The R&D Roadmap: What It Is, Why You Need It & How to Create One
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
One of the best ways to stay competitive as a business is to invest in R&D and develop innovative, ground-breaking products, processes or services that set you apart from your competitors.
To do that, you need a solid plan that establishes what you want to achieve (and why), how you will achieve it and when you will achieve it.
This is where an R&D roadmap comes in.
What an R&D roadmap is, what it isn’t and why you need one
An R&D roadmap is a high-level plan which shows you what you want to accomplish with your R&D activity and how you’re going to do it.
Long-term plans for R&D can often get distorted and lost in the daily humdrum of running a business: Attending meetings, solving problems, answering questions, juggling tasks, and keeping both employees and customers happy makes it all too easy to lose yourself in the daily grind and deprioritise the long-term direction for your innovative projects.
Creating an R&D roadmap pushes you to think about and define exactly what you want to achieve with your R&D activity, and also forces you to work out how you’re going to achieve it.
Having these thoughts formally documented in a plan not only makes you accountable and focused on your R&D activity, but it also communicates the why behind your R&D goals and the plans for getting, there to your employees and stakeholders. This transparency ensures that everyone is on the same page, working towards the same result.
What an R&D roadmap isn’t
That’s what an R&D roadmap is. But, for your roadmap to be truly effective in helping you to achieve your R&D goals, we need to know what it is not.
An R&D roadmap is not a detailed plan: An R&D roadmap is an over-arching strategic plan, not an in-depth project plan. So it shouldn’t be muddled with details around the R&D projects team members and their specific actions.
An R&D roadmap is not a to-do list: Because your R&D roadmap is focused on how you plan to reach your R&D goals, it’s all too easy to just add a list of tasks that you need to complete to achieve the expected outcome. But don’t. Your R&D roadmap should be a guide that you can quickly glance at to keep you on track, not a project plan to steadily work through.
An R&D roadmap is not a static document: Situations, priorities, budgets and end-goals change. It’s a natural part of running a business. Just make sure your R&D roadmap is updated to reflect any changes to your R&D objectives and plans.
How to create an R&D roadmap
Before you start your roadmap, you need to have a clear vision for your R&D activity: What exactly do you want to achieve and why do you want to achieve it? Once you have your vision, you can then work out the strategy that will help you turn that vision into a reality.
Only once you’ve worked these two things out will you be ready to create an R&D roadmap that will capture, communicate and keep you accountable for the vision and strategy of your R&D activity.
The 4 key components to include in an R&D roadmap
Your R&D roadmap should be your North Star; something to regularly glance at to make sure you’re heading towards your R&D goals, not drifting away from them. For that reason, as we’ve already established, your roadmap needs to be clear, simple and easy to digest. The below four elements should hold enough information to keep you on track and in the right direction:
Roadmap component #1: The vision
You should already have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with your R&D activity, so this section is simply about communicating that vision. Establish your R&D goal and spell out exactly where you want your R&D activity to get you.
Roadmap component #2: The strategy
Again, the strategy that’s going to turn your vision into a reality should already be clear in your mind. This section needs to outline how you plan to achieve your vision for your R&D activity.
“Once these things are aligned, the roadmap is used to keep this strategy moving forward and staying consistent.” – The Product Manager
Roadmap component #3: The requirements
This element of an R&D roadmap is all about working out what’s required to make your strategy work. Look into what you or your team need to do to make your R&D strategy work and then set targets or objectives for what you want to achieve.
Roadmap component #4: The plan
This section is for prioritising requirements and pinning specific goals to a timeline. They need to be broad so you can have flexibility, but you do need them to keep the team on track, driven and focused.
An example of an R&D roadmap
The government published their R&D roadmap back in 2020, to communicate how serious they were about the future of research, development and innovation in this country.
So, to see an example of a live R&D roadmap, take a look at it here.
Now you have your R&D roadmap, what’s next?
You now have a clear, documented path to achieve your R&D goals, what’s next? Working out how you’re going to fund it?
The government-funded R&D tax credit scheme means you can claim up to 33.35% of the costs of your R&D activity as either a tax rebate or a cash repayment.
This R&D tax relief incentive is a worthwhile scheme to explore, regardless of if you’re a large corporation or a small to medium business. But, to make sure you’re claiming the maximum amount of R&D tax credit as possible, you can either speak to specialist R&D tax consultants like Myriad Associates, who have been filing R&D tax claims for over a decade, or you can use a self-service, online R&D tax credit portal like Tax Cloud.
With Tax Cloud all you need to do is follow the clear steps and you can file your R&D claim yourself. Tax Cloud is supported by the R&D tax team at Myriad Associates, so you have the added benefit of their help and advice throughout the entire R&D claims process, and they’ll also check your claim before it gets filed with HMRC to make sure you’re getting your full entitlement.
Find out more by checking out the website, giving us a call on +353 1 566 2001, or dropping us a line here.
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