24TH MAY, 2023

Incentivising Irish R&D: A Strategic Approach

Research and development (R&D) has emerged as a critical driver of growth and success in today's highly competitive business environment.

With the Irish economy looking to diversify and expand, companies are increasingly investing heavily in their R&D departments to spearhead innovation-focused initiatives. Yet, while understanding the importance of R&D is vital, creating an environment that continuously motivates and incentivises these departments presents a real challenge.

Incentives play a crucial role in driving performance, stimulating creativity, and ultimately fostering a stronger drive towards innovation. However, many companies struggle to develop effective incentive structures, failing to align rewards with the unique challenges and dynamics of innovation-focused work.

This blog aims to provide a comprehensive guide to business leaders in Ireland, exploring the various types of incentives available, discussing how to communicate them effectively, and providing real-world case studies to illustrate their impact.

By viewing incentives as an investment rather than a cost, businesses can drive growth, boost innovation, and gain a competitive edge in today's rapidly evolving marketplace.

Description of Irish Government R&D incentives

Irish businesses, both big and small, can take advantage of the government's numerous grants, tax credits, and cash rewards aimed at encouraging research and development (R&D) activities.

These incentives are part of the government's wider objective to strengthen and grow the country's economy, and have been implemented to support businesses in their innovation efforts.

For instance, the Research and Development Tax Credit, introduced in 2004, offers businesses a 25% tax credit on qualifying R&D expenses. In addition, the Knowledge Development Box (KDB) - a tax incentive introduced in 2016 - allows qualifying businesses to shield certain profits derived from their patented or innovative products and services from corporation tax, significantly reducing their overall tax liability. 

Apart from government incentives, Irish businesses can offer internal incentives to their R&D teams, such as bonuses, profit-sharing, stock options, recognition, training opportunities, and more. These non-financial incentives can be equally, if not more, effective in motivating productivity and innovation within the team. Additionally, businesses can design a flexible working arrangement that suits an R&D team's working style and preferences, further incentivising them to provide their best work.

Overall, Irish R&D incentives aim to reward and promote innovation, helping businesses to expand and compete in a global market. It is vital for businesses to acquaint themselves with the types of incentives that are available to them and their respective eligibility criteria. With the right approach, businesses can maximise the potential of their R&D teams, providing a boost to their bottom line and contributing to Ireland's economic growth.

The Importance of Communication

Effective communication is crucial when it comes to incentivising your R&D department. In a field as critical and innovation-focused as R&D, a lack of communication can lead to frustration, confusion, and demotivation among team members.

It's essential to create a clear communication channel that fosters transparency, openness, and a two-way dialogue to ensure that your R&D department fully understands and appreciates the incentives available to them.

Teams need to be kept informed about the different types of incentives they can avail of, the criteria for earning them, and how reaching particular milestones or achieving specific targets can benefit them. It's essential to maintain constant communication to encourage teams and provide constructive feedback on their work. A regular review process can provide ample opportunities to recognise excellence and reward performance. To ensure effective communication, managers must use the appropriate tools and methods.

This can include regular team meetings, one-to-one conversations, townhall-style sessions, and so on. Managers should also leverage digital channels and other modern methods of communication to ensure that anyone can access the information they need, no matter where they are.

Regular feedback mechanisms, surveys, and performance reviews can drive accountability among team members and enhance their buy-in to the incentives on offer. By enabling effective communication and providing timely feedback, managers can create a culture of innovation that drives performance and promotes team engagement.

Incentive Schemes: A Strategic Approach

When it comes to incentive schemes for R&D departments, it's crucial to understand the different types of incentives available and how they can be strategically applied to boost innovation. Financial incentives, such as bonuses, profit-sharing, and stock options, are popular options that can significantly motivate employees.

However, non-financial incentives like recognition, training opportunities, and flexible working hours can also be powerful motivators. For instance, a study by PWC found that 41% of employees would like their employer to provide more opportunities for learning and development, indicating that training opportunities can be a crucial incentive to retain top talent.

An effective incentive structure is not only about the type of incentive but also how it's applied strategically. Businesses must consider the specific needs and dynamics of their R&D departments and align incentives accordingly. For instance, product innovation may require different incentives than process innovation. Additionally, businesses can leverage internal incentives such as promotions, increased responsibility, or even public recognition to encourage innovation.

It's also important to evaluate the potential impact and return on investment of each incentive scheme. For example, setting specific goals and tying incentives to R&D output can help ensure that employees are working towards the company's strategic objectives. Furthermore, it's essential to implement incentive schemes with transparency and clarity, clearly communicating the benefits and expectations to employees.

