Specialist R&D Tax & Grant Funding Advisors

pharmaceutical industry benefit R&D tax relief

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


When it comes to research and development, the pharmaceutical industry is a massive player. Globally, vast sums of money are invested each year for everything from drug development to testing and packaging - all of which can attract a claim for.

Although drug development is an obvious R&D avenue to most companies, many still don’t realise that simply adapting or changing a manufacturing process for a drug is also likely to be eligible for R&D Tax Credits too. Even the testing of new methodologies and techniques could mean a company can claim, even if it has had no hand in the drug development itself. Essentially, any company that develops cost-effective, innovative ways to produce drugs, equipment, packaging or specialist testing is also likely to qualify for the relief.

There’s a huge number of areas within this industry where R&D comes into play, but here we’ve selected just a few of them to consider.

What qualifies as R&D in the pharmaceuticals supply chain?

R&D occurs when the aim of a project is to make a technological or scientific advancement by solving a specific technological or scientific uncertainty. Importantly, the work needs to push the boundaries of what is already known or accepted.

The modern pharmaceutical market requires drugs to be in the hands of patients faster and more cheaply than ever before, but with regulatory requirements still being met. It’s a constant drive to balance speed and cost with high drug quality.

Developing or adapting the manufacturing process for a new drug

As is typical of any manufacturing process, drug production targets in terms of cost effectiveness, wastage and quality must all be reached. At the same time, it’s one of the most highly regulated industries on the planet, making regulatory compliance essential. Automation could make the manufacturing process quicker, or improve technology that is already in use to make it faster and/or more efficient.

With the manufacture of pharmaceuticals specifically, simply increasing production is not an option. Some chemicals when mixed together can negatively interact with each other when produced at different volumes, rates or in certain environments. Developing new machinery that can increase production by 50% for example will need to be tested rigorously in order to make sure that the chemical formulation stays intact and that the same high quality product is created at the end.

Size and taste of drugs

Obviously, the main purpose of a drug is to cure or manage the condition it was designed for. However, these days the size, shape and taste of a drug is very important too. Many pharmaceutical companies are now innovating to cut the size of pills and to adapt their shapes whilst still meeting ingredient requirements. The development is particularly important for vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Taste also has a big impact on patient’s experience of a drug, with many still being very bitter on the palate. This can again be a particular obstacle for vulnerable groups.

R&D is currently taking place to develop certain taste-masking technologies, such as the use of masking agents like sweeteners and flavourings. Some polymer coatings can also now be used to prevent the drug from coming in contact with taste-buds. Again, these advancements could all attract R&D relief.

Pharmaceutical testing

Patient safety is paramount in every aspect of pharmaceutical production, making rigorous testing and analysis essential before any drugs are released on to the market. These tests often provide data that helps to ensure regulatory legislation across different global markets is adhered to.

Many companies perform customised testing for the pharmaceutical and medical industries, completing a broad variety of drug and device studies at each stage of production. Testing can involve both raw and active pharmaceutical materials as well as the end-stage products themselves.

Packaging development

The development of packaging in pharmaceuticals is another substantial area of R&D.

Companies essentially need to ensure that the products they offer retain their high quality for as long as possible. This is not just an issue of preserving shelf life but for security too. Public awareness around the use of sustainable materials and environmentally friendly production methods also means these factors should be taken into consideration where possible.


Companies must work to strict regulatory demands whilst also looking to improve sustainability, speed up packaging manufacture and cut costs. When using a variety of different materials for their packaging, one of the greatest challenges can be in ensuring they bond together in the correct way. Bonding certain plastics onto other plastics is especially difficult and requires a large amount of experimentation. This is just another area where qualifying R&D expenditure claims can be made for tax relief.

R&D Tax Credits and grants in the pharmaceutical industry

As mentioned, the pharmaceuticals sector is a hotbed of R&D Tax Credit opportunities but there is also scope for numerous R&D grant funding too. For R&D Tax Credit purposes for SMEs, it is vital to distinguish State Aid grant funding from other grant types. If a project is financed by a State Aid grant, even if it’s a very small one, it is not then able to benefit from an R&D Tax Credit claim under the SME programme. For any other type of grant or subsidy, companies can receive SME relief for non-subsidised costs. Under the RDEC scheme for larger companies, this restriction on grant funding does not apply, so expenditure that cannot be included in an SME claim may qualify for a large company claim instead (although the RDEC scheme is less generous than the SME one).

This means that companies must consider carefully which scheme to use when applying for their R&D funding. It’s important that they weigh up the pros and cons of each grant type for their individual R&D projects to achieve the maximum financial benefit possible.

Speak to the R&D experts at Myriad Associates

At Myriad Associates we deal with companies looking to claim R&D tax relief and we have years of expertise at our fingertips. Our team is made up of a range of tax advisors and specialists who understand the complexities around R&D Tax Credits and grants, and will be happy to guide you through the application process.

Call us on 0207 118 6045 or use our contact page for personal, tailor-made advice.

Related articles