I wrote a post on digitalcircle.org today about the new Grant for R&D from InvestNI. Much like the stuff I’ve written about R&D Tax Relief and R&D Tax Credits (both of which are available), there’s some clearing up around the term “R&D” that needs to be done.
During a conversation last week with Marty from NoMoreArt in the Black Box CafÃ©, I said “Every line of code is…” and we both finished the sentence in entirely contradictory ways.
He said “Derived”. I said “Novel”.
Thing is, we’re both right.
Research and Development in these terms is difficult to define for software development and it galls me that R&D in these terms does not include the creation of digital content in any way despite the amount of time, technology and expertise that might be required to create that content.
In these terms, it means either “industrial research” or “experimental development”.
Industrial Research is defined as “Planned research to acquire new knowledge and skills to develop new (or significantly improved existing) products, processes or services (including prototypes).
Experimental Development is defined as “Existing knowledge/ skills used to plan/design new or improved products, processes or services.”
When writing a new application, you’re likely to be using “existing knowledge / skills” until you hit the wall where you have to do something new.
i.e. writing an image viewer is no big deal. Writing an image viewer that also handles audio, video, layers, multiple languages and internet content is “hard”. Especially when no-one else has done it.
To a degree I think software development gets a raw deal here. The work is as technical, as challenging as material science (for example) but the definitions don’t assist in the availability of grant aid. The province is looking forwards towards becoming a knowledge economy as we witness the manufacturing bastions of our past fall away.
We have to show our value here and while I think it’s a little harder to demonstrate real innovation in software in Northern Ireland (due as much to the lack of innate, home-grown talent capable of judging it for it’s real value), I think the possibilities for product-based, forward-thinking companies is immense.