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Is my work research?

The RIS Contracts Team deals exclusively with research and innovation contracts. It is important to establish from the outset whether an activity can be considered as “research” to ensure the correct team is engaged in progressing your contract.

The OECD’s 2015 Frascati Manual provides the following definition:

“Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.”

The Frascati Manual refers to three types of R&D which it defines as:

(i) Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.

(ii) Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective applied research.

(iii) Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.

Some activities, such as routine testing and analysis of materials, routine software development and general purpose data collection, are excluded from R&D except when carried out solely or primarily for the purposes of an R&D project.

The Frascati Manual provides information and examples of work to be included under the three types of R&D:

  • A study about how the properties of carbon fibres could change according to their relative position and orientation within a structure is basic research. The conceptualisation of a method to allow for processing carbon fibres at industrial level with a degree of precision at the nano-scale could be the outcome of some applied research. Testing the use of new composite materials for different purposes is experimental development.
  • A review of theories on the factors determining regional disparities in economic growth is basic research; the analysis of a specific regional case for the purpose of developing government policies is applied research. The development of operational models, based on statistical evidence, to design economic policy tools to allow a region to catch up in terms of growth is experimental development.

If you are unsure whether your contract can be classified as a research contract, please get in touch with Tamsin Holt for advice.