Case Studies

Novel, R&D tax relief, biotech, case study

Biotech firm uses Novel’s educational content to write their first R&D tax relief claim in-house and save money

Biotech firm director shares how he leveraged Novel’s educational content to help his team write their first R&D tax relief claim in-house and save money

With R&D tax relief, companies can save up to 33% on their taxes but what does it take? The biggest reason why businesses do not try to file R&D tax relief claims themselves and, instead, hire a specialist agent is because of their lack of knowledge, experience and perceived difficulty. Novel aims to tackle this barrier.

When Lee Sacker, the director of Evergreen Technologies, needed to collaborate with his team to prepare their first R&D tax relief claim, he turned to Novel. Read the case study below where he shares his experience using Novel, some challenges he faced and advice on how to successfully navigate this process.

The challenge Help Evergreen write a compliant research and development tax relief claim without prior experience and provide a place where multiple users can collaborate. 

The outcome – A centralised place for collaboration and record keeping for their R&D projects going forward and a successfully submitted R&D tax relief claim.

The impact – The outcome will help support Evergreen’s operations for on going R&D work and ensure that the process is recorded with maximum efficiency for strong future tax relief claims.

tax relife

As Lee dials in from Europe with a tan that leaves us pale Londoners a little jealous, we begin tackling the big issue of what it takes to write a technical narrative for a research and development tax relief claim in the field of biotechnology. “I am someone who looks for automation. For things to be as slick and quick as possible and during my search, Novel came up,” says Lee, while Sanela (who is responsible for our marketing) flashes a cheeky smile from across the screen.

The scientific nature of Evergreen’s project meant that they had to work alongside their subcontractor when writing the claim, and, fortunately, “the collaboration aspect of Novel was really, really good”. However, Lee ran into some unexpected problems when trying to get the team to use Novel.

As someone who has heard of and completed R&D tax relief claims before, Lee was quick to understand and was on board to use Novel, but not all of his colleagues shared his enthusiasm for this type of automation. As an entrepreneur and technology business investor with a long history in software development, Lee’s perspective and experience allowed him to successfully introduce this process to some reluctant parties. “I’m massively into these sorts of tools so it’s easy for me, but someone else is just so cautious,” describes Lee. So he found himself explaining that, “this is here to help you, and to make the process easier, and cheaper for the company, it’s not here to pin you against the wall”.

“the collaboration aspect of Novel was really, really good.”

Doing an R&D claim yourself for the first time can be worrying because the tax system is complicated and full of nuances. However, the goal of Novel is to prove that despite the difficult nature of R&D tax reliefs, it can be codified, and, therefore, you can do it yourself. “I totally agree with you,” says Lee, “sometimes people think that they better use company X because they are specialists and they are charging all this money so they must be good but in reality when done with proper education, R&D claims can are pretty straightforward.”

Intriguingly, when building Novel, we recognised that giving users the confidence that they can write their R&D tax relief claim would be a challenge. Lee echoed our thoughts when he started discussing how “some people were worried about writing something wrong”. “I had to make it quite clear to them that this is a collaborative tool, which allows us to get the reports right.”

“this is here to help you, and to make the process easer, and cheaper for the company….”

Speaking of reports, we took this opportunity to ask Lee about his opinion on the fact that we don’t charge our users to download their report, and,  instead, give them the flexibility to amend them as many times as necessary. “I think this is valuable and also that Novel doesn’t send it straight to HMRC”, Lee adds. “I could explain to the team that it’s not like you press a button and it goes directly to them. No, you get a report, if you don’t like the look of it, then you press again and get another report until everyone is happy. Only then does it get submitted with the accountants”. 

Lee continues that another point of contention was his team asking, “why are we doing this and that we don’t need to write any reports”, in the first place. Although businesses can claim R&D tax relief without any supporting documentation by simply writing down the R&D expenditure number on the CT Return, but “for me”, starts Lee, “I believe in good preparation and forward thinking, therefore even if you don’t need to submit your reports there and then, it’s far more beneficial and easier to create them as you go while it is fresh in your mind rather than waiting a few years down the line for an enquiry.  So you are always a step ahead”.

To add to the point above, there appears to be a misconception amongst claimants who think that once the claim is paid out, it’s finalised. Whereas, many don’t realise that HMRC can go back and open an enquiry on your R&D tax relief claim, and therefore you want to have evidence of all the work along the way. “Exactly. The Evergreen projects are only a year old and already it’s difficult to recall some things we did, imagine trying to do this five years later. And what was good is even when we paused for that brief moment, we were always able to go back to Novel, and it’s all there so you can continue where you left off. That works brilliantly.”

“…we were always able to go back to Novel, and it’s all there so you can continue where you left off. That works brilliantly.”

And on that positive note, we got ready to say our goodbyes but before we left, we asked Lee’s advice on what we can do better, his response was “like a lot of these things it has a lot to do with education. You have to educate people to understand the what and the why”. We couldn’t agree more with Lee, and have begun working on some exciting plans for Novel in terms of education, so stay tuned, sign up to the platform or to our newsletter and learn more.


