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10 Top Tips For Setting Up An R&D Department

Here we offer our 10 top tips for setting up an effective, cohesive R&D department in your company.

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

What makes forming an R&D department successful?

A research and development team that is well resourced, skilled and effective is vital to any company (particularly larger ones) that are looking to grow. Such a department will produce creative new ideas, innovative designs and revenue-generating products, methods and services. Yet building your team incorporates a broad mix of diverse elements, requiring managers to instil a culture that strives for innovation on every level.

R&D departments themselves don’t have to be big or expensive; they simply require innovative leadership. Here we give a quick rundown of our 10 top tips in setting up and growing a healthy, efficient R&D department in your company.

1. Put together a good mix of talent and skills

Innovative ideas can come from any member of the team, from the most junior to the most senior. Whilst it’s likely that those with the most advanced scientific and technological ideas are likely to come from science or techy backgrounds, it’s important to recognise that an abundance of qualifications doesn’t automatically make someone more creative.

An innovative nature can often be simply down to personality and experience, which is why having a diverse R&D department is important. Innovators tend to relish the chance to experiment, to push limits, ask questions and think outside the box. Diversity itself can mean having a mixture of ages, skills, experience, backgrounds, genders and ethnicities. It’s the ideal way to keep ideas flowing and to have a range of different viewpoints.

2. Have clearly defined goals

Often, R&D and product creation are dictated from the top. But how is your new R&D department meant to know the company’s innovative goals if you don’t tell them?

With this in mind, decide on individual project aims and communicate them effectively. Also make sure metrics are set up so that success is measurable.

3. Give your team autonomy

Creativity is about feeling free to explore and experiment. The problem is that corporate structures are often fixed and deeply ingrained, and don’t always lend themselves to innovative thinking. Mistakes may be considered costly, or job threatening which isn’t exactly conducive to pushing creative boundaries.

However, in order for your R&D department to be successful the team needs to have a good degree of autonomy. Team members should feel trusted to test out ideas with no fear of reprisals.

4. Understand that mistakes are part of the R&D process

Scientific and technological advances can only be made through trial and error. If researchers are too frightened of making a mistake, they’ll be far less willing to try their more outlandish ideas that might just be the key to success. Acknowledge mistakes as part of the process.

5. Set a budget

It is vitally important to keep track of costs so that you understand your budget and, later, your profit margins (and if you claim R&D Tax Credits). You’ll also need to consider how much customers may be happy to pay once your development is finished.

Make sure your budget is flexible so that it can cope with anything unexpected. Don’t forget too that a budget which is too small or too restrictive can again stifle creativity.

A project manager will need to be assigned as well, so that they can oversee the budget and keep it on track. He/she will also keep the team focused on the end goal and can monitor progress to make sure everything is within budget parameters.

6. Have regular planning sessions and catch-up meetings

For a culture of R&D to flourish in your company, you have to set aside time so it can happen. This means having regular brainstorming sessions and catch-up meetings to discuss research and development opportunities and ideas. These sessions can also improve general team communication and cohesion.

7. Make sure deadlines are flexible

R&D research takes time and shouldn’t be rushed. Whilst it’s a good idea to have approximate timescales built into your project plans, flexibility is still important. Once work has begun, keep the lines of communication open so that researchers can let you know if they need more time to complete something, or even if the project is actually possible.

Remember too that R&D timing varies hugely between industries. For example, pharmaceutical development can easily take 5 to 10 years, whilst building new software can take just months. Hasty deadlines and too much pressure are the enemy of high quality product design.

8. Encourage general business awareness

Innovators and researchers are often quite siloed. This is simply because technical people tend to fixate on the development process up close, rather than what's best for the business and customers. This is why one of the main goals of any R&D department is to build a culture of business awareness more generally so that work can be kept in context.

9. Allow R&D to occur naturally by promoting learning

R&D is about learning new things and moving the business forward. A culture of learning and regular training opportunities gives staff the chance to apply their new-found knowledge to your business different creative ways. An appetite to learn is what innovation is all about!

10. Claim R&D funding to support your department's growth

Companies in the Republic of Ireland that have invested in growth and innovation are likely to qualify for R&D Tax Credits. The scheme is a government tax incentive devised to help with the financial costs of R&D work, and is available to any Irish company in any industry. Although there is a broad spectrum of projects and costs that are eligible for R&D Tax Credits, the application process itself requires a certain amount of expert R&D knowledge and is inherently complex. It’s not just a case of submitting your figures, but of justifying to Revenue why your costs should attract the benefit. This is where we step in. Myriad Associates is an experienced, specialist team of R&D accountants and consultants that deal exclusively with this area of tax. From our offices in Dublin (and in the UK) we have assisted numerous companies in making successful, optimised R&D Tax Credit claims over the last two decades. It’s money that businesses welcome, particularly during these unprecedented times.

Get in touch today

If you would like to discuss anything we’ve mentioned in this article, or about R&D funding options for companies across Ireland, simple use our contact form or call us on +353 1 566 2001. We’re working remotely during this time and will be pleased to assist you.

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