The SR&ED Program & How to Determine Project Eligibility Series Part 2

The Great Unknown

Scientific and technological uncertainty

An uncertainty relates to a result or objective, and whether that result or objective can be achieved based on available scientific or technological knowledge.

A scientific uncertainty relates to science while a technological uncertainty relates to technology.

These uncertainties can extend to what is known as a system uncertainty. This uncertainty refers to the unpredictable interactions between individual components of a system which can arise during the integration of technologies.

With all this in mind, we can recognize that an uncertainty arises when you encounter a problem and realize that problem cannot be resolved based on known solutions. The uncertainty exists in the fact that you are not sure if this problem can be resolved at all – and, furthermore, you are not even sure of the methods needed to resolve the problem.

A Quest for Knowledge

With an understanding of advancement and uncertainty, we can move on to another phrase in the definition of SR&ED – that is;

Systematic investigation or search…by means of experiment or analysis

CRA interprets this systematic investigation as the methods used to perform SR&ED – consisting of four components:

  1. A problem is defined
  2. A hypothesis is advanced to address the problem
  3. The hypothesis is tested by experiment or analysis
  4. Conclusions are developed based on the results

Terms like hypothesis and experiment or analysis may have little to no meaning in an industrial context. So, it might be easier to think of a hypothesis as a possible solution to the problem. And the experiment or analysis as the testing (under controlled conditions) which is performed to achieve this solution.

As you can see, the definition of SR&ED is filled with intricacies which require careful consideration to submit a successful SR&ED claim.

In an attempt to simplify this navigation, and to determine if work meets the definition of SR&ED, CRA has adopted a five question model as set out in Northwest Hydraulics Consultants Ltd. V. R. (98 DTC 1839).  For work to qualify as SR&ED, answers to each of these questions must be ‘yes’ to verify there is in fact SR&ED.

Question 1   Was there a scientific or technological uncertainty?

Question 2   Did the effort involve formulating hypotheses specifically aimed at reducing or eliminating that uncertainty?

Question 3   Was the overall approach adopted consistent with a systematic investigation or search, including formulating, and testing the hypotheses by means of experiment or analysis?

Question 4   Was the overall approach undertaken for the purpose of achieving a scientific or a technological advancement?

Question 5   Was record of the hypotheses tested and the result kept as the work progressed?

In our next blog post we will discuss question 1 and 2.

Author: Nicholas Ogrodnik
Position: Junior Technical Writer

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