Research and Development (R&D) tax credits are a government incentive designed to reward companies for investing in innovation. When companies invest in innovation, it leads to better productivity that can deliver economic benefits on a local and national scale.
The key to maximising the opportunity is to have a clear understanding of eligibility – if it’s applicable to your business - and how the process works. According to the latest figures from HMRC, claims have increased by around 56% over the last year. Still, many eligible businesses in Northern Ireland are yet to factor R&D tax credits into their financial model.
To find out more, directorNI spoke to Chris Maylin and Jeff Drennan, founders and joint Managing Partners of Amplifi Solutions, one of Northern Ireland’s largest R&D Tax Specialist firms.
Chris and Jeff established Amplifi Solutions in 2014 having previously worked together for BT as Head of Commercial Finance and Head of Investment and Transformation respectively. As colleagues it quickly became apparent that they both shared a common entrepreneurial desire to build a business from scratch – one based on transparency and adding value to the businesses they work with.
Amplifi Solutions recently celebrated five years in business, and both the Managing Partners reflected on their move from ‘big industry’ to creating a start-up business:
Chris advises: “Obviously working in commercial finance meant we were aware of the opportunity that R&D tax credits can bring to businesses. We recognised early that if companies invest in innovation, they become eligible for tax credits – this allows them to reinvest and grow their business. The way we saw it, there was a clear cycle for businesses to develop. Simply put, if their business grows and they increase their investment in innovation, they could receive a larger R&D tax credit, which can be reinvested to deliver further growth.”
“It sounds straight forward – but at the time the market for R&D tax credits in Northern Ireland was still developing and many companies were unaware of the scheme and the savings that could be made. Jeff and I studied the market and felt there was a niche opportunity in Northern Ireland to specialise in R&D tax credits and demystify the process for clients – large and small.”
Jeff added: “We took the decision to grow our business slowly at the start, so that we could further develop our expertise and fully understand the risks and opportunities for our clients across different sectors. Once we were comfortable with our delivery model, we had the confidence to accelerate this growth, which has involved investing strategically in our people and our facilities.”
Today the investment is paying off. Amplifi Solutions now has 12 R&D specialists working out of their modern offices in Ballyclare servicing over 200 clients throughout the UK and Ireland. The business partners are also committed to further growth in 2019 and beyond, and are actively seeking to open offices in Great Britain.
Chris continues: “There are three things we are incredibly proud of as a business. Firstly, we aim to bring transparency to the process, from day one with a client we aim to be absolutely clear as to what we can do for them and how we will manage the process. We see our role as being the R&D tax specialists and acting as a support to a business’s financial function that they can trust and rely on. The second thing we are proud of is a direct result of our transparent approach - to date, virtually all our clients have come from referrals. Our relationships with our clients are everything to us, and we believe the ultimate compliment is if they recommend us. The third factor is our team. We genuinely believe we have put in place a ‘best in class’ team whose expertise is unparalleled in this market.”
Jeff continues: “We don’t just hire for experience, we hire people who really believe in our client focused ethos and display our values of transparency and honesty. Throughout the R&D process our clients will be speaking with numerous people from the business including Chris and I, to technical case writers and our financial team. It’s important to us that every interaction for the client is positive because we put so much emphasis on relationships.”
Something that is very clear from talking to Chris and Jeff is their passion for the sector.
Chris advised: “We aren’t afraid to take risks and we embrace technology at every opportunity. The technology we use is constantly developing and we aim to keep our business at the leading edge to ensure our process runs as efficiently as possible for our clients, including upgrades to our CRM in 2018. The system is geared to accommodate our future growth and maintain our approach to client relationships. Whilst we aim to deliver scale, we will not lose sight of how we have grown to date – transparency and sound relationships are everything to us.”
So, what does the future hold for Amplifi Solutions? How do Chris and Jeff see the business progressing in the medium to long term?
Chris is clear: “As we celebrate our fifth anniversary, we are conscious of maintaining the client relationships that have got us to where we are today. The industry is more competitive than ever and thankfully we have established a reputation based on our approach that gives us real credibility in the sector. The truth is, there is still a huge amount of opportunity to support businesses in Northern Ireland and help them free up assets to support further growth. As long as this opportunity exists, Amplifi Solutions is committed to being the best professional services firm that we can be in our sector.”
Jeff concludes: “The past five years have been an incredible journey – as we mature as a profitable business we want to continue to excel at supporting our clients and continue supporting the community we live and work in. We are incredibly proud of our roots in Ballyclare and Northern Ireland and aim to continue our associations with Ballyclare Rugby Club, County Antrim Harriers, local motocross rider Martin Barr and sporting bodies such as Disability Sport NI. Both Chris and I are just as excited about the next five years as we were around my kitchen table five years ago, with nothing but enthusiasm and a vision.”