One of the worst problems that I have found most frequently in the business world (both small and large companies, obviously less common in research institutions) is about not having a clear long-term strategy in the company, precisely due to a lack of understanding about what R&D+i really is.
It is very common to be proud of saying that we do research and development, but many times this is false or it is not done with an adequate strategy, which will end in a failure. Like everything in life, things take a time, require processes and doing certain things because "it's fashionable" or because it can mean a punctual help, it's not usually a good long-term strategy.
I will focus in this first piece on SME companies, and I will leave for later entries big companies and research centers, since each one of them has its own idiosyncrasy and different interpretations of what R&D is.
The problem with SMEs is that they often understand public grants or public aid programs as a final goal, not as a path to walk in. This is logical based in the competitive market they move, fluctuations in the company, common cash-flow problems and other typical problems SME normally suffer. But this day by day situation many times blind the companies and specially the ones who have to take responsibilities, making them to only see the ultimate goal, money, and loosing perspective of what is important, the path.
And although it sounds cliché to say it, the reality is that the path is the important thing and where you can obtain real benefits, even if your proposal do not get funded. First, you can not understand the public aids as anything other than what their concept indicates. It is an extra that helps companies to resolve certain weak points of their strategy, to strengthen them or to cover a certain valley between research & development and obtaining profit. But they are not a bank or an investor. There must be a solid project behind and with a perspective of becoming a business. Many times I have faced comments like “lets present this proposal to see if it works”.. “lets enter into a consortium so we can make some cash” or similar. Not only this is generating noise against other companies that are really in need of these funds and have good projects a consolidated strategies, it is a waste of time, and someone managing a company should understand it is unforgivable to loose money that way.
And the second important point is the strategy to follow. Although there are certain aids that can be more focused on earlier stages, one of the best objectives that must be obtained from them, apart from just the money, is positioning the company, and for this, a long-term strategy is required. Positioning in the sense of knowledge, opening a window for the world and more: the aids, especially European ones, are the perfect opportunity for several things: to test the interest of a certain market, to carry out an evaluation of our project by experts in the field, to collaborate with other companies or research centers that will be able to provide a different point of view to the problem / need we are trying to solve, open the door to the international market through precious contacts ... That way, even if the funds are not obtained, the process would not have been in vain. That is, this is not a waste of time if you are not funded, it has been an investment to assess yourself and what you are doing.
All this is achieved with time, proposing a strategy, analyzing the sector, the competition, the opportunities, the topics of interest (which many times coincide with a real market demand) and of course, with a partner that helps you position in the proper way and focus the proposal as it should be.
Companies looking for timely and cheap solutions can try. But if they bet on this strategy with decision and clear goals and require a partner to accompany them on the long road they have ahead, especially in Europe, RTDI is the perfect partner who can help them do so.
R&I Key Accounts at RTDI