R&D Partners: The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

Partnering with your customers on R&D.

KC Armstrong

TASTE TEST: Pieter deJonge of Cambridge Fine Foods (left) discusses a breakfast tart with one of his customers, Byron Ainsworth, president of Your Grocery Depot.

If you want your customers to see you as a partner, rather than a mere vendor, "let's build this together" is a superior proposition to "buy this from me." And who doesn't want to be viewed as a partner? So it's not surprising that joint research and development projects between customers and suppliers are on the rise. In its simplest form, joint R&D means that customers provide ideas and feedback while a product is being developed. They may also share costs and co-own the resulting intellectual property.

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How to Outsource R&D

R&D isn't just for big corporations. Here's how you can use innovation to build your business, from selecting projects to tax advantages.

The objective of research and development (R&D) in a small or mid-sized business is to obtain new knowledge, applicable to your business' needs, which can eventually result in new or improved products, processes, systems, or services that can increase your business' sales and profits. R&D can be conducted in-house, under contract, or jointly with others. While in-house R&D commands a strategic advantage in that the business is the sole owner of the know-how created and can protect it from unauthorized use, the rise in popularity of outsourcing business functions in the last several years has increasingly included R&D.

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