The Government wants SMEs to grow, do you have R&D qualifying costs?

The Government wants SMEs to grow, do you have R&D qualifying costs?

It is hard to believe but it’s true, the Government has a vested interest in your business growing and is giving money in the form of R&D Tax Credits against R&D qualifying costs. I’ve helped businesses understand and maximise their use of these schemes if you want to get in touch drop me a line.

If you grow your business then the Government gets great benefit and wants you to do more of the same because:

  • The jobs you create employ people
  • More money is pumped into the UK economy from the profit your products or services generate
  • Your ideas, improvements and creativity drive increased innovation and lead to better products and services
  • Better products and services keep the UK relevant on the World stage

Is this a real thing?

Well, between 2000, when the R&D tax credit schemes were launched, and 2014-15, over 141,000 claims have been made and almost £14.0 billion in tax relief claimed against R&D qualifying costs.

  • By the end of 2014-15, 39,360 different companies had made claims under the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) scheme.
  • The total amount of R&D support claimed rose to £2.45bn in 2014-15 – an increase of £675m (38%) from the previous year.

That’s a lot of money being handed out to SMEs just like yours across the UK for innovative work to be undertaken.

Isn’t it only London that gets this money? Is my Business Eligible?

It is true to say that the majority of the claims have gone to London and the East.

R&D claims and the amount claimed continue to be concentrated among companies with a registered office in London, the South East or the East of England (47% of all claims and 63% of the total amount claimed).

But it’s not a scheme problem, it mainly because not enough SMEs know that this money is available.

Also, they are confused as to what constitutes eligible R&D expenses and therefore do not even attempt a claim as they don’t think they are eligible.

How do SMEs benefit?

The most common way for SMEs to claim R&D tax credits was by a deduction from corporation tax (CT) liability, with 10,935 claims made this way for 2014-15, compared to 3,485 claims made for a payable credit.

A cash sum is payable although at a lower rate for a loss-making company (14.5% rather than the full 20%), payable credits are claimed by loss-making companies which have no CT liability against which to set the deduction.

Some Businesses use “Combination” claims to offset Corporation Tax

In some cases, a SME can first use its R&D tax credit to reduce its tax bill to zero, and then take the rest as a cash payment.

In other cases, a SME with no tax bill might choose to take some or none of its R&D tax credit as cash, with the remainder being carried forward to future years to offset against corporation tax, these are referred to as “combination claims”.

SMEs doing work for Larger Companies can claim

An SME claiming will get a higher rate of relief than a large company claiming.

However, SMEs working for large companies as sub-contractors or receiving related subsidies can claim under the large company or RDEC scheme.

In 2014-15, SMEs received £70m in support from either the RDEC or Large company scheme.

Which Sectors are making claims?

The figures show a concentration of claims in the ‘Manufacturing’ (30%), ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical’ (20%) and ‘Information and Communication’ (25%) sectors

Could my company be eligible for R&D Tax Credits or R&D Expenditure Credit (RDEC)

If your business meets the following:

  • Has less than 500 employees
  • An annual turnover that does exceed €100 million
  • A balance sheet that is lower than €86 million

Then you would be classed as an SME and eligible for these benefits. A common question is “how much can my business claim?”.

What are eligible R&D qualifying costs?

HMRCs requirements are purposefully broad here for R&D qualifying costs.

If your company is taking a risk and tackling uncertainties (successfully or not) then that activity is likely eligible for relief.

If your company is:

  • Creating new products, processes or services
  • Changing or modifying existing products processes or services

If you’re not sure if what you’re doing is possible either technologically (which doesn’t just mean IT and electronics) or scientifically (okay this is a bit more specific), then you are tackling uncertainty and qualifying for R&D Tax Credits.

You don’t have to have been successful, all the thinking, designing, planning, preparing, prototyping, building, testing, breaking and fixing are activities and time expended that is a valid cost in innovating and R&D.

The materials you’ve used, the person hours you’ve burned, the sub-contractors or suppliers used, software and training you’ve needed and the space used in this endeavour are valid expenses and R&D qualifying costs.

Next Steps and the two year window

If this sounds like your business or project then you could be missing out on a payout.
HMRC allows you to retrospectively claim for the previous two years, so if you’ve recently undertaken work that qualifies then you could be entitled R&D Tax Credits.

Get in touch by email or call Richard on 07929 206 504 and I’ll be happy to help.

If you learned from this article then you might like to read R&D Tax Credits – Are you missing out? by Trevor Shields.



Grants – 50,000 to 2,5m euro funded at 70%

What support is available?

The dedicated SME instrument’s supports close-to-market activities, with the aim to give a strong boost to breakthrough innovation. Highly innovative SMEs with a clear commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation are the prime target.

