BENEFITS OF THE CERTIFICATION OF R & D & I PROJECTS
Luis Díaz Saco. Head of Corporate Technological Innovation. Soluziona Calidad y Medio Ambiente. Expert Technician (Auditor) on R & D & I Projects of AENOR
(The text corresponds to a paper presented in the 2003 Conference on Innovation at Palacio de Congresos of Madrid. Nowadays Luis Díaz Saco is Executive President of Saconsulting Advanced Consultancy Services)
Norcontrol a company of Soluziona Quality and Environment, has been the first company in Spain to certify a project according to the standard UNE 166001 for management of R & D & I projects, this experience has been an important step forward in the systematization of its innovation processes.
The activity of R & D & I has a few special characteristics that should be taken into account when defining an R & D & I project. These differential aspects identified for years by specialists are especially important when attempting to give a boost to that activity in the business environment and to establish links of stable relationships between the public research system and private companies with the aim of increasing competitiveness.
The use of a methodology in the development of R & D & I projects facilitates decision-making about investment and it guarantees the further use of resources dedicated to these activities. The new standard UNE 166001 for R & D & I project management provides a framework suitable for this activity, and its use is associated with additional benefits such as the establishment of a common language for all those involved in the generation, development and marketing of the project.
The certification process that involves the integration of public entities and independent technicians in the process of R & D & I of the company reduces the risk associated with the activity. Finally, obtaining the certificate results in new benefits for the company as the improvement of its corporate reputation, and for the project itself, which acquires a recognized own entity that makes easier its development, this is especially important for projects carried out by several entities.
THE EXPERIENCE OF SOLUZIONA QUALITY AND ENVIRONMENT
The companies that compose Soluziona today have been characterized since their initiations by the introduction of new products and services to keep themselves in a proper position of their markets. In 2002, Norcontrol, a company integrated in the area of quality and environment of Soluziona, has been the first company in Spain that has received a certificate of R & D & I project from AENOR due to the research and development of a novel technology with application to mechanical inspection systems. This milestone, has involved a significant leap in the definition of systems and the management of R & D & I projects, it supports the consolidation of the culture of innovation at the company, and the systematization of the processes of innovation that began in 1998 with the creation of an R & D program supervised by a Committee of technological innovation chaired by the CEO of the company.
This experience places Soluziona Quality and Environment in a favorable situation to transfer these benefits to its most important projects, and its customers, as well as to continue with the systematization of these processes by implementing a management system of R & D & I according to the UNE 166002 standard.
CHARACTERISTICS OF R & D & I PROJECTS
All R & D & I activity requires three key components:
- An idea.
- Human and material resources to develop it.
- Sufficient funding to cover the costs of development.
Organizations can have any or all of them; those who combine these components effectively in a systematic way are more capable of achieving leadership in its competitive environment.
While the basis of all activities of innovation is in the ideas, the key to success is in the appropriate systematization of activities from the generation of ideas until its transformation into products that reach the market.
Ideas are the key component of the innovative activity. By its own nature, the good ideas are not only difficult to generate, are difficult to manage within the organization (to get resources enough to develop them), and they are difficult to be sold internal and externally (to get funds to develop them). However, these troubles for the development are a source of competitive advantages if they pass the test.
An essential feature of any innovation system will be “to make the difficult thing easy”, and to put the idea on a proper support to manage the development and the internal and external dissemination. This is the project of R & D & I that can be identified as the core for the deployment of any innovation strategy.
The R & D & I project is associated with a lower risk than the idea from which it comes. An R & D & I project must have a limited risk; it must be possible to identify the technical component and the economic component of that risk and this one must be able to be estimated in monetary units to be able to be compared to the benefit. I.e., the project should be itself the main way to control the risk that is associated with the innovation activity.
R & D & I projects have characteristics of investment projects. They are aimed at a goal clear and known, and oriented to the profit (business or social). However, the existence of technical risk associated with novelty, involves a certain uncertainty for achieving the results. The outcome is uncertain, and its development should be based on a precise definition of activities that ensures the possibility of analyzing the working methods used to learn from mistakes. Monitoring and control procedures must also be according to the associated risk, and it is very important to spend time and resources initially to the analysis of the idea and the study of how to implement it.
A management methodology for this type of projects that meet the specific needs of this activity is needed.
THE STANDARD MANAGEMENT OF R & D & I PROJECTS
A project of R & D & I with high possibilities of success should cover the following aspects:
- The idea is clearly defined and studied.
- It defines clearly the work to be carried out and the necessary resources.
- It facilitates decision-making:
– To the proponent unit, that usually has a manager that analyzes the novelty of the idea.
– To the Funding unit that demands an understanding about the return of the investment.
– To the executing unit that needs to know if it can assign resources to this activity.
– To the directorate that keeps compliance with standards and the business strategy.
- It includes mechanisms to control and to reduce risk.
- It includes mechanisms and other criteria to introduce changes into the project.
The standard UNE 166001 covers these aspects from a general viewpoint. It is applicable to different types of organizations and different types of projects (basic research, applied research, technological development and innovation), which makes it a reference framework that can serve as a common language for researchers and entrepreneurs.
This standard provides guidance for the preparation of the basic information of a project of R & D & I. conforming to it ensures the proper analysis of the idea from the study of the State of the art, definition of tasks and adequacy of the human and material resources to them, control of the project risk, establishment of mechanisms of changes in the project on the basis of the progress, needs financing, management of quality, and exploitation of the results.
These aspects may be covered in accustomed to the activity of R & D & I organizations and have their own methods of project management. However, fitting an external standard guarantees:
- A common language to communicate with entities with either similar and different objectives.
- The setup of easier collaborations.
- The training of the Organization about the importance of the activity and systematization.
- Using criteria generally accepted for good management practices.
- Benefits associated with the certification process and the certification itself.
BENEFITS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS
During the certification process a technical specialist analyzes the project and evaluates compliance with the standard, and the quality. Then an independent expert evaluates the project and determines those activities that are R & D and those ones that are innovation (identifying those ones that have a higher technical risk). This process helps the organization to identify, estimate, and reduce the risk of the project and then, facilitating decision-making.
Performing a subsequent certification of expenditures will assign a value to the project that may be useful as a scheme for the distribution of the benefits among the different participating entities and other entities. This certification of expenses is compatible with the tax deductions of the Ministry of Treasure.
The certification is itself an acknowledgement of the quality of our R & D & I activity, and it can help to improve the corporate reputation of organizations. This is especially important in those, both public and private, whose objective is to research and development.
These benefits associated with this merit of the project admitted by third parties turn it into an asset of the company, even before its own execution.