“Play with purpose” — how this architectural firm is pushing boundaries with their R&D

We all have a saying that we try to live by and continually repeat to ourselves. Some sayings we apply to our personal lives and others to the way we run a business. At times, the two overlap. For our client, Red Deer, the phrase — ‘play with purpose’ is like a modus operandi, but creativity and pushing boundaries takes courage. Find out how claiming R&D tax relief has created a paradigm shift in Red Deer’s approach to new projects, giving them the freedom to be even more bold and experimental.

I had the pleasure of talking to Lionel Real de Azúa, one of the three founders of the architectural firm Red Deer. The company is celebrated for their innovative architecture and design practices that attempt to fully integrate the design process to the smallest details. Their belief in the constant progression of environmentally sustainable solutions and their approach to design in an end-to-end manner meant that their projects continually pushed architectural and design boundaries.

As we set up a Zoom call on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I was excited to learn more about Red Deer and what it’s like designing with sustainability in mind. Although deep down I wished we were meeting in one of Red Deer’s projects in Los Angeles, namely Grá, an artisan sourdough pizza place, Zoom however, seemed the more eco-friendly and logical solution.

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Red Deer designed restaurant Grá in Los Angeles, photograph by Hannah Wilson via Urdesign Mag

Novel: Red Deer’s ethos is to better engage with the world around them, what do you mean by that?

Lionel Real de Azúa: We tend to focus our design on real experiences rather than digital ones. We avoid taking inspiration from visual trends on social media platforms and, instead, prefer to look at the world around us because the design then becomes more tangible.

By trying to codify our experiences, things that are hard to embody and represent, into a piece of design, we are able to put our own personal spin on each project. Although it’s not to say you should dismiss trends altogether, I just think you get a certain layer of depth once you integrate personal experiences.

How do Red Deer’s core beliefs affect the projects you choose?

There is one short sentence that we tend to use almost like a modus operandi — play with purpose. We want to enjoy whatever the process is but we want whatever we do to not just be whimsical, but to also have a purpose. So we try to ask ourselves and our clients the “why”. Why are you doing this?

One of our key values is that we will always look to natural materials or traditional methods of application for inspiration. Over thousands of years, humans have done a very good job of demonstrating what materials should be used in certain applications, whilst the underlying knowledge has sometimes been lost. In a landscape which is constantly evolving with new materials, we do not want to forget that we can sometimes learn just as much by looking back, as we can by looking forward.

What are certain misconceptions in the architecture industry that you have often come across?

There is a misconception that architects are all powerful but I think the industry has actually gone into a direction whereby the client and contractor dictate everything. As a result, the industry nudged the architect into a more of a coordinator-style role making the architects more of a facilitator rather than a visionary. Although we are less of a victim of this based on the fact that we’ve approached the industry from a very design-led perspective, I would really love to challenge this rhetoric.

Would you say the architects should position themselves as visionaries and try to promote that as the epic of their story?

Absolutely, I would push that, though I would also couple it with the fact that architects also need to be entrepreneurial. I want to encourage architects to not just be receptors of projects but actual enablers. This means figuring out where the money is, where the money can come from and pursue that rather than waiting for clients to come to you. If you don’t have the urgency to try to self-actualise your projects, you will end up only delivering what others ask of you and often that is limiting.

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Burning Man Installation by Red Deer Architects via ArchDaily

Would you say R&D tax reliefs can act like a buffer for visionaries because they can try new things and experiment with projects without worrying that they will run out of money?

For Red Deer, claiming R&D tax relief helped hugely. We had been told about R&D tax relief in the past but we thought that it sounded like too much paperwork and something that we’ll never have the time to do because we’re not specialists in government schemes. However, having worked with Novel, it created a sort of paradigm shift in how we’re going to approach projects in the future. We are now not as dismissive of the creative process and attacking unknowns head-on, which not only makes the projects a lot more interesting and widens the scope of our work within the industry, but that we are actively pushing the boundaries of what is architecturally possible.

… We are now actively pushing the boundaries of what is architecturally possible.

I think R&D tax relief has a huge potential to impact our industry, not only just our approach to a project. We’ve always been big advocates of failure, a journey of successive failures rather than taking an easy route and having the monetary buffer from R&D tax relief allows us to do just that.

It allows us to experiment, to fail and to sometimes succeed. Whilst success is not guaranteed, it is only by innovating that we may discover something truly different and I think that is fantastic. It can only be a force of good for the industry. If more architects adopt this mindset, safe in the knowledge that these projects can go ahead where they would have otherwise been a lot more financially risky, we will start to see more creative, efficient and sustainable solutions in the industry.

Do you recognise yourself in the Red Deer approach? If you are an architecture firm that is doing something innovative, claiming R&D tax relief can help you push even more boundaries. Unfortunately, this industry commonly misses out on R&D tax relief, a government initiative to reward innovative businesses in diverse industries, however, in a short 30 minute consultation we can help advise you whether you have a potential claim. Book your spot below or to learn more about R&D in the architectural field, click here.