The SME Instrument offers small and medium-sized businesses the following:

  • Business innovation grants for feasibility assessment purposes (optional phase I): EUR 50,000 (lump sum) per project (70% of total cost of the project);
  • Business innovation grants for innovation development & demonstration purposes (possible phase II): an amount in the indicative range of EUR 500,000 and 2,5 million (70% of total cost of the project as a general rule);
  • Free-of-charge business coaching (optional) in order to support and enhance the firm’s innovation capacity and help align the project to strategic business needs;
  • Access to a wide range of innovation support services and facilitated access to risk finance, to facilitate the commercial exploitation of the innovation.

Phased Support

Feasibility assessment (phase 1) – optional

Funding is available for: exploring and assessing the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a breakthrough innovation that a company wants to exploit and commercialize.

Activities funded could be: risk assessment, design or market studies, intellectual property exploration; the ultimate goal is to put a new product, service or process in the market, possibly through an innovative application of existing technologies, methodologies, or business processes.

The project should be aligned to the business strategy, helping internal growth or targeting a transnational business opportunity.

Amount of funding: lump sum of €50,000 (per project, not per participating business).

Duration: typically around 6 months

Outcome: The outcome of a phase 1 project is a feasibility study (technical and commercial), including a business plan.

Should the conclusion of the study be that the innovative concept has the potential to be developed to the level of investment readiness/market maturity, but requires additional funding in view of commercialisation, the SME can apply for Phase 2 support.

Innovation project (phase 2)

Funding is available for: innovation projects underpinned by a sound and strategic business plan (potentially elaborated and partially funded through phase 1 of the SME Instrument).

Activities funded in phase 2 can be of several types: prototyping, miniaturisation, scaling-up, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, validation for market replication, including other activities aimed at bringing innovation to investment readiness and maturity for market take-up.

Amount of funding: in the indicative range of €500,000 – € 2.5 million or more (covering up to 70% of eligible costs, or in exceptional, specific cases up to 100%).

Duration: typically around 1 to 2 years


  • a new product, process or service that is ready to face market competition;
  • a business innovation plan incorporating a detailed commercialisation strategy and a financing plan in view of market launch (e.g. on how to attract private investors, if applicable).

Commercialisation (phase 3)

With the view of facilitating the commercial exploitation of the innovation activities resulting from phase 1 or phase 2, specific activities will be proposed. These can include support for further developing investment readiness, linking with private investors and customers through brokerage activities, assistance in applying for further EU risk finance, and a range of other innovation support activities and services offered via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).


Optional Innovation and Business Development Coaching is offered in parallel throughout phases 1 and 2 to help SMEs:

  •  enhance the company’s innovation capacity
  •  align the project to the identified business development strategy
  •  develop the commercial/economic impact and long term sustainability.

Coaching is provided by experienced business coaches, selected through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

To find more information and apply click HERE

Thanks for reading

Travis Paxton


Launch Of The 2016 Amazon Growing Business Awards

Launch Of The 2016 Amazon Growing Business Awards

The Growing Business Awards (GBAs) is an independent awards programme run in association with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The 2016 awards are sponsored by Amazon.

The awards celebrate the achievements of the UK’s innovative high-growth businesses. However, it is not just well-established companies that the GBA honours; the awards welcome applications from new, innovative businesses.

The 2016 categories open to entries are as follows:

  • Growing Business of the Year: Larger Company (Turnover £50m+)
  • Growing Business of the Year: Mid-sized Company (Turnover £25m-£50m)
  • Growing Business of the Year: Smaller Company (Turnover less than £25m)
  • B2B Business of the Year
  • Consumer Business of the Year
  • Digital Business of the Year
  • Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Export Champion of the Year
  • Innovator of the Year
  • Franchisee of the Year
  • Micro Business of the Year
  • Rural Business of the Year
  • The Triumph over Adversity Award
  • Young Company of the Year
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Employer of the Year (not open for self-nominations)

Category winners will be presented with an award and benefit from the publicity, media promotion and brand exposure associated with the event.

All Growing Business Awards winners receive automatic membership of the CBI, the UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, providing a voice for employers at a national and international level.

All UK-based high-growth and entrepreneurial companies, regardless of size or stage of operations, may enter the awards.

2016 awards ceremony date and venue: 30 November 2016 at the Brewery, London.

The deadline for entries to the 2016 round of awards is 23 September 2016.


Thanks for reading.

Stephen Paxton




WBS – To What Level?

WBS – To What Level?

Here is an approach through questioning I suggest to help a project to start to construct a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) to the right level of detail, quickly understand the risks against it and start to understand the resources to be applied.

