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How to build an R&D department on a budget

The economic climate is harsh and for many companies employing an R&D department in-house is a tough call. So when every penny counts, how do you build the perfect R&D team without breaking the bank? Here we take a look.

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


10 minute read

So your company is looking to invest time and money in creating a sparkly new product, service or process. Maybe it’s taking something that already exists and now it’s time to improve it. Whatever innovation is about to take place, research and development will play a crucial role - which may well require an in-house research and development (R&D) department.

R&D means companies stand the best chance of remaining competitive in their market. Money will need to be spent on designing and testing, as well as in finding new ways of doing things. Although R&D departments tend to be separate from more outward looking sections such as sales and marketing, they’re actually closely related.

When many people think of research and development they often think of the pharmaceutical sector or large tech firms. But actually R&D is all around us - wherever there has been something newly created, or improvements made, R&D was probably in there somewhere.

“Innovation doesn’t have to be a brand-new invention; in fact, it very rarely is! It can be a novel way to use an existing service, process or product - even in a different industry - or to apply a new technology to improve what’s currently available.” - UK Business Angels Association.

What does an R&D department do?

An R&D department will have a huge hand in keeping a company competitive, keeping an eye on the market and supporting plans for growth through innovation. An R&D team worth its salt will also help to guide the business in strategic decision-making.

Basically, in order for a company to thrive it needs to constantly develop new products, services or processes, or be enhancing existing ones. An R&D department in some shape or form will facilitate this.

The problem is, the economic climate is harsh and for many companies employing an R&D department in-house is a tough call. So when every penny counts, how do you build the perfect R&D team without breaking the bank? Here we take a look.

1. Be clear on your company’s objectives (and communicate them)

Maybe your company plans to take on a new site, launch a new service or diversify its product range. Whatever its goals are, the R&D team needs to know so they can help make them happen.

Goals should be specific, otherwise money can easily be wasted with plans soon heading off in the wrong direction. Fuel your team’s creativity by getting them invested in the company’s overall mission.

2. Employ the best (most innovative) people for the job

Innovative, creative individuals come from all walks of life. Scientists and researchers may be essential ingredients in your new R&D departments, but they’re not the be all and end all. Often it’s staff who are earlier in their careers who are keen to try out new ideas and push limits. They’re also more likely to be free thinkers who aren’t so keen on strict production requirements. Frankly they tend to cost less to employ too.

3. Keep deadlines flexible

This one’s a bit of an anomaly as flexible deadlines aren’t always budget-friendly. But it’s an important one so we thought we’d mention it anyway.

The fact is, research, designing and testing new products and services takes time. So don’t be too strict with deadlines (within reason) as innovators need the time and space to, well, innovate. Tight deadlines can often lead to inferior products and an unhappy R&D team - not great, and potentially expensive in recruitment costs if people keep jumping ship.

4. Get the culture right

When building a strong R&D team, be smart with who you choose. It’s just as important to take on people who will fit into the company culture, and not just pick those who have the right skills and qualifications. After all, it’s easier to teach somebody a particular technical skill than it is to teach them how to be a team player. Also, a poor hire can be expensive in terms of training costs, pensions and any redundancy pay. So be careful who you employ - you really want them to fit in and stay.

5. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

Your new R&D department should be free to work closely with other businesses and academic institutions wherever possible (certain R&D grants may also be available to facilitate this). Networking with other researchers is essential in building scientific and technical knowledge (plus it’s a great way to ‘grow’ your team without the cost of actually taking on more staff).

Collaboration not only gives your business access to further expertise, but by pooling ideas and resources there’s the chance to save precious cash too

Ready to get started? Speak to Ireland’s leading R&D funding experts

With bases in both Ireland and the UK, Myriad Associates is a team of highly skilled R&D tax and funding experts with over a decade of experience in the field.

We’ll be pleased to offer any advice you may need when setting up your new R&D department, particularly if you’re on a budget, and can also look at the R&D work you’ve got planned to identify any opportunities for additional funding. This could be tax relief such as R&D Tax Credits for instance, where as much as 33% of eligible R&D expenditure can be reclaimed as a tax rebate or lump sum.

The fact is that innovative research and development work can be incredibly expensive, but the government has long encouraged cutting-edge projects via a number of supports. Working out which ones apply to your business and your project isn’t always easy though, and the application process itself is complex. However, we can help you gain the innovation funding you need - quickly, professionally and hassle-free.

Get in touch

To discuss anything we’ve addressed in this article, feel free to speak to our friendly R&D experts. Having been in business for so long, there’s very little our R&D specialist consultants haven’t heard before. This puts us in the best position to advise you, and we’re proud of our seven-star customer service.

“It’s good to work with a team who are dedicated to their field and knows the law, the claims process and pitfalls and who knows how to draft the tech reports at speed. I can't really complain about how the R&D claim was done. We’re very, very happy." - Conor Quaine, Head of Finance at CitySwift Ltd, Galway.

Call today on +353 1 566 2001 or send us a message and we'll get right back to you.

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