7 key advantages of R&D for small business

Research and development (R&D) isn't something only big corporations can do. Small businesses can leverage R&D to compete on and lead the market too.

If you have an innovative idea for a new product or service, here are seven ways R&D can help you bring it to life:

1. Unique selling point – R&D can help small businesses develop unique products and services. These don’t always have to be entirely new. R&D can drive product improvement or innovation within the existing business offering. Here are some tips on researching new product and service ideas.

2. Income – unique products and services coming out of successful R&D projects can bring financial benefits to business. Usually this is through generating new or enhanced income streams, but R&D can also attract potential new investors to your business. Read about equity finance and joint ventures and partnering.

3. Funding – doing R&D can have cost implications for small business. However, R&D can also present a number of opportunities for business to seek public-sector innovation, research and development grants or even EU funding for innovation.

4. Tax relief – businesses can claim R&D tax relief to reduce their company’s tax bill or, alternatively, choose to receive a tax credit instead by way of a cash sum paid by HM Revenue and Customs. Only qualifying R&D expenditure will be considered for tax relief purposes – see R&D Relief for Corporation Tax.

5. Competitive edge - through R&D, small businesses can develop advantage over their competitors and establish themselves as leaders in the market. Development of new products and services can also generate new intellectual property for your business which could further benefit you financially. Read about protecting intellectual property.

6. Collaboration – collaboration can be a key element of any R&D project, and is often crucial to achieving success. Collaboration can take place between your business and another enterprise, university or college. It allows for transfer of skills and knowledge, and access to facilities, expertise and potentially new ideas that would otherwise be out of reach to your business. See how to work with UK universities and colleges.

7. Reputation - engaging in R&D can help small business strengthen their brand and reputation. If you’re collaborating with a trusted, reputable partner or a strong scientific institution, the commercial success of resulting products and services can benefit from their involvement. Find out what makes for a successful brand - see branding – the key ingredients.

If you have an R&D project in mind, which is innovative, addresses a technical challenge and is likely to result in commercially viable products or services, you can speak to Invest Northern Ireland innovation advisers to see what support may be available. Call Invest NI Helpline on Tel 0800 181 44 22 or check out their new to R&D support.

You can also use our tool to get R&D ready.