Research and Development (R&D) and technology innovation is rarely out of the news these days.
In the past year, global technology giant Apple has been driving R&D especially hard. Being one of the biggest companies in the world, Apple assuredly knows exactly what it is doing, so we thought we could learn a little from them as they lead the way in researching and developing cutting-edge communications technology.
First, a few observations:
- They put their heart, soul and wallet into R&D – In 2013, Apple’s investment in R&D grew by 32% over the financial year, reaching a record $4.5 billion – its highest ever spend in a single 12-month span.
- They continue to spend and invest in R&D – In 2014, Apple’s spending on R&D grew by another 35% to more than $6 billion over the financial year, setting a new record.
- They take their R&D presence one step further – In 2014, reports emerged that Apple is to open a research centre in Cambridge where they could employ up to 40 people solely dedicated to R&D.
So, what is it that Apple is doing right in R&D? And what can UK businesses do to replicate this success? Firstly, we need to clarify what R&D actually is. What does it mean to businesses in the UK? Does it present opportunities for businesses to grow and profit from? Is it purely science based?
What is R&D?
One high-level definition of R&D is ‘activities related to the enterprise of corporate or governmental innovation’. R&D is the process whereby basic and applied research is brought together in order to discover solutions to problems or to create new goods, products, knowledge and social benefits.
R&D extends to all industries and it is worthwhile keeping an eye on recent and historical contracts to identify where the main areas of R&D growth lie.
A quick search of Tracker’s contracts database for 2014 using the search terms ‘research and development’, ‘research & development’ and ‘R&D’ flagged up 520 contracts in the UK, 992 in Europe and 1595 globally. To really get the ins and outs of such data, see for yourself how Tracker’s Tender Alerts service brings current opportunities in R&D to life. In addition, our archive data can even trace back R&D investment to see how the sector is growing and identify emerging market trends.
- In 2011, Tracker published 376 UK, 692 European and 689 global R&D contracts.
- In 2012, Tracker published 600 UK, 1426 European and 2152 global R&D contracts.
- In 2013, Tracker published 926 UK, 1550 European and 1954 global R&D contracts.
Figure 1 R&D contracts published on Tracker
The continued interest in R&D across the globe is remarkable – it’s no wonder Apple has put so much money and time into the sector and that this investment is really paying off for the company.
Recent investment in R&D in the UK
In November 2014, the UK Government announced that it was making funding available to businesses in the UK and India to stimulate economic growth and bring societal benefits.
The funding is being made available to help UK and Indian businesses work together to address the following four challenges:
- cleantech energy
- affordable healthcare
- advanced manufacturing
- use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) in any of the above focus areas
The programme is open to UK and India-based businesses of all sizes and to UK and Indian research and academic organisations working in collaboration with business partners where appropriate.
This project, alongside funding, will help UK and Indian participants to build sustainable partnerships and develop technology services and products.
Apply for the programme today.
Importantly, when the new EU Procurement Directives were released in early 2014, R&D was offered greater protection, encouraging businesses to invest and derive the benefit.
One major change in the Directives is that R&D funding agreements are now covered. The new Directives specifically include agreements to fund R&D within its scope, as well as agreements for ‘joint’ R&D. This is a bonus as the previous Directives focused only on joint R&D.
To find out more about further changes within the EU Directives affecting R&D, we recommend this guide by Anderson and Company.
So new UK Government R&D funding highlights cleantech energy. But what is it?
Cleantech is an all-encompassing term used across the investment, technology and business sectors, and includes clean energy as well as environmental and sustainable services and products.
It refers to technology, services and products which generate high-quality commercial benefits to customers while addressing major environmental concerns.
Cleantech technologies include energy efficiency, energy storage, biofuels, renewable energy generation, water purification and management, advanced materials, waste water treatment, cleaner fossil fuel processes, pollution reduction and recycling.
Same with advanced manufacturing. What is meant by this descriptor?
Advanced manufacturing is where technology is used to improve products and/or processes. In other words, where the process of manufacturing is done in an innovative and forward-thinking way, the term ‘advanced’ is commonly used. With manufacturing and infrastructure industries looking to become more inventive and innovative, this is a sector that can benefit greatly from sustained R&D investment.
Tracker has been following the progress of the manufacturing sector in the UK, as well as advanced manufacturing, and we have noticed some major developments in the past few years. Manufacturing is an area of the economy that has seen uneven growth at times, but the sector has been steadily growing as of late. Market Intelligence is a great tool to follow the industry as it develops further.
What developments are we seeing in R&D at present?
Recently, we’ve seen impressive growth in the R&D sector. This makes it an incredibly exciting story to follow as R&D can be applied across almost all sectors of the economy, potentially boosting innovation and competitiveness within every business in the UK, and indeed worldwide.
It’s essential to keep up to speed with progress in R&D in your sector, as the pace of investment and innovation will only continue to grow over the next few years. Business is always about developing and expanding, and now is the ideal time for your business to benefit from advances in R&D.
To find out how Tracker can help, start your free trial today.