Two Ayming consultants on working in R&D consultancy

09 April 2020 4 min. read
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As companies across the world look to tap into a rich vein of R&D benefits offered by governments, consultants have an important role to play in ensuring innovators get the maximum potential from such incentives. Ayming consultants Lauren Highsmith and Joana Palha recently spoke to the firm’s website about what R&D consulting means to them.

Governments around the world have schemes in place to help fund innovative projects or research and development (R&D). These incentives are proven to help stimulate the economy, jobs, and skills creation. The UK is no different with several schemes available to companies engaged in innovative projects in Britain – and in order to get the most out of such initiatives, many firms look to consultants for support with their applications. After four years working as a Business Analyst, Houston based consultant Lauren Highsmith joined Ayming in 2018, with a view to doing just that.

After just one year with the consultancy, Highsmith was promoted to R&D Practice Leader, a role that sees her manage direct contact points with the firm’s R&D clients. That includes leading meetings, conducting interviews, assessing financials, determining what projects and spending qualify for the credits, putting together the calculation, and report. Meanwhile, as the manager of the team, she also oversees her team’s projects, keeping work to schedule and working as part of the quality control review process.

Lauren Highsmith and Joana Palha - Ayming

Speaking on Ayming’s website about what first attracted her to R&D consulting, Highsmith explained, “With tax consulting, or consulting in general, you know you’re helping the business you’re advising. We get money back for our clients. It is rewarding for us to get to see what they do with their tax credits, whether they hire more engineers, buy a new piece of equipment, or expand their operations or facilities.”

According to Highsmith, it was easy to stay motivated and bed down quickly within the Ayming team, thanks to the firm’s supporting and entrepreneurial culture. She explained that in order to help its staff be as productive as possible, the firm is happy to accommodate the need to work from home once a week, while also supplying ample vacation and holiday leave.

Highsmith explained, “Ayming encourages each of its employees to take charge of their lives, to develop their own work-life balance and career path. It is very refreshing because I know that when the time comes I will be able to maintain that balance so I can be both a good consultant and a good mother.”

Similarly, another of Ayming’s R&D consultants has been a major beneficiary of the firm’s flexibility. Civil engineer Joana Palha is an R&D Tax Manager in Ayming’s London office, and having completing a Master’s in structural engineering in her native Portugal, previously worked on a highways project in Brazil, followed by the Doha Metro in Qatar and London’s Crossrail – Europe’s largest infrastructure project. In August 2015, however, Palha changed track with Ayming, and was quickly impressed with the consultancy’s supportive culture.

“The workplace culture is fantastic,” Palha said. “I would describe it as supportive, competitive and friendly. As a new joiner or experienced consultant you don’t feel alone; it’s an environment where people are open to hearing your concerns, so I would be comfortable to share, and confident that the company would be open to adapt… Flexible working is another aspect of this. You can work from home as well as the office, if you have a long commute or family commitments. So I think Ayming will help me balance the two lives.”

A desire to help people is what initially inspired Palha’s shift into R&D consulting. While she still “loves engineering” Palha decided that applying her analytical skills to other people’s problems could help fund innovation for many different businesses and projects, as an R&D Consultant. Given her technical background, she tends to work mainly with clients within the construction and civil engineering industry. However, she is also involved with a wide range of sectors, including mechanical engineering and manufacturing – talking to clients about developments “from wheelchairs to shoes.”

When asked what the most satisfying aspect of her work is, Palha concluded, “I came from an engineering background but I am now helping companies to reduce their tax bill through R&D tax incentive schemes. I have gained new knowledge that I never expected, and stayed in touch with the construction industry. As part of the project team I have helped companies access over £15 million in incentive reliefs. Achieving all that is quite satisfying.”