Our experience in this sector has focused on 7 main technology areas
Complications with Government Grant funded projects
We find that many R&D projects in this sector have been initially funded by Government Grants and that separating out the grant funded work from the internally funded R&D can be a considerable technical and financial challenge – albeit very worthwhile given the considerable difference in R&D Tax Credit rates between Grant Funded (LARGE) scheme projects and internally funded (SME) scheme projects.
Projects scaling from proof of concept to commercial scale
Many projects will have had the initial technology developed at a proof of concept scale before project financing to commercial scale and identifying new technical challenges and advances in science and technology in moving from proof of concept to commercial scale (necessary to justify the costs as part of an R&D claim) can be challenging.
Financial analysis of projects scaling from proof of concept to commercial scale
Many projects having been demonstrated at the technical proof of concept scale will have complex project financing in place to scale to the commercial scale. Understanding the detail of the commercial contracts and how that can affect the resulting R&D claim is an example of the complex interplay between technical and financial skill sets and the benefit of our financial staff having engineering and physics degrees.
Overlap with Software / IT and FinTech
In many projects, the primary uncertainty will be a financial uncertainty related to the commercialisation of the technology (once demonstrated at proof of concept scale). Skill and experience are required in determining where the financial uncertainties have imposed technical challenges, the resolution of which has led to an appropriate advance in science and technology.
Interestingly, in many cases we have found that the technology that was developed in the lab / proof of concept, scales to the commercial scale without much further advance in the underlying hardware but the commercial scaling requires considerable software development, especially in terms of optimisation of power generation and distribution according to advanced financial modelling algorithms.
We have noticed considerable technical overlap in the fields of GreenTech, Software/IT and FintTec in scaling GreenTech projects from the lab to commercial scale and our experience in the Software/IT and FinTec sectors have helped identify the technical advances and system uncertainties in scaling GreenTech projects.
Acceleration of GreenTech Patent applications
The UK IPO will accelerate patent applications relating to GreenTech technologies – the interpretation of which can be made quite wide.
Our experience in this sector has focused on 7 main technology areas:
Analysis of over 280 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 3 main fields:
- Utility Service Technology (Energy Management Solutions, Network Operations Platforms, Cyber Security and Financial Platforms)
- Metering Infrastructure Technologies (Smart Meters, Meter Data Management, Communication Systems, Horizontal and Network Provider Technologies)
- Transmission & Distribution Automation Technology (Feeder switches, capacitor banks, voltage regulators, sensors solutions, transmission grid automation)
Example: Wireless Sensor Monitoring for Building Energy Management Systems
With a technical analyst who previously led a development team on wireless sensor network technology, it is not surprising that we have been able to have success in the field of wireless sensor network claims for energy efficiency in the field of building management systems. Here, although the wireless sensor technology was commercially available, the method by which it was being integrated in with and the way the resulting data was analysed by a BMS provided the necessary technical advance.
Analysis of over 1,300 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 4 main fields:
- Component Development (Electric Drive Systems, Batteries, Motors, Power & Systems Electronics)
- Charging Solutions (Plug in charging, charging networks, wireless charging)
- Vehicle as a Service Technologies (Software Infrastructure)
- Vehicle Management (Software Infrastructure)
Example: Re-Use of Electric Vehicle Batteries
Technically adapting and re-developing technology into a more commercially viable solution can be considered as an advance in the field for R&D Tax credits. After a period of use electric batteries may no longer be suitable for use in vehicles but they are increasingly being developed into smart energy storage solutions an area where we have successful made R&D claims.
Example: EV Charging
In one recent R&D claim we did, a prior art academic literature search revealed that considerable work had been done in modelling a particular aspect of Electric Vehicle journey modelling within China. Discussions with our client identified how the Chinese model for EV journey did not translate to the UK and our clients work in modelling EV vehicle journeys within the UK was sufficiently different to represent an advance in the field and thus qualify for R&D Tax Credit relief.
Analysis of over 600 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 6 main fields:
- Energy Storage Systems (Behind the meter storage, Integrated Energy Storage, Grid Storage)
- Batteries (Lithium-Ion, Lead Acid, Zinc-Iron, Other Chemistries, Capacitors)
- Fuel Cells (Components, testing solutions)
- Charging Solutions (Plug-in charging, wireless charging, charging network technology)
- Component Development (electrolytes, battery separators, materials for higher charge cycles etc)
- Battery Management
Energy Efficiency Solutions
Analysis of over 730 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 6 main fields:
- Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) (software monitoring solutions)
- Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) (smart thermostats, smart switches)
- Lighting Control Systems
- HVAC Management
- Power Management Systems (diesel generators, fuel systems. IT equipment, data centre systems)
- Data Analytics (meter monitoring, energy data management)
Example: Product failure of an in-home energy efficiency product
Our client developed, successfully patented and installed a large number of a home energy saving device. After some use in the field the devices started to fail and a large product recall, re-development and re-installation programme was required. By understanding the mode of failure of the device, we were able to show how overcoming this represented an advance in the field and claim the costs of re-development as well as a considerable amount of his product recall and re-installation costs. (JM to check).
Example: Smart Meter Technology Roll-Out
By an interesting co-incidence we have undertaken two smart-meter R&D claims neither of which involved technology development of the smart meter! In both cases the R&D claim related to software to optimise the planning and logistical process of the smart meter installation. One claim was based around optimising the logistical planning on a portfolio basis the other claim was based around applying data analytics to a number of households where a meter was installed and extrapolating this data to a national campaign roll-out.
Analysis of over 1400 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 5 main fields:
- Hardware Development (Generation Equipment, Balance of Systems)
- Power Production (Utility scale IPP technology, Distributed / Horizontal generation technology)
- Solar-as-a-Service (Integrated Solutions, Financing, Customer Acquisition, Installation)
- Project Development Technology (EPC, Integrated, Planning and Designing, O&M)
- Solar Products (Charging Solutions, Lighting Solutions, Thermal Solutions, Horizontal)
Solar Energy – Thin Film Photovoltaics
A particularly interesting piece of work we did in this field was with Department of Engineering Science at Oxford University where we analysed 2,472 patents in the field of thin-film photovoltaics developing a keyword co-occurrence matrix technique to categorise the field across 28 different material types, 19 semi-conductor technologies and 9 thin-film production techniques.
Analysis of over 700 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 3 main fields:
- Hardware Development (Turbines, Generators, Blades, Towers, Rotors, Control Systems)
- Enabling Technologies (Monitoring & Analytics, Energy Management, Project Development Tools)
- Service Provision Technologies (EPC Tools, O&M tools, Planning & Management Tools)
Analysis of over 425 companies in this field identified that most research falls into one of 4 main fields:
- Biodiesel (feedstocks including Karanja, jatropha and oil seeds)
- Bio-alcohol (ethanol, methanol, butanol using biomass from various feedstocks including corn, switchgrass, miscanthus and other lignocellulosic crops)
- Biogas (gaseous fuels produced from organic matter using fermentation or anaerobic digestion)
- Syngas (gaseous fuel mainly containing carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide)
- Catalysts (improving the efficiency of production of biofuels)
- Biomass (including forestry waste, wood pellets, biodiesel and bioethanol)
- Algae (feedstocks using algae for the production of biodiesel and bioethanol)
- Celluolosic (feedstocks containing fibre/cellulosic content mainly in the production of bioethanol)
- Oil Seeds (feedstocks containing oil mainly used in the production of biodiesel)
- Technology Developer (development of plant and equipment from biomass or biofuels)
- Co-Generation (combined heat and power CHP and optimisation of systems for electricity and heating)