MADE Cymru’s Dr Akash Gupta shares his thoughts about R&D, common misconceptions and how organisations might already be doing R&D without knowing it.
What people think R&D is
Research and Development (R&D) is heavily associated with academia, complexity and difficult to comprehend concepts. Scientists apply the process of R&D to a broad spectrum of projects varying from fundamental questions about the universe, to everyday tasks. But, boring it is not. R&D is exciting, hands-on, game-changing, money-saving and at times lifesaving.
R&D happens all the time
Many people are not aware that we conduct R&D in our day-to-day life. From buying a smart phone, choosing between different brands of household items, planning a vacation, career, or investment opportunity. Every decision we make has some degree of qualitative and/or quantitative research associated with it.
How R&D can impact SMEs
When it comes to business, this trend has often been observed as a Gompertz function, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This function shows that growth is observed to be slowest at the start and end of a given time period. This, when looked at in conjunction with the performance of SMEs, shows that a slow growth in the beginning can be associated with extensive R&D, whereas the latter can be associated with minimal resource investment.
The reasons behind why businesses follow this trend is worth investigating and understanding.
The misconception of slow growth
SMEs tend to point the finger at issues such as lack of knowledge, time, resources, manpower and lack of capital leading to a growth plateau.
Keeping these trends in mind, it important to reiterate the fundamental reasons why R&D at any stage can play an important role.
R&D gives organisations a competitive edge
With the advancement in technology, the monopoly is slowly drifting from product to process. Any potential idea that we envision may have a version of it being actively developed or even applied in some part of the world. R&D can provide the opportunity for a company to retain the edge and survive a competitive market.
R&D encourages us to do things differently
Industrial revolutions have taught us that it’s not always about doing different things but doing things differently. A planned and annual investment in R&D provides knowledge and insight. It also provides identification and modification that can be applied in a current process resulting in an improved overall process efficiency or product quality.
R&D is about collaboration
Collaboration between entities, groups, enterprises, and organisations can often produce fruitful results – such as capturing an image of a black hole in 2019 or creating a vaccine for COVID-19. An up-to-date awareness of a particular sector’s recent developments can lead to finding partners, successful mergers and formation of conglomerates.
How can SMEs start R&D?
Hiring the right people, enhancing customer experience, establishing revenue sources, thinking ahead, being adaptable, utilising social media platforms and networking for the purpose of setting up an R&D pipeline can be overwhelming for any SME.
An alternate route is to seek out umbrella establishments that offer such a pipeline to help in mitigating capital risk and workload.
Sustainability, a product’s life cycle, carbon-footprint, and circular economy are all critical issues that both private and government funders are keen to be involved in. Improving the current quality of a product, taking a conservationist approach can provide a boost to the existing demand of the product while keeping the R&D costs.
Find out more
Dr Akash Gupta is a Senior Research Associate for MADE Cymru at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He works on R&D projects with manufacturers in Wales. This is a fully funded programme and there are a few weeks left for SMEs in Wales to sign up for a collaborative R&D project. Contact [email protected] for a chat with Akash or one of the team.
We really don’t want you to miss out on this opportunity.
MADE Cymru is a suite of programmes designed to navigate organisations through Industry 4.0 via collaborative research & development and upskilling. Part/Fully Funded by the European Social Fund/European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.