ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK JANUARY 2016
What constitutes research and development? Is it or should it be a separate business activity or an integrated and holistic part of business as usual? Over the last few years there has been much discussion about the role research and development (R&D) plays or should play in business. Government focus acknowledges that it is an essential element in increasing our countries productivity levels. It is not necessarily the same as innovation and it is not going to the sole indicator of business success or business excellence but rather one of a number of integrated activities or skills that a business needs to consider.
It is a valuable tool for growing and improving your business as it involves researching your market and your customer needs and developing new and improved products and services to fit these needs. Doing these things will obviously increase the businesses chance of success and increase productivity. It will also put your business ahead of the competitor. Yet when many Northland businesses are canvassed on whether they are under-taking R&D, a vast majority say they are not. I do not believe this is actually the case but rather because they do not a have a dedicated person within their organisation doing what they think is R&D they don’t think this qualifies.
Which begs the question in a business environment dominated by small businesses and owner operators how we can ensure these enterprises are in a position to access the same government support given to large business in the metropolitan centres that have the resources to allow for dedicated bodies assigned to formal R&D. There is going to be a natural scale where a portion of the work force can be dedicated to R&D but I would imagine that it is at a higher staffing level than most of our regions businesses sustain.
Business by its very nature contains an element of R&D after all they operate in a market with the goal of creating a sustainable business that requires the need to undertake product research and development to come up with the goods and services that meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers. The challenge for Northland businesses is to recognise that they are doing this albeit in an informal or unstructured manner. Then having recognised this, undertake to clearly articulate and formalise the process. This will allow them to more efficiently improve what they offer to their market and to increase the opportunity for their business to access external support in achieving business success.