The below article was written by Ian Finch the CEO of Mando and details his experience working with ForrestBrown. ForrestBrown is one of the UK’s largest teams of chartered tax advisers specialising in research and development (R&D) tax on your side.
It is pretty crowded in digital agency land. This makes differentiation essential. You differentiate on your value proposition, which for us is innovation.
Our innovation encompasses market trends and blue-sky thinking, but also day-to-day changes you would categorise as continuous improvement.
This means that about 20% of our business plan is innovation. It’s part of our DNA and we are highly focused on how we unleash it.
How can we push the state of the art? How can we train our staff to be innovative? Does it run through our methodologies? How do we make it pay and manage the risk?
The Risks Of Innovation
There is always risk associated with innovation, as by its nature you are stepping into the unknown. Whenever we take on business we ask, what is the core part of the work? And where is innovation required? We then assess the innovative aspects, based on risk.
R&D tax credits afford us another lever by which we can carry this risk. If we think the idea is good, knowing that the government is encouraging us to push the boundaries really helps. Factoring in R&D tax credits allow us more room in which to accept work that we might otherwise not be able to take on.
Innovation To Be Proud Of
It is often the innovative projects that are most satisfying. Work that you can stand back from and feel proud.
And when I look at our innovation, I see a split between what you might call incremental innovation and game-changing innovation. Both are important.
An example of incremental innovation that I am really proud of is the recent work we have done for an electricity company. They required an alert map that would report on the location of power outages. Now, this is not new in itself. But the innovative mobile-first system we developed brought a number of existing technologies together in a new way.
Using technologies including Google Maps and Episerver, we developed a new system that optimised performance during a blackout and was triple A compliant. With this completed, we then built on those learnings and delivered a second project that went even further. This shows how innovation can come in stages.
By contrast, you also get these seismic shifts in technology that disrupt markets. Our push into AI has been interesting here. An example of this type of innovation that we have worked on is with chatbots. We explored how we could use chatbots to massively improve the customer experience for a utility company. In transferring this AI technology from one sector to another it had a hugely positive effect.
The Power Of R&D Tax Credits
It is incredibly helpful that, when a client asks for something state of the art, we have the support of R&D tax credits. Agencies live and die by the quality of their work. When you are operating right at the cutting edge, you are dealing with the unknown. This means that problems arise that can seriously affect budgets, jeopardising the entire project.
Knowing that R&D tax credits are available extends that window of opportunity to get the project over the line and make a real difference.
R&D tax credits are a government incentive designed to promote private sector innovation. They’re worth up to 33p for every £1 spent and for us have resulted in a cash boost, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Without this support, a project is more likely to end in failure, or for the costs to spiral making it run at a loss. Either one of these negative outcomes is not good for the long-term prospects of a digital agency.
Sometimes, including details of innovation in a pitch is the key for beating competitors. In one recent pitch we developed a whole proof of concept for an AI solution. It was this that stood us apart from the others. Again, knowing that R&D tax credits are there to give us a hand with this, helps spark the initial innovation.
ForrestBrown: The Best In The Business
ForrestBrown are our R&D tax credit tax advisers, and we think they are the best in the business. We are speaking from a position of knowledge and experience because we have worked with more than one other adviser.
Our old accountant simply said that R&D tax credits were not applicable to us. What a mistake that was! So, we started working with another adviser and made a small claim.
Fortunately, later I met Lisa-Marie Smith, a director at ForrestBrown, at an event. And after talking to her and understanding the heavyweight expertise ForrestBrown have, we invited them to review our claims.
ForrestBrown went on to identify the full scale of our innovation resulting in a benefit worth three times what we were previously claiming. As you can imagine, this has made a huge different to our business.
Better still they were much easier to work with. Their approach to the claim meant that there was far less effort required on our side. This means that we can focus our resources on the work we do for our clients.
Making Innovation Pay
Whether it comes in a step change or is incremental, innovative solutions are essential for us and our clients. Having the support of the R&D tax credit scheme and the expert advice of ForrestBrown helps us stay at the cutting edge. They help us to work with a far greater degree of certainty that we’ll achieve a positive, profitable outcome.
Our advisers ForrestBrown, and Lisa-Marie Smith as mentioned above, will be exhibiting this year at Prolific North Live. You can come and chat to them on stand 5 and discuss how R&D tax credits can help fund your innovation.