image of head with words inside

After 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at perfecting the electric light bulb, a reporter asked Thomas Edison: 

“How does it feel to fail 1,000 times?” 

Edison was quick to retort: 

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work”.

Had research and development tax credits been around in 1878, Edison would’ve been in for a windfall. The British government introduced the scheme — more commonly known as ‘R&D’ — some 122 years later. 

Glass half full

Designed to encourage scientific and technological advancement in companies across the UK, the government rewards you with tax credits for failed R&D projects — even if it’s 1,000+ of them. Or, if you want to view life like Thomas Edison: succeeding in finding ways that don’t work.

You may be thinking that your company needs inventors with Edison’s brain or scientists in white lab coats running around to be eligible for R&D tax credits. That’s a common myth that everyone here at Easy R&D is eager to banish. 

The government’s criteria for claiming is purposefully broad, and a lot can fall under the scientific and technological umbrella. Absolutely any industry can claim.

The government’s incentive

R&D tax credits can help lessen the financial hit of taking risks and investing in innovation. Failed R&D is still R&D, or as the government puts it:

“Even if the advance in science or technology sought by a project is not achieved or not fully realised, R&D still takes place”.

Whichever industry they fall into, our clients often try something brave, bold, unusual or downright tricky — yet don’t always nail it the first time around. We help our clients recoup the money they spend on those unsuccessful projects.

Whether it’s making improvements to existing products, processes, software or services — or developing entirely new ones — R&D tax credits were also devised to incentivise certain behaviours and thinking.

Brian Poole and The Tremeloes? Never heard of her

Yet how we perceive failure is a funny old thing. Thousands of publishers rejected J.K. Rowling because her Harry Potter adventures were “too long for children”.

Dick Rowe of Decca Records declined The Beatles because “guitar groups are on their way out”. He sent John, Paul, George and then-drummer Pete Best packing and signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes instead. Who?

Another talent spotter, Jim Denny, told Elvis to “go back to driving a truck”. The Kansas City Star fired Walt Disney because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.

Oprah Winfrey was deemed “unfit for television”, over 1,000 restaurants rejected Colonel Saunders’ chicken recipe, and record producer Quincy Jones turned down Marilyn Monroe because her breasts “looked like pears”.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything”, and he was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” James Dyson went 4,127 failed prototypes more than Edison when trying to create the perfect vacuum cleaner. 

What is it that allowed these people to keep going in the face of adversity? Their refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer from anyone. They were all eventually awarded for “failure”, and with Easy R&D, you could be too.

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