The effectiveness of incentive schemes lies in strategically applying the right mix of financial and non-financial incentives based on your R&D department's unique dynamics. Additionally, businesses should evaluate the potential impact and return on investment of each incentive scheme, clearly communicating them to employees and tying them to specific goals. With the right approach, businesses can encourage a culture of innovation and turbocharge their R&D department's potential.

Real-life examples of effective incentive usage in Irish companies

Real-life examples of effective incentive usage in Irish companies demonstrate just how impactful a well-structured incentive system can be in driving innovation. One such example is Aerogen, a medical technology company based in County Galway. By offering its employees a comprehensive benefits package, including profit-sharing, share options, and a company-wide bonus scheme, the company has cultivated a culture of innovation and creativity. In 2017, Aerogen won the "Overall Best Managed Company" award in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards program, which recognised the company's commitment to creating a positive work environment that prioritises employee engagement and development.

Another example is the cloud-based accounting and payroll software provider, Big Red Cloud. The company offers its employees a range of incentives, including flexible working hours, performance-related bonuses, and wellness initiatives. According to the company's CEO, Marc O'Dwyer, these incentives have helped to motivate staff, drive productivity, and encourage innovation. This approach has paid off, with Big Red Cloud being named the "2018 Cloud Accounting Software Provider of the Year" by AccountingWeb.

Looking at these examples, it's clear that Irish businesses are recognising the value of incentivising their R&D departments. By implementing well-crafted incentive programs that align with the unique challenges of innovative work, companies are seeing increased employee motivation, productivity, and engagement, ultimately driving their growth and success.

Final Thoughts...

In conclusion, incentivising R&D has become crucial in today's competitive business landscape. Having a well-structured incentive system can play a significant role in enhancing creativity, productivity, and innovation drive in your R&D department, bringing considerable value to your company. As the Irish government provides various grants, tax credits, and other incentives, it becomes vital for businesses to communicate and align incentives strategically.

Strategic approaches to incentivising your R&D department involve understanding and effectively communicating the various types of incentives available. Financial incentives, such as bonuses, profit-sharing, and stock options, have been widely used, but non-financial incentives such as recognition, training opportunities, flexible working hours, and more, have also proven to be effective. Clear communication, transparency, and a two-way communication channel are vital in ensuring that your R&D department understands, identifies and appreciates the incentives provided.

We encourage business leaders to implement a strategic approach to incentivising their R&D departments, considering it as an investment rather than a cost. Investing in R&D translates to investing in innovation, which can significantly contribute to the overall growth and success of your company.

Finally, our discussions and examples showed how successful Irish businesses have effectively used incentives to drive R&D efforts, increasing their competitiveness and market penetration.  Incentivising R&D is no longer an option; it is now a necessity for businesses to survive and grow in today's highly competitive landscape. Therefore, we hope this guide serves as a blueprint, guiding businesses on how to develop a strategic approach to incentivising their R&D departments, creating a culture of innovation, growth and success.

Contact us to discuss any aspect of R&D tax relief for your innovative company

There are a number of state-backed financial schemes designed to assist companies with the cost of innovation, notably R&D Tax Credits and R&D Grants. However, putting together an application for either relief can be a tough process and there are many pitfalls, which is why you should use a highly skilled R&D tax relief firm such as ourselves.

Myriad Associates (developers of the Tax Cloud portal) is on hand to help with every aspect of putting your R&D tax relief claim together. From our initial meeting to crafting the perfect narrative report, right through to completion our team of R&D tax relief specialists and accountants are proud of their 100% success rate in getting Irish businesses the reliefs they deserve.

Why not try out our Tax Cloud portal for businesses and see what you could be owed, or call our Dublin-based team on +353 1 566 2001. Alternatively, please use our contact page and we'll be pleased to get back to you.

Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA
Author Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA CEO, Tax Cloud
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Myriad Associates are the creators of Tax Cloud, we help enterprises navigate, apply and secure tax incentives and grants. We specialise in R&D Tax Credits, Enterprise Ireland grants, Horizons Europe grants, and the Digital Games Tax Credit

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Meet some of the team behind Tax Cloud

Barrie Dowsett Barrie Dowsett ACMA CGMA Chief Executive Officer
Jillian Chambers Jillian Chambers Technical Analyst/Writer
Lauren Olson Lauren Olson Technical Analyst Manager
Rabia Mohammad Rabia Mohammad Corporate Tax Associate