On the day that George Osborne announced a commitment to provide £40 billion in loans to small businesses, the R&D tax credit scheme yet again crept under the radar with changes that should help unlock the £1billion due to Scottish businesses.
In last year's Budget, the programme's benefits were increased by two thirds over two stages. This increase is of the same magnitude as dropping the top tax rate to 17.5%.
The £1billion remains unclaimed by manufacturing businesses each year because of a lack of understanding of what the rewards are for.
The UK's largest single applicant, Jumpstart, reported from its Edinburgh base that, out of 100 client companies surveyed after last year's Budget, 92 did not claim because they did not think they were eligible - yet they received money after Jumpstart helped them with their claim.
The news that the credit is likely to be changed to an above the line credit will remove the perception that this "tax benefit" is a matter best dealt with by financiers rather than technologists.
Technology and taxation are an unusual combination and most companies feel inclined to ask for guidance from their financiers - yet it is the technology and its eligibility that will drive that £1 billion into Scottish pockets.
This above the line change is subtle, but it will appeal to business people as they see their P&L change as a result of the innovation they have shown in the technical challenges their companies face on a day to day basis.
We now know that Osborne gets the credit and let's hope that manufacturing businesses make sure they do too.
Posted on Monday, 26th March, 2012
Why do zebras have their distinctive stripes? No seriously...why would evolution endow zebras with such an obvious pattern that provides next to no camouflage in the African savannahs? The question puzzled even our most celebrated biologist, Charles Darwin, who commented, “The zebra is conspicuously striped, and stripes on the open plains of South Africa cannot afford any protection.”
Even to modern day biologists, the question has been perplexing. Perhaps the stripes are a way the females choose their mate? Possibly – many male members of the animal kingdom have bizarre decorations such as brightly coloured plumage or heavy, unwieldy horns that are a clear disadvantage in survival but serve to attract the opposite sex – but that wouldn’t explain why the female zebras also have stripes.
Some animals use patterns and bright colours to act as warnings or camouflage– Researchers have found that when zebra herds move together, their stripes act as a large optical illusion. Any potential predator is momentarily confused, giving the zebras vital seconds to escape their clutches.
However, a group of scientists from Eötvös University in Hungary have found another solution, which is far less glamorous. It seems that the zebra’s intricate barcode pattern acts as one large insect repellent – in particular against horseflies. They found that horseflies are quite particular about where they land to prey. The narrow stripes on the zebra act to break up the hide and alter how the light is reflected off of it. These two factors make the zebra less appealing to the horsefly.
It seems remarkable how evolution can be defined by even the smallest of creatures and how a large creature’s body image can be influenced by a fly no larger than a thimble.
Posted on Thursday, 15th March, 2012