thereby to accelerate job creation.

Accelerator Programme

How long is the programme?

The programme lasts for 6 months in total, we have 5 months of structured content, the last month will be dedicated to your own work, promoting your crowdfunding campaigns or potentially looking to receive further investment.

What support will we receive?

We’ve brought together a fantastic team of experts in design, manufacturing and business to help support your businesses in the ways you’ll need. You can read more about them here. As well as that, the programme brings in experts and mentors in every field imaginable. We’re also flexible, as we realise hardware is a pretty far-reaching world, in those cases we can bring in experts specific to your project. 

Is accommodation provided as part of the programme?

We do not provide accommodation as part of the programme. We have great transport links to Paddington, and the local west London areas have reasonable rent rates. Our previous cohorts have lived all over London and further afield. We’re also right next to Heathrow if you fancied living in Barcelona and commuting from there – hey, it’s possible.

Is the £5,000 investment enough? Don't hardware businesses require a lot of capital to get started?

If you join the CRL programme with a proof of principle prototype, we don’t think you need to spend tens of thousands of pounds developing it.

In part, this is made possible because we cover the equipment and materials costs involved in developing prototypes as part of the programme, significantly increasing your capital efficiency. Our on-site team also reduce your reliance on expensive external consultants and contractors.Through our programme, we’ll get you concentrating on showing traction for your business concept via interaction with early adopters. Through our investment readiness programme, we’ll get your business in the right state to receive external investment. Additionally, we’ll guide you into running a lean crowdfunding campaign, allowing you to cover the costs of manufacturing and getting to your first customers. Whilst things are possible on a limited budget, additional funding allows you to get things done faster, so it’s always beneficial to have a reserve of capital prior to starting the programme, however, this isn’t a requirement.

I'd like to find out more about the £100k seed Investment?

As part of the accelerator programme, we offer the opportunity for our parent company to invest in companies we believe in and have shown traction, resilience and brilliance throughout the programme. During the programme, these teams are selected to pitch for further investment. It’s in our interest to help your company as much as possible. We know hardware’s an expensive game, sometimes you need additional funding to get you off to the right start.

Do we have to do a crowdfunding campaign?

Some projects just aren’t that well suited for crowdfunding, so we understand that not everyone will want to go down that route.  Running a successful campaign takes an incredible amount of work, and there are many ways to trip up (to name a few: not planning for upfront costs associated with manufacturing and lack of preparation with PR) but when done right, it gives a fantastic opportunity to get your product out to a large audience. Our programme has been designed so that your product is in the right state to go into manufacturing pending a successful campaign, not only that you’ll be well trained in the art of marketing and PR strategy, courtesy of our expert partner in the field, paved with gold.

What stage startup are you looking for?

We’re looking for startups who are either at an early stage or currently going through the process of design for manufacture. We look for a team with a clear vision and ideally a working prototype (or minimum viable product) that displays genuine innovation.

I have other commitments, so can I join the programme for less than 6 months?

In our experience, it’s difficult to make progress and serve two masters. The startups that we’ve seen thrive put 100% into their business, but not every situation is black and white. Get in touch and talk it through with Mandy@centralresearchlaboratory.com

What happens after we submit our application?

Once you have submitted your online application we will get back to you within two weeks and arrange a phone/skype/wechat call with your founders. If your application is successful, we will invite you to pitch in front of our panel, which consists of members of our core team and experts in the industry. We’ll be able to tell you if you’ve been accepted into the programme within a week after pitching – we will then have six weeks to complete any paperwork and allow to you organise accommodation/visas for your time in the accelerator.

Your criteria specifies 'a team of two or more' is this a requirement?

In our experience, the companies that progress quickly are a well-balanced team with all the bases covered. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a team comprising of co-founders only, just that you’re aware of any gaps in your company’s knowledge or skill base and are actively looking for additional members to complete the package. If you’re struggling to find the right people, we can help with that too: during the course of the programme, we often see teams grow by two or more people. If you’re still unsure, just drop us a line at apply@centralresearchlaboratory.com and we’d be happy to talk further!

Could you tell me a bit more about the 3% equity that is taken as part of your Accelerator programme?

The standard terms for taking part in the CRL Accelerator are for an option to take 3% equity in your business. This option is only exercised should your business gain sufficient funding and so will not be actioned in all cases. We should make clear that a portion of the support that we provide you is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and this is not connected with the 3% option.

Investment and Partnerships

I’m an investor, looking to finance high-growth startups. How can I get involved?

The nature of our programme is designed to de-risk the process of starting hardware businesses. We currently have some ongoing partnerships with investors and are keen to add more to our network. If you’re well suited to investing in digital products, keen to get involved with enthusiastic and talented teams and excited by the opportunity of high-growth, scalable companies, please get in touch with Mandy@centralresearchlaboratory.com