What qualifies for R&D tax relief in Robotics? – Case Studies

Here we share with you real-life, practical examples of companies involved in robotics projects in various sectors, allowing them to qualify for a generous tax benefit to inject back into their business.

Published/updated:

24 May 2022

In this challenging and uncertain economic climate, investing in innovation is an invaluable way for businesses to build resilience.

This is, of course, easier said than done at a time when many companies feel that investing precious resources in R&D or innovation isn’t their top priority. Luckily, there’s a wide variety of government-backed funding mechanisms available to incentivise research and development and drive forward business growth.

It can however be tricky figuring out which of your projects or activities qualify to receive vital innovation funding.

Here we share with you real-life, practical examples of companies involved in robotics projects in various sectors, allowing them to qualify for a generous tax benefit to inject back into their business.

CASE STUDY #1: EDUCATION

ABGI-UK successfully completed a series of R&D relief claims for one client designing and making a small, low-cost, walking robot intended for educational use, the robot equivalent of the Raspberry Pi computer as it were.

Despite the small size of the robot the company’s eligible R&D activity extended across a wide range of elements of robotics:

  • The design of the robots legs to enable it to walk, dance and kick a ball; this work resolved uncertainties concerning the number of articulated joints used, the springs and closed-loop kinematic linkages required to support the necessary ranges of motion at each joint, the gait design, the number and power of servo-motors to use.
  • The design and integration of the electronics fit to enable early robotics learners to use a basic set of capabilities (such as walking) but to support more advanced users in programming all aspects of the robot’s behaviour; the robot uses a small single-board microcontroller, but its capabilities can be extended by the addition of sensors (such as touch sensors and a camera) or upgraded by the addition of a Raspberry Pi.
  • Resolving the issues which emerged when moving from a prototype, whose plastic parts were made on a 3D printer, to an initial production run using injection-moulded plastic parts; the difference in plastics used meant that friction at joints was different, and that wear on moving parts was also different, these factors in turn required further development of the robot’s leg design and gait.

CASE STUDY #2: AUTOMOTIVE

An ABGI client involved in developing machines and tooling for the automotive manufacturing sector was involved in adapting existing manufacturing lines to accommodate the production of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle models within a legacy powertrain assembly line dealing with petrol and diesel vehicles. Projects eligible for R&D tax relief included:

  • Development of more flexible assembly fixturing to accommodate the variability in length of gearboxes between petrol, diesel and electric vehicles.
  • Development of a flexible and adaptable power train marriage system to assist training assembly operators. It was technologically challenging to develop a multi-flexible system for production spanning a series of models within the tight spatial constraints specified for plant operator and
    equipment access.
  • Development of a more flexible universal component handling end-effector able to deal with a wide range of components across the manufacturing operation from warehouse to manufacturing line and on to packing. The challenge was designing a universal end-effector that was flexible enough to successfully transfer various sizes, geometries and weights of component from different sizes and types of packaging.

CASE STUDY #3: AUTOMATION

A company involved in automation solutions undertook a number of R&D projects, allowing them to qualify for R&D tax relief from the UK government, including:

  • Development and manufacture of a robot-mounted automatic gun for the fastening of high-strength rivnuts. During the development the company had to address the technical challenges relating to the effect of excessive vibration on the consistency and accuracy of fastener positioning.
  • The automation of shearing operations for improved health and safety in metal forming processes. The main technical challenge was developing consistency in the accuracy and quality of repeated shearing processes.
  • The development of an effective automated laser welding process for extruded 6000 Series aluminium panels. As aluminium extrusions have a tendency to twist and deform the company needed to develop an effective feedback and control process to ensure consistent gap control between panels.

CASE STUDY #4: EXTENDED REALITY

And finally, this ABGI client operating in extended reality, benefitted from claiming R&D Tax Credits on their robotics development projects:

  • An ABGI client created a remotely controlled robotic figure to develop a lifelike robotic figure which was remotely controlled via a motion capture suit, including facial control. The company is tackling a range of challenges relating to limited space for the required components, development of realistic control surfaces, power constraints due to
    battery operation and the utilisation of a combination of “off the shelf parts” and
    in-house development components and controls.

By accessing the wide range of support available, from the inception to the commercialisation of robotics innovation projects, UK companies can start looking to the future and ensure they are competitive in the global market.

Talk to ABGI if you would like to learn more about how you could leverage funds back into your business through claiming innovation funding at every stage of an R&D project

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