Determining the Appropriate WBS level of detail is vital, it helps you establish correct level of detail to help you monitor and control your project(s) so you really understand “whats going on”

Should the WBS be decomposed further or are you at the correct level?

Questions for consideration:

  • Is there a need to improve the accuracy of the cost and duration, estimates of the WBS element?
  • Is more than one individual or group responsible for the WBS element? While there may be a variety of resources assigned to a WBS element, there should be one individual assigned overall responsibility for the deliverable created during the completion of the WBS element.
  • Does the WBS elements content include more than one type of work process or more than one deliverable?
  • Is there a need to precisely know the timing of work processes internal to the WBS element?
  • Is there a need to separately define the cost of work processes or deliverables internal to the WBS element?
  • Are their dependencies between deliverables within a WBS element to another WBS element?
  • Are there significant time gaps in the execution of the work processes internal to the WBS element?
  • Do resource requirements change over time within a WBS element?
  • Do prerequisites differ among internal deliverables within the WBS element?
  • Are clear, objective criteria missing for measuring progress for the WBS element?
  • Are there acceptance criteria applicable before the completion of the entire WBS element?
  • Are there specific risks that require focused attention to a portion of the WBS element?
  • Can a portion of the work to be performed within the WBS element be scheduled as a unit?

The Relationship between Project Risk and the WBS

The following questions should be addressed for each WBS element when considering project risk:

  • Are the deliverables completely and clearly defined?
  • Will the quality of the work be evaluated through efforts such as testing and inspection?
  • What is the likelihood of change?
  • Is the technology changing faster than the project can be accomplishes?
  • Have manpower, facilities capability, availability of internal resources, and potential suppliers been checked?
  • Is extensive subcontracting expected?
  • Is management committed to the project and will they provide the support needed?
  • Are requirements defined and approved?
  • Has a formal change process been defined and implemented?
  • Have metrics been defined for how the deliverables will be measured?
  • Have resource requirements been identified for development of the project deliverables?
  • Have other risks been identified, including stakeholder buy-in, public relations, management approval, team understanding, and project opposition?
  • Has a communication plan (internal and external) been defined and implemented
  • Are third-party dependencies understood and monitored for change?
  • Have alternate suppliers of required products, supplies, or expertise been identified?

Resource Planning and Management

In order to prepare for adequate resource planning against the WBS, consider the following when examining the WBS level of detail:

  • Is all the work planned to a degree of detail necessary to make and keep commitments?
  • Is they’re an ability to establish and mange individual work assignments with the reporting structure indicated by this WBS?
  • Can work assignments be established from a progressive expansion of the WBS?
  • How will work generally be assigned and controlled?
  • Will it be possible to reconcile individual work assignments to the formal scheduling system?
  • How will budgets be established?
  • Will it be possible to relate the budget to the proposed work assignments?
  • Is the level of detail in the WBS appropriate for effective planning and control?
  • Is the work defined by the WBS grouped in a logical manner?
  • Is more than one organisation involved (indicating the need to validate the WBS with others before doing detailed resource planning)?
  • How will the status of work in progress be determined?

If I can offer and assistance in this area then please feel free to ask.

Thanks for reading.


Build Your Leadership Confidence

Build Your Leadership Confidence

As a leader it’s not always easy to understand what makes you a good leader or have the confidence to do the things you know you should, how would you rate your leadership confidence?

  • I wish I had some
  • I am okay, but would like to be more confident
  • I am in total control!

While you maybe are quite capable, do you seem unable to achieve all that you desire because of a lack of the very necessary attribute of confidence?

Here are a few tips that can elevate your confidence and turn you into the CONFIDENT LEADER you are meant to be.

  1. Increase your competence.You can do this by reading and learning everything you can get your hands on that is relevant to your industry or specialty. Years ago when in university while researching for a masters in project management I learned that if I read just one hour a day about something related to my specific are of interest, I would very soon become an expert in this area. I cannot tell you how important this advice was for me. Reading increases one’s knowledge, knowledge increases one’s competence; and competence increases one’s confidence! Great authors like Robins, Covey, Cranfield and the list goes on to support this – put this into action and it really does work.
  2. Teach what you learn.Find someone who is interested or needs to know what you have just learned. It is a fact that when you teach what you have learned with 24-48 hours you retain significantly more of what you have read over the long-term (Find out more in the great read – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey). Find a way or make a way to teach what you learn as soon as possible. You won’t believe the difference it will make to you and how it will increase your confidence level.
  3. Find opportunities to speak in public.Maybe you aren’t quite ready for the big stage, but you do have opportunities to sit on boards or committees. Take these opportunities whenever you can, but don’t just sit there. Speak up when you have something relevant to offer. Start by asking questions, and then move into offering solutions (Principle 5, first seek to understand before being understood, Covey). You will soon become a most valuable member of the group; you will gain respect from other members and increase your leadership confidence!
  4. Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development with over 300,000 members worldwide. This membership will not only help you become a good public speaker, it will train you to have confidence to speak about just about any topic quickly and effectively. The Toastmaster exercises will help you become “quick on your feet!” You will also build up your confidence in a way that you cannot yet imagine. Just do it!
  5. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.Understand that everyone has a comfort zone. The only difference between you and a highly recognised leader – someone you want to emulate – is the broadness of the comfort zone. Confident Leaders are forever growing and expanding their skills and knowledge.

