Over the years I’ve been involved in a wide range of R&D claims – special putty with structural properties to pump into porous stone, bio-chemical waste processing, e-commerce, brewing, machinery for cleaning milk tankers, software of many different kinds and much much more. In the last few years however I’ve noticed an uptick in the kinds of claims that we are seeing and a feeling that something was happening – so I decided to do some research and have discovered that we have enetered ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

This is a concept developed by the World Economic Forum and its current Chairman Klaus Schwab. Schwab sees the harnessing of computing power and big data as leading to an explosion in technological development that will see the human race make big jumps in periods of time where previously only small incremental gains were made.

He describes what is coming as –‘Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Artificially-intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.’

Schwab has published a new book, unsurprisingly entitled ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (you can read an extract here – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/Media/KSC_4IR.pdf)

One of the key messages in the book is that anyone can become an innovator, an inventor – and they already are. Improving technologies and the sharing of knowledge via the internet makes such progression possible – and that means that our SME clients are exactly the type of people that Schwab sees as leading many of the changes and revolutionary thinking that will shape this latest industrial revolution.

It therefore is essential to have a broad mind when assessing whether something qualifies for R&D tax credits – innovation is coming from all sorts of directions, from all sorts of people, and experts are self-teaching themselves on the net and then deploying these skills in pursuing new products, new innovations, new code, new machinery and this is all happening at a great speed all around us. It also means that accountants and advisers should always be considering the possibility of a claim, even where it may not initially look possible – we will / should be seeing more claims not less.

We therefore see being a big part of being an R&D tax adviser as being up to speed (as up to speed as a tax adviser can be) in the field of technological developments – we need to understand the kind of things that are coming in order to understand where claims will be possible and how best to underpin them

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