Next month sees our hometown of Harrogate hosting the UCI Road World Championship which is the latest of the cycling event being held in the region. Competitive sports like cycling use analytical techniques to help the athletes to improve their performance and test all variables in the pursuit of that winning time.

Cycling performance progression

David Brailsford, Director of British Cycling, who managed the Team GB cycling to their success in the 2012 Olympics, coined the phrase “the aggregation of marginal gains” to describe his approach to improving performance of the athletes.

He believed that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%; they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance. It’s best summed up in this quote from him:

“To give you a bit of background, when we first started out, the top of the Olympic podium seemed like a very long way away. Aiming for gold was too daunting.

As an MBA, I had become fascinated with Kaizen and other process-improvement techniques. It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.

By experimenting in a wind tunnel, we searched for small improvements to aerodynamics. By analysing the mechanic’s area in the team truck, we discovered that dust was accumulating on the floor, undermining bike maintenance. So we painted the floor white, in order to spot any impurities. We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage.”

Creating marginal gains in industry

The principles of Kaizen and continuous improvement are well known & well established in the industry. Even if businesses don’t implement formal improvement programmes such as these, virtually every business is constantly striving to make advances by improving their products, lowering costs, improving production yields, reducing waste etc. In our opinion, these represent the “development” half of the term “Research and Development”.

Can small gains be eligible for R&D tax credits?

There is often a misconception that to be eligible for R&D tax credits you need to be making major technological breakthroughs or innovative developments, but continually making small improvements can be just as eligible.

The critical issue is exactly what work is being undertaken. If you are simply adopting well established and proven methods of improvement, then it’s unlikely that will qualify – but all areas are worthy of consideration – especially those attempts to make improvements that end in failure.

How do you know if you are eligible?

R&D tax credit eligibility is often misunderstood, and as a result, many businesses miss out on this valuable tax benefit. At TEQ Group we have worked with a broad range of businesses across a variety of industries and of various sizes to help them make successful R&D tax credit claims. Our technical specialists are highly experienced in understanding your business, finding eligible claims and making the claim process hassle-free for you as we will manage everything.

We are so confident in our abilities in achieving successful claims that we offer our services at no upfront costs and we will only take a fee once your claim has been paid. There is nothing to lose in contacting us for a free, no-obligation assessment. To find out more contact TEQ Group today on 01423 815299 or click the button below and we’ll be happy to offer some advice.


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