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Tech research and development departments benefit list is clear for the private sector and the industry as a whole. While academia is actively engaged in research projects, large-scale corporate players are the ones that find real-world applications for abstract concepts, bring ideas into masses, or improve existing solutions.

Setting up an R&D department at the company is a challenging process that requires thorough planning and commitment. Recruitment, task allocation, and employee retention are important factors an R&D manager needs to consider.

After evaluating the investments and risks of running a research-and-development department brings to the table, a lot of businesses considered safer approaches. Companies started reaching out for outsourcing centers for creating proprietary innovations and designing products from scratch.

Which of the two approaches to research and development fits your company better? This post will help you get more info on the ways to handle R&D in the software industry, risks, and respective costs of outsourcing and in-house teams. After analyzing the data, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the fittest way to start a research-and-development unit for your own business.

What is In-House Research and Development?

In order to run an in-house R&D department, you need to assemble an entire team of scientists and data analysis from scratch. On it’s own, in-house research-and-development does not necessarily mean that all team members will work on the 9-5 5-days-a-week basis.

A flexible, project-based schedule can increase efficiency and improve the sustainability of in-house teams. On the other hand, a newly assembled team will need time to develop a project management framework, create a unified set of standards, and get up to speed in terms of industry standards and trends.

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What is R&D Outsourcing?

Outsourcing research and development is a practice of employing a dedicated team of developers to create innovative solutions or buy a license to use existing developments. Unlike an in-house team, R&D outsourcing doesn’t require a full-time commitment, is fully need-based – on top of that, the main office will be able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of a dedicated team.

Let’s examine the differences between these two approaches to research and development, reasons why both ways of innovation implementation are so popular in the modern-day tech.

Level of control over the innovation

For a fair share of companies that consider an R&D unit, it’s crucial to be the sole owner of the developed technology. While both approaches provide business managers with intellectual property protection, let’s find out more about the risks and benefits of each of them.

With an in-house team, you can register a new IP as a trade secret so that no one can find out about the development algorithm, cost, or a technology stack needed to build a solution. Keep in mind that filing and finalizing the patent is expensive and full of bureaucracy. At the end of the day, it usually pays off depending on the strength of a company’s corporate culture and internal values.

With outsourcing, the rights to use the technology are outlined during contracting. It’s important to analyze the contract with a team of trusted lawyers – otherwise, you might leave a contractor with a loophole allowing to solve or benefit from a developed solution. Maintaining high confidentiality is also more challenging when outsourcing – that’s why it’s better to create a system of fines for breaching the contracts of intellectual property.

Bottom line: in terms of innovation appropriation, R&D department creation is a cut above outsourcing by a low margin.

Time to market

In-house teams usually take more time to develop and test the product. Depending on the team, a project manager might have to recruit additional employees, conduct reskilling sessions, and so on.

Outsourcing firms, on the other hand, has a well-developed framework and have higher odds at bringing the product to the market in limited time frames. That’s why hiring a dedicated team is a traditional practice for solutions with a short ‘window of opportunity.’ By acquiring a ready-to-go skillset and knowledge, company managers can ensure a flexible and fast-paced development pipeline.

Bottom line: outsourcing firms usually work faster than in-house R&D departments.

Development cost

As an initial investment, in-house teams are cheaper than the acquisition of innovative technology. Also, the long-term implications of developing know-how from scratch have fewer challenges in terms of capitalizing R&D costs as you don’t have to give sale percentages away as royalties.

Acquiring R&D for apps from outsourcing firms is fairly expensive but fairly risk-free. Dedicated teams usually accept low upfront transactions followed up by periodic payments. The amount of royalties given to a contractor usually equals 2-5% of all innovation sales.

Bottom line: for tried-and-true solutions, in-house teams are a better fit as the company manager is not condemned by following through with royalties. To test an innovative project, it’s better to contact an outsourcing team thanks to low initial investments.


All kinds of innovations are inherently risky. For one thing, R&D trends in the software are constantly changing. You have to embrace the fact that the technology will be upstaged by a more powerful one in just a few years. However, if you’re up for the challenge, it’s better to choose a development approach that’s as risk-free as possible.

In-house teams cannot guarantee the accuracy of time and budget estimations as well as the technical efficiency of the tool.

With outsourcing firms, there’s a risk that a ready tool will not adhere to the requirements set by a business manager. On the other hand, hiring a dedicated team allows you to benefit from the experience and accurate development planning. There’s a lower risk of not delivering the technology on time or missing out on crucial technical specs.

Bottom line: outsourcing has lower risks of not delivering the final build on time. On the other hand, there isn’t such an in-depth connection to the business as that in-house teams can provide.

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Who Needs In-House Research and Development

Based on the analysis of in-house and outsourced R&D in software development, the following are the types of companies that would benefit from creating a team from scratch.

  • Businesses that need regular innovations. For projects that require constant research and product design, in-house R&D is better thanks to its stability. Your own team will never prioritize a different project over yours and will have a better connection to all departments in the company’s structure.
  • Companies with long-term projects. If the innovation you trying to bring to market is challenging in terms of maintenance and requires constant upgrades, it’s best to rely on an in-house team. For one thing, you’ll be able to influence the training of the team so that its skills actively improve the projects. Also, you can ensure low employee turnover – outsourcing doesn’t provide business managers with equal control.
  • Organizations that create classified innovations. If security is a number-one priority for you, it’s better to build a team from scratch. Sharing technologies with third-party vendors will not provide you with full control over devices where the innovation is stored or the number of people that can access it.

In-house R&D is a reasonable choice for all cases listed above.

Who Needs Research and Development Outsourcing?

There are also companies for whom maintaining an in-house R&D department will be a burden. In certain cases, reaching out to an outsourcing firm is the only way to create a sustainable, innovative product.

Let’s find out what kind of businesses should consider outsourcing rather than an in-house R&D unit.

  • Businesses with limited project delivery time. If being the first one company in the market with an innovative product is crucial to you, contacting an outsourcing firm is a win-win move. For one thing, you don’t spend much time to recruit and train the team from scratch. Also, a business will be benefiting from all the knowledge collected by a dedicated team.
  • Companies with a fluctuant need for innovation. Most businesses don’t need to build products and implement new technology on an around-the-clock basis. For them, there isn’t enough workload to justify the expenses in-house teams produce. Outsourcing is a much better idea for on-demand R&D necessity as it has no long-term responsibility and brings forth no commitments.
  • Rapidly-scaling teams. Expanding an in-house team brings forth a load of R&D expenses – a manager needs to optimize the workplace, invest in recruitment, and employee onboarding. Most importantly, limitations like the size of the local talent pool can drive R&D scaling into a corner. Choosing to