Specialist R&D Tax & Grant Funding Advisors

How UK Businesses can Identify Projects Eligible for R&D Tax Relief

Lauren Olson

Technical Analyst Manager


R&D tax relief isn’t limited to companies doing work in laboratories. In fact, almost any company in any industry is eligible for R&D tax credits, so long as the business is undertaking development activities to seek to achieve an advancement in science or technology.

Many businesses are doing this in their day-to-day work, from software development and engineering companies to firms working in food production.

How manufacturing and software companies can claim R&D tax credits for the development of new products

Most companies working in manufacturing or software development will be undertaking eligible qualifying activities. If the technical lead of a project (the R&D manager, lead engineer, or lead developer) is struggling to overcome the project’s technical challenges, then it will almost certainly qualify for R&D tax credits.

What type of software projects qualify for R&D tax credits?

Common examples of software development projects that may qualify for R&D tax relief include:

  • state-of-the-art software for new projects, or new functionality for existing R&D projects;
  • tools to extend the functionality of application software programs or of an operating system;
  • extensions to database software, programming languages, or operating systems;
  • software development tools, such as tools to port data across platforms, tools for image processing or character recognition;
  • novel data management techniques, such as new object representations and new data structures;
  • innovative methods of capturing, transmitting, manipulating, and protecting data;
  • software to run new computer hardware;
  • software to run on devices with pre-installed operating systems, such as handheld GPS, mobile phones, and tablets; or,
  • means of integrating hardware and software platforms.

What type of manufacturing and engineering projects qualify for R&D tax credits?

Common examples of product and process development projects that may qualify for R&D tax relief include:

  • innovative product development using computer aided design tools;
  • development of second generation or improved products;
  • tooling and equipment fixture design and development;
  • developing unique computer numerical control programs;
  • designing innovative programmable logic controllers;
  • designing innovative manufacturing equipment;
  • prototyping and three-dimensional solid modelling;
  • designing and developing cost-effective and innovative operational processes;
  • integrating new materials to improve product performance and manufacturing processes;

R&D tax credit claim opportunities available across other industries

Many businesses don’t realize that they qualify for R&D tax credits or that they are not claiming their full entitlement. The R&D tax relief scheme has been in existence for over 15 years and nearly £2bn per annum is currently being claimed. On average SMEs are claiming £46,000 each per year.

What activities can be included in an R&D tax credits claims?

The following activities would be considered eligible for R&D tax credits:

  • defining technical objectives;
  • identifying uncertainties;
  • feasibility studies;
  • reviewing new and competing technologies;
  • analyzing, designing and developing the technology;

In addition, certain indirect support activities may qualify for R&D tax relief, such as:

  • administration, finance, and personnel services specifically required to support R&D activities; and,
  • training to support R&D.

Is your business eligible for the SME or large company scheme?

  • For a company to be regarded as an SME it must have a group headcount of below 500 staff and meet at least one of the following: a turnover of below €100 million or gross assets of less than €86 million. A large company is any company that exceeds the SME thresholds.
  • From 1 April 2015, the relief SMEs can receive has increased to 230% on their qualifying R&D costs. Loss-making companies can, in certain circumstances, surrender their losses in return for a payable tax credit.

R&D tax credit claims made by industry sector

HMRC’s are for the 2014-15 financial year. Once again, there was an overall increase in the number of tax relief claims submitted, as well as in the overall total amount of relief claimed.

Although there has been a continuing increase in the number and value of R&D tax credit claims, there are still thousands of companies – especially SMEs – that aren’t claiming what they’re entitled to. If your company is doing ground-breaking, innovative work in any industry, it’s very likely that you qualify for R&D tax credits, and there’s no better time to make your first claim. You can only make R&D tax claims going back 2 accounting years, so if you don’t make the claims now, you’ll be missing out.

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