Kirby & Haslam manufacturing r&d

A Guide: R&D Manufacturing

An essential sector of the UK’s economy, the UK currently stands as the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world. Manufacturing accounts for 45% of total exports for the UK, totalling around £275billion, demonstrating the breadth of the industry and its importance to the UK’s standing within the global market. In order to sustain growth within the sector, innovative processes are in high demand, with manufacturing accounting for a significant proportion of R&D in the UK.

What is Manufacturing?

Manufacturing can be defined as the process of turning raw materials or parts into finished goods using a combination of tools, human labour, machinery, and chemical processing. Within the manufacturing sector are several specified areas of production, with the large variety of goods that are produced in the UK typically divided into smaller sub sectors. These subsectors will have all seen the influence of Manufacturing R&D as they have advanced over time in order to keep up with rising demand for production. Some examples of these subsectors are:  

  • Textile manufacturing
  • Paper manufacturing
  • Metal manufacturing
  • Woodworking

The manufacturing process involves many stages that each could feature R&D – let’s explore in more detail how R&D features within manufacturing.

What is R&D Manufacturing?

Each stage of the manufacturing process that occurs within different sub sectors pose unique challenges that need addressing, which is where Manufacturing R&D activities can thrive. Manufacturing companies are constantly seeking to creative innovative processes that can help solve the problems within their operation. Innovative projects within manufacturing are varied depending on the demands with each company’s sector, however there are common innovative practises that occur cross-sector. These include improving the quality of materials, adapting to constant regulation changes, improving the efficiency of production, and reducing the waste of the manufacturing process. It is important to remember that Manufacturing R&D is not necessary throughout an entire process – if a project features R&D that has helped towards the ultimate goal of your project then your company can be eligible for tax credits.

In order to better understand how R&D can be applied within different manufacturing subsectors, let’s take a look at a few examples and how their industry has benefitted from innovation.

R&D within Textile Manufacturing

Textile manufacturing is largely based on the conversion of fibre into yarn, then yarn into fabric. These are then dyed or printed, fabricated into cloth which is then converted into useful goods such as clothing, household items, upholstery, and various industrial products. As one of the oldest human technologies, the manufacturing of textiles has seen significant technological advances throughout history and continues to see innovative processes positively impact the industry. As of 2020, there were more than 4,200 businesses manufacturing textiles in the UK – an increase of 12% in the last five years – in a sector that employs more than 64,000 people. These businesses are always on the lookout for the newest developments within the sector – here are some of the most recent innovative R&D projects within textile manufacturing:

  • Developing clothing, textiles or fabrics that respond to extreme climates
  • Adapting to changes in legislation or industry requirements for protective clothing
  • Altering an existing fabric for a new purpose
  • Developing manufacturing software that helps cut down wastage of fabric

R&D within Paper Manufacturing

Despite the rise of digitisation, paper manufacturing has managed to stay prevalent. Currently, the world produces over 300 million tons of paper a year, with 9.9 million metric tons of paper and board being consumed in the UK within 2020. This is a huge industry with a vast scope of manufacturing, and R&D is rife within sectors such as machinery used, paper quality and base material improvements. Certain innovative developments within the industry have been driven through necessity, whilst others have simply adapted and improved existing processes. Here are some significant innovations within paper manufacturing that have recently arisen:

  • Paper alternatives created through previous recycled waste, with recycling facilities being improved to process an increased number of materials such as plastics and woods
  • Creating paper alternatives to products typically manufactured using plastic
  • Improvements to quality, such as better paper strength without added thickness
  • Reducing the component consumption within the pulp stage, allowing for more production with a less materials and waste.

R&D within Metal Manufacturing

Metal manufacturing is the process of building machines and structures from raw metal materials. The process includes cutting, burning, welding, machining, forming, and assembly to create the final product. A highly cyclical sector, metal manufacturing is often dependent on the successes of industries which specialised metal is required for, such as the auto and construction industries. Due to its cyclical nature and need to stay profitable, companies who manufacture metal require advancements in production to cut costs, heighten efficiency, and reduce wastage. Whether its large-scale manufacturing of metal goods, or small-scale production of specialised products, R&D within the industry benefits everyone. Here are some examples:

  • Implementation of ‘cobots’ to help with manufacturing process, increasing efficiency on the factory floor
  • Automating certain processes such as metal casting to avoid placing workers in hazardous environments
  • Designing and manufacturing of typically difficult metal products through 3D printing

R&D within Woodworking

Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood, and includes cabinet making, wood carving, joinery, carpentry, and woodturning. The woodworking industry has always operated at the heart of the UK manufacturing sector, and today the 5,070 firms turnover an estimated £3.8 billion. The industry has thrived on innovation, with technological advances resulting in better quality products and allowing the industry to become more sustainable. Examples of R&D within woodworking include:

  • Testing coatings, fabrics, finishes for strength and durability
  • Advances in safety, such as blade brake technology on tabletop saws
  • Development of tools that allow for greater efficiency, such as automated cutting processes that allow for greater precision
  • Introduction of computer-based solutions such as 3D designing and modelling of projects to help visualise the final product

How R&D tax credits can help your company manufacture innovation

There are many benefits to be gained from the R&D tax credit scheme, however you may be curious about how your own company can be eligible.

There are many stages throughout an R&D project, which each involve varied activities that may or may not be eligible towards your claim. Some expenditure within a manufacturing project that is eligible for tax relief include:

  • Development of prototypes that contribute towards the final product, such as prototyping and testing of waterproof clothing within the textile industry
  • Training that staff are required to undertake to support an R&D, such as staff trained to work alongside ‘cobots’ on the factory floor
  • Salaries of staff who directly worked on the project, such as technical design staff
  • Activities essential to the undertaking of R&D. For example, the leasing of equipment necessary to build prototypes

Whether your company is big or small, the benefits can be significant. The tax credits can help make future R&D projects become more affordable, whilst providing a budget boost to be used in other areas, such as the hiring of staff that can help grow your future.

The next step

Our team at Kirby and Haslam are specialists when it comes to R&D tax relief. If you feel like your company could be eligible for R&D tax credits, then do not hesitate to enquire – our team of experts will help you along every stage in the process.

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