Innovation is the heart and soul of research and development. After all, it’s the very purpose of the R&D tax incentive scheme: financial support to incentivise businesses to pursue innovation and drive industry evolution.
With this in mind, R&D and new technologies are often a match made in heaven. That’s because, by introducing new technologies, you likely face a degree of ‘scientific uncertainty’ - the crux of a project’s eligibility.
Projects that embrace new technologies often abide by R&D tax relief criteria by:
- Aiming to innovate a new product, operation or service
- Aiming to innovate a modification to an existing product, operation or service
And remember: your R&D project doesn’t have to be successful to claim back credit. This should provide ample incentive for some businesses to consider how their future R&D projects can work alongside new technologies - but which technologies should you explore?
Today, we’re delving deeper into five technologies set to ‘come of age’ this decade, breaking into the mainstream by revolutionising industries, products and practices. From what they are to the impact they’re having, we’re exploring these technologies and how they could be the ultimate tools for embarking on the R&D of tomorrow today.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe the network of internet-connected objects, all of which collect and share data about their use and the environment around them.
You’ll most likely know these objects by their more common description: smart. These smart objects can vary dramatically in type, size and shape, including:
Through built-in electronics, sensors and interconnectivity, the Internet of Things enables a greater and more direct exchange of data to drive a range of results.
Smart homes are among the most familiar examples of this, with an estimated 175 million smart homes worldwide. Automated lights and smart metres aren’t the only day-to-day examples of IoT in action, though. Other examples include:
- Health monitoring through apps or watches
- Mobile tracking for deliveries/taxis
- Real-time updates on public transport
- Security cameras connected to smartphones
With IoT devices projected to reach as many as 30.9 billion units by 2025, it’s easy to see why the IoT is already being incorporated into R&D projects across various industries and sectors.
Further developments to this technology in the near future look set to accelerate these forecasts, too, such as through revolutionising the healthcare and automotive industry or optimising supply chains and introducing smart cities.
The application of the IoT is somewhat limitless, but, when it comes to the scope of your research and development, it’s most easily understood by breaking it down into the following categories:
- The ability to connect: the IoT transforms interactions between people and objects to enable consumers to better connect with products, and vice versa
- The ability to monitor: the IoT introduces a new way to observe and monitor, with hugely positive impacts on the healthcare industry and storage, shipping and supply chain management
- The ability to search: the IoT enables you to track smart devices to source data on location, status, condition and more
- The ability to manage: new data networks will allow far greater management efficiencies and bring objective assurance to decision making
- The ability to control: the IoT contributes to an improved level of remote control over resources and infrastructure
Artificial intelligence/machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are all the rage right now.
Machine learning is a form of data analytics technology that enables computer systems to learn automatically without having to be explicitly coded or programmed. In short, it’s the development of learning algorithms and building models to inform artificial intelligence.
It’s this artificial intelligence that then enables machines to perform tasks previously designated to humans, like speech and image recognition, for example.
Accelerating funding, research, education and technical development across virtually all sectors, AI and ML technologies are significantly enhancing the scope and capabilities of R&D across the board.
Primarily, this is because AI and innovation go hand in hand. AI enhances innovation processes within research and development by:
- Improving data analysis: with millions of data sets, whitepapers and more published every year, sourcing relevant information can be a tough task for researchers. For AI, on the other hand, it’s child’s play, sourcing extensive data from a single search
- Increasing efficiencies: AI and ML help to boost efficiencies across the board. Not only will they complete historically laborious research more effectively - they’ll also do this far more quickly, too. This means you can free up resources while simultaneously speeding up your practices - a win-win for internal efficiencies. Best of all, ML enables computers to teach themselves, meaning this efficiency will only grow as the AI evolves
- Assisting decision making: through the fast and precise sourcing and interpreting of information, AI can offer a wider scope of analysis to aid in important decision making that’s susceptible to human error
This makes machine learning and artificial intelligence integral to both internal and external research and development focuses, from the processes you operate within to the products you manufacture.
While virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri are most likely the first to spring to mind when you think of everyday AI innovations, the power of AI is already being felt way beyond the home, including:
- Medical diagnoses
- Electronic trading
- Customer services
It’s easy to see how and why ML and AI look set to become staples of research and development. With the power to optimise internal operations and external output across an almost infinite range of industries, look to embrace more machine-powered intelligence in your own R&D endeavours.
AI, ML and the IoT all rely on one thing in order to continuously evolve: cybersecurity.
This makes cybersecurity itself an integral technology to R&D, both as the subject of research and development and as a tool for future R&D endeavours.
Cybersecurity is built from a multi-layered digital security system that protects the usability, integrity and safety of a network and its data. Common components you’ll already be familiar with include:
- Anti-virus/anti-spyware software
- Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
As R&D spurs further innovation, our lives only become more and more dependent on technology. Businesses, authorities, governments, transport networks and utility companies (to name just a few) are already heavily dependent on computer systems, leaving them at greater risk to cyberattacks as a result. But the introduction of technologies such as automated cars and IoT medical devices - though still in their relative infancy right now - means people will soon be at risk, too.
The research and development of cybersecurity technologies holds two distinct advantages, then. Investing in the development of cybersecurity solutions presents a lucrative opportunity: make initial gains from the evolved product, then capitalise on the new opportunities for innovation that your technology presents.
We’re already seeing some of the major IT companies get ahead of the game here, with services such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services placing their cybersecurity focus on cloud-based and blockchain technologies. The decentralised nature of these approaches offers immediate protection to existing R&D activity, while simultaneously spurring opportunities for future innovation.
New technologies are, by definition, at the forefront of industry innovation. With this in mind, consider how your business can begin to incorporate these technologies into your own research and development to maximise the potential of every project.
And remember: any eligible spending will be subsidised by R&D tax credits, so be sure you're claiming the funding you deserve. For a helping hand along the way, get in touch with Lumo today.