Become the person who is always on the “grow.” Read daily, Teach what you learn quickly. Speak in public and step out of your comfort zone. Increase your competence, improve your confidence and elevate the impact you have on others.

I work with innovators, entrepreneurs, business executives, leaders and emerging leaders. Most of my clients are looking for ways to improve both productivity and their bottom line. I help businesses increase profits by moving the comfort zones in a supportive manner, expanding the possibilities available to clients and improving understanding, easily and effectively. My strategies have a significant impact on redirecting the focus of organisations toward positive outcomes rather than negative expectations.

Thanks for reading.


Are you REALLY in control?

Are you REALLY in control?

Rarely do projects, programmes or portfolios go wrong overnight, but rather they tend to gradually go off plan and bleed time through inadequate planning and poor communication!

We find that causes are rooted in uncertain or ill-defined requirements, delays in clearing burning issues which, in turn, forces work to be revisited or introduces more changes. Rework, we suggest, is caused by delayed decision making or lack of understanding on how the project, programme or portfolio of work is connected to your business, your people and the needs of your clients.  This is a scenario that occurs all too often, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

The tools for driving out uncertainty, and for providing a platform for clear decision making are well understood in the project management community, but rarely are they connected in a closed loop system to help stop information and communications getting lost or misunderstood.   At PRODDIO we find that connecting three core disciplines together drives better certainty into the challenge ahead and provides a model that produces data for clear decision making against a range of options.

We call the model the Business or Bermuda Triangle, where quality, time and costs are lost! However, this triangle provides you with the data to understand where your next move or adjustment needs to be made and the probable resulting impacts on outcomes and benefits.




We know what we want/need to achieve (to varying degrees either through a contract or business plan), we need to understand how this change is going to impact its target destination and environment, and we must understand the problems and uncertainties in making this change happen.

If we can manage these fundamentals, very little else is left to chance, as we have a collective understanding across the team and client while constantly testing assumptions and closing out issues.  Below is a brief on these three tools or structures that, when used at the right level of complexity, will drive out uncertainty and provide clarity for timely decision making.


Let’s jump into a little more detail behind the P3-TBT Model


Bermuda on ownRTM – (Requirements Trace Management)

Capture all the requirements from the Vision, Business Plan, supporting Business Cases, Legislation and Regulation including related Contracts and the wider Stakeholder Community views (The “System” in which we will really operate), especially the views of those stakeholders who can have a “negative” or “positive” impact on a project’s outcome (this has to include all implied requirements).

Then establish what the “Minimum Conditions of Satisfaction” or Success Criteria are against the requirements. By understanding this collective environment or system we can start to understand what is required and therefore start driving out “uncertainty” iteratively by making it explicit and continuously improving confidence in delivery and required outcomes.


Bermuda on ownCPIM – (Critical Project Interface Management)

Capture all the interfaces that are dependent and interdependent on each other’s performance.  Understand the relative criticality to each other and the overall programme’s success.  If any of the interfaces fail, then a number of requirements will be suboptimal or will not get delivered.

All critical interfaces have an assigned person responsible to ensure expectations are realised between projects and the wider environment.  A critical interface is one that, if not met, may hinder or not deliver one or more of the programme key requirements and therefore not deliver the outcome required


Bermuda on ownRICE – (Risk, Issue, Cause and Effects Management)

We believe that if you only capture the risk and manage this, then you are really not managing the uncertainty to the programme effectively and, inevitably, risks will keep resurrecting themselves in differing guises.   This is because the cause of the risk still remains; therefore risks will keep proliferating until this is treated, especially in programmes spanning a number of years.


We actively identify the causes of risk and evaluate the possible effects to fully understand what actions are really required to reduce the risk to the portfolio/programme or project.

Our core objective is to eliminate the cause of risk before they are possible risks, in doing so we systematically reduce the risk/uncertainty and “risks”.  This approach systematically reduces rework so management can focus on delivery.

When issues are identified we turn these into “requirements” to ensure management attention is focused on these too, and these are addressed depending on their prioritisation and possible effects on the project or programme – this, we argue is a managed risk approach.


Thanks for reading.