Modern life is continually improved by products that have mobility as a key benefit. From the simple wheeled suitcase to the lightweight cordless vacuum cleaner, companies are spending valuable resources on research and development (R&D) to develop products that make our busy lives easier.
Less eye-catching, but no less valuable, mobile products are also being developed by innovative companies to earn an advantage and solve specific customer problems. These include mobile products which can be fixed on site and are designed to be prefabricated in a factory for transportation to where they are temporarily required. Examples of mobile units include:
- Prefabricated water treatment plants that are temporarily sited in an area affected by a storm or accidental damage
- Modular hospital wards and operating theatres with pre-installed mechanical and electrical (M&E) services
- Modular scientific laboratories that can be constructed in a factory and shipped to remote and inhospitable areas of the globe
- Biotech / vaccine manufacturing units built as modules and located where they are needed
Manufacturers can supplement their own resources by engaging the services of specialists to assist in the design of mobile units with additional features which aren’t necessarily required on fixed units. Perhaps even without knowing it, companies are engaging in activity in this sector that could attract tax credits from HMRC – begging the question, is R&D a movable feast?
The challenges and opportunities in developing modular assets
The scope for innovation in large modular items is substantial and typically one key issue for consideration is the capacity of the modular item to incorporate essential services when space is at a premium. There are challenges in ensuring all functions and services required of a fixed unit are successfully integrated into a modular asset which often must be compact enough to fit onto a trailer or into a container. Typically, the modular structure often needs to be transportable by road without it being captured by the “carriageway of abnormal loads by road” reporting requirements. It may even need to fit into a standard shipping container for sea or even air shipment. These considerations often lead to significant technical and financial investment without certainty of success.
Safe and simple transportation of a high value fixed asset often requires the use of new lightweight strong and flexible materials. Integrating reliable long-lasting power supplies, clever lifting mechanisms, new safety systems or protection against extreme weather, provides new opportunities to develop advanced space-saving solutions. Developments can often be complicated by the requirement to meet safety standards applicable to a fixed asset but striving to meet safety standards often provides further opportunities for innovation.
For a long time, mobile buildings such as classrooms and offices have been a feature of our landscape. Although called ‘mobile’, these buildings often become permanent and in recent years the construction specifications for such buildings have increased in complexity. Manufacturers however have responded to the market positively through innovation and new product and process development in a drive to advance functional capability and comfort.
Suppliers of components such as batteries, solar power equipment and electronic control systems are also working to bring their own latest expertise and developments to the mobile market.
Often the components or functions included in the design of a mobile unit are not themselves new, rather, it is the journey taken to achieve their successful integration that can constitute research and development and could qualify for R&D tax credits.
R&D Tax Credits
Those companies who make even incremental improvements in this field are in a good position to receive tax benefits for their efforts and should explore those possibilities with a qualified R&D tax advisor.
If you would like to know more about R&D Tax Credits, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation discussion.