Choosing an R&D Partner

Choosing an R&D Partner

Investing in R&D is a practical means of investing in innovation and, ultimately, your future. There is obviously the question of how much to invest in R&D, but also how to invest in it and choosing an R&D partner is integral to that.

Your chosen R&D partner will provide the right level of specialist support to your business, and should also align with your overall objectives.

Elmelin specialises in innovative and adaptable industrial insulation solutions, and we understand how the right R&D partner can make a critical difference to products and processes.

Image of people shaking hands for blog about choosing r&d partners by Elmelin

The UK’s Innovation Culture

The Government is very much behind promoting the UK as an innovation powerhouse. According to Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, while the UK has only 0.9% of the world’s population, it makes up 3.2% of the world’s R&D expenditure.

It has a strong research base, contributing to 10.9% of citations in global patents.

This bold R&D culture has practical benefits for UK-based businesses, attracting investment into the country, and supporting a dynamic, niche manufacturing sector.

London ranks highly on a global scale for startups, and in the regions there is plenty of innovative business activity.

Many see the future of industry in the UK as one of increased integration, where developing technologies, skills and entrepreneurial know-how all come together to create a groundswell of growth.

The innovation culture is fertile ground for businesses looking to differentiate themselves in the marketplace through technological advancement, producing new products and supporting visionary manufacturing processes.

R&D is the way in to this culture for many companies, and it comes with the special tax breaks and tax relief as incentives. A good R&D partner will help you maximise investment.

Should Your R&D Partner Be In-house?

The temptation for many companies is to keep things in-house, in the belief that this will be a more cost-managed solution. However, in the end, it may not be the most cost-effective.

There is the question of resources: if you have an existing R&D team in-house, is it sufficiently knowledgeable and equipped to make the kind of advances you are looking for.

Image of microscope for blog about choosing r&d partners by Elmelin

There is the risk that even if you can keep your R&D in-house, it will slow the pace of development because you are resource-poor, delaying the critical period when you bring a new product to market.

If this delay due to product development results in reduced profitability, then supposed cost savings of keeping R&D in-house will turn out to have not saved at all. In fact, it may end up being far more costly in the long-term.

Along with risking speed to market, another issue with in-house R&D is that many SMEs simply do not have the resources or expertise for it. As in other areas of business, sometimes it makes sense to outsource where specialisation is concerned.

What are the Benefits of Outsourcing Your R&D Partnership?

By outsourcing your R&D you can access the kind of expertise and resources you do not have. Even if you have an internal R&D resource, by outsourcing you can expand your resources, and enhance the capability of your own in-house team.

Outsourced R&D can be more cost-effective, and it can accelerate your speed to market, helping to give you a competitive advantage.

The most common kind of R&D is technology-based. While manufacturers may find there are technological resources they can exploit that are already in the marketplace, these will come at a price.

One of the principle advantages of harnessing innovation in business is that it can allow you to sidestep the whole issue of competing on price alone. However, attempting to buy-in to tech that has already been developed is more likely to pull you back into that race, with other companies chasing the same technology for the same reasons.

There is also the question of whether you can then own the technology you apply. Having a valid patent will give you the time to maximise your sales and profits, but you are only likely to gain this by commissioning your own R&D for your specific purposes.

If you outsource your R&D then, it should be part of an overall strategy, for which you require a strategic alliance.

Strategic Alliances in R&D

Working with an R&D partner is a strategic alliance. As such, making the right partner choice is critical. This will depend, in part, on what kind of technological strategy your business is developing.

Image of man writing notes next to laptop for blog about choosing r&d partners by Elmelin

This strategy is normally either proactive or defensive. Defensive technological strategies arise where businesses are looking to protect their market share through product development or enhancement. Proactive technological strategies are more about bringing new products to market, or developing innovative manufacturing processes.

Ultimately, choosing an R&D partner in a strategic alliance means understanding how their expertise and capability fits in with your strategic business goals.

Capabilities might include expertise across a number of industries, or specialisation in specific sectors. Another vital aspect is prototyping, and whether your R&D partner can add more value through innovation by testing it in practical environments.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. You must be able to trust your R&D partner, in both their capabilities and how they respond to and work with you. Without this essential alignment, you will not have an effective strategic alliance.

Discover More About Elmelin

We work with a wide variety of companies across a broad spectrum of sectors and industries. If you are looking to innovate to grow your business and compete more effectively, please phone us now on +44 20 8520 2248,  email, or complete our online enquiry form. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.