R&D (Research and Development) plays a critical role in the innovation process. It provides a platform for creativity and investment in future capability which can be transformed into new products, processes and services.

At a national level R&D is the key driver of both economic growth and productivity growth. As such, it is also the key driver underpinning improvements in living standards. The total amount invested in R&D nationally and the proportion of economic activity devoted to it (known as R&D intensity) is widely regarded as an important indicator of the economic health and future prosperity of a country. When measured as a proportion of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product estimates show that we are 22nd on the list of OECD countries at 1.67%, behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Slovenia, and below the EU average of 2.03%.

The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy aims to transform this picture by ‘investing in R&D to transform our economy’. The aim is to drive a dramatic change in the use of R&D by industry, with our businesses creating the next generation of technologies to revolutionise productivity in all sectors from construction and agriculture to manufacturing and the creative industries.

Most business R&D is undertaken by large corporations that can afford the investment. While It's much more of a challenge for SMEs to find the resources to undertake speculative research, most disruptive innovation originates from small companies. For smaller businesses, collaboration, with other businesses or with universities and research organisations, is often key to enabling participation in R&D projects.

One of KTN’s key roles is to broker such partnerships. Get in touch if you think we can help you find potential collaborators.

Components of R&D


It’s a truism that ideas are two a penny but consistently generating good ones, evaluating, developing and implementing them requires a managed, systematic process.


The application of design methodology in innovation leads to the development of better products, services, processes and business models. Businesses should develop internal capacity or bring in specialist throughout an iterative development process.


If your innovation is dependent on emerging science or technology, the capacity to overcome barriers to development and risk is vital. Consider approaches to building this in-house or in collaboration with partners.

External resources

Toolshero is an online global platform that aims explore, apply and share management theories and methods in their context anytime, anywhere and any device. Their creativity resources include many tried and tested techniques including brainstorming, morphological analysis and design thinking.

Design Council Double Diamond is a simple visual map of the design process which divides into four distinct phases: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Their site includes a guide to each of the four steps of this iterative approach, which cycles twice through divergent and convergent phases.