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A thorough, well-considered research and development strategy is crucial if your business is to stay ahead of the competition. In this article we look at what an R&D strategy is and how to create one.
In order to implement a pin-sharp research and development strategy, you first need to be able to recognise R&D in your business. How do you know what R&D actually is?
Well, research and development basically refers to a process that allows a company to develop their industry knowledge. This typically might involve the creation of a brand new product, process or service from scratch, or by taking one that already exists and substantially improving it. However, the over-arching goal is ultimately to boost company profit.
The problem is that most people think of R&D as being about pharmaceutical companies coming up with the latest vaccines or a big technology firm launching a shiny new product. But the fact is that R&D occurs in pretty much every business, it’s just often mistaken for run-of-the-mill business operations. Even something like changing your product packaging or ingredients would count as R&D, or adding a new flavour to your product line.
In a nutshell, basic research is used to help the company achieve new knowledge about something without any preconceived idea about what it will do with it. It’s just a fact-finding mission. Conversely, applied research still means acquiring new knowledge, but there are reasons and a specific goal behind it.
Without a clear, realistic R&D strategy, how can your goals be effectively communicated to your colleagues? How would you know when your product lines need to be expanded, or when upgrades should take place?
An R&D strategy is so important because it lays out your company’s growth plans like a roadmap. Get it right and you’ll be able to see exactly where your business is going.
Basically so that you can build up your business, add to your portfolio and grow your operations. Whilst not an easy journey, it can be done. It’s simply about determining the strengths and weaknesses of your existing offerings, knowing where the limitations lie and having a plan to challenge them. And of course, R&D is ongoing so you need to regularly revisit and update your strategy too.
At this point, we’ve laid out some key questions to consider which will help form the basis of your R&D strategy.
What R&D projects have you currently got on, if any? Do you have enough resources to run more than one project simultaneously or will you need to complete them one at a time?
How do you plan to organise your R&D work, both organisationally and geographically? For example, are you likely to opt for a centralised or decentralised model? What external resources will you need and where?
What role will managers play in leading the R&D work? What will the timescales be and when will plans be reviewed? How much autonomy will you give your researchers and how will they meet any unexpected challenges?
Hiring the right people for your R&D project is essential. Although much of it may be automated, you’ll still need staff with the required set of skills and knowledge. So how do you plan to recruit and retain them? What technical experience and qualifications should they have?
The point is here that this is the kind of detail you need to get in to if your R&D strategy is going to work. Strategies that are vague or too general are unlikely to be much use long term.
You might find these steps helpful when it comes to applying your new strategy to your business.
R&D projects vary by their nature. Some are long and complex, requiring large numbers of researchers to work for months or years on end. Others are much smaller, with just one researcher needed for a few weeks. The important thing is you choose your R&D projects so that they match the resources and budget your company has. Projects should also offer maximum return on investment, and be balanced against an acceptable amount of risk.
Meticulously analyse whether it makes more sense to produce your own knowledge base or acquire existing work. R&D is often expensive, and sometimes the knowledge you need is already out there ready to be purchased externally. So why reinvent the wheel?
If your business is in a market that’s fairly slow growing, then building an internal R&D department often makes sense. However, for markets that grow more quickly you may find your competitors have run ahead of you so make sure you can be dynamic.
Why not take a look at our recent blog: 10 Top Tips For Setting Up An R&D Department.
It’s often a good idea to protect your company’s research through non-disclosure agreements or patents. Not only does this maintain your competitive edge, it also means that as the sole owner you can further justify your investment by reaping the rewards for years to come. However, if you don’t protect your research be careful; in theory there’s nothing to stop a competitor using it to make a cheap copy of your product.
The Irish government has long encouraged businesses to invest in R&D as a way to support the economy. It therefore offers a range of lucrative tax incentives and grants which can be worth tens of thousands of euros. With this in mind, we strongly recommend you find out more by taking a look at our R&D Tax Credits and R&D Grants pages.
If you would like to discuss anything in this article, then the R&D specialists at Myriad Associates will be pleased to answer your questions. Simply call our Dublin-based team on +353 1 566 2001 or use our contact page so we can get back to you.