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In the world of innovation and product development, two critical concepts often come into play: Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) and routine development. While both are essential for advancing technology and improving products, they serve distinct purposes and follow different methodologies. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between SR&ED and routine development to help you understand their unique roles in driving progress.

Objectives: Breaking New Ground vs. Improving the Known


The primary objective of SR&ED is to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge or achieve technological advancements through systematic investigation or experimentation. This involves resolving scientific or technological uncertainties and creating new knowledge or capabilities. In other words, SR&ED is about exploring the unknown and making breakthroughs that can revolutionize industries.

Routine Development:

On the other hand, routine development aims to enhance existing products, processes, or services by leveraging established knowledge and practices. The focus here is on making improvements or modifications that enhance functionality, efficiency, or user experience without seeking entirely new scientific or technological discoveries. Routine development is about refining and optimizing what we already know.

Processes: Rigorous Experimentation vs. Established Practices


SR&ED involves a systematic and rigorous approach to experimentation. This includes formulating hypotheses, conducting tests, and analyzing results. Projects under SR&ED require detailed documentation of the hypotheses, experimental methods, results, and conclusions. The innovation level is typically high, as SR&ED seeks to address unknowns or solve problems without obvious solutions based on current knowledge.

Routine Development:

Routine development follows standard engineering or development practices without the need for extensive experimentation. It uses known techniques, tools, and methods to achieve its goals. The focus is on incremental improvements rather than groundbreaking innovations. Changes are based on well-understood principles and predictable outcomes, involving low levels of uncertainty.

Outcomes: New Knowledge vs. Enhanced Capabilities


The outcomes of SR&ED can lead to new technologies, processes, or scientific knowledge. These results often contribute to the broader scientific or technological community and can have significant implications for industry standards and practices. Detailed documentation is required to qualify for SR&ED tax incentives or other support, emphasizing the importance of the experimental processes and results.

Routine Development:

Routine development results in improved products, services, or processes that enhance existing capabilities. These outcomes are typically applied within the organization and may not significantly impact the broader scientific or technological landscape. While documentation is important for internal project management, it is less rigorous compared to SR&ED, focusing on practical implementation rather than extensive experimental evidence.

Regulatory and Financial Aspects: Incentives and Compliance


Projects under SR&ED may qualify for government incentives, such as tax credits, to encourage investment in R&D. This is due to the high-risk and high-reward nature of SR&ED activities. To qualify for these incentives, projects must meet specific criteria set by regulatory bodies, demonstrating that they involve scientific or technological uncertainty and systematic investigation.

Routine Development:

Routine development typically does not qualify for special tax incentives or government support aimed at R&D. Funding is usually part of the regular budget for product or process improvement. Compliance focuses on industry standards and regulations pertinent to product development and market introduction rather than specific R&D criteria.


Understanding the differences between SR&ED and routine development is crucial for businesses aiming to innovate and stay competitive. SR&ED is about making significant scientific and technological advancements through rigorous experimentation and addressing uncertainties, often qualifying for specific R&D incentives. In contrast, routine development focuses on applying established knowledge to enhance existing products or processes with predictable outcomes, generally without qualifying for special R&D incentives.

By recognizing these distinctions, companies can better allocate resources, plan their projects, and potentially benefit from government incentives aimed at fostering innovation. Whether breaking new ground or refining the known, both SR&ED and routine development play vital roles in driving progress and achieving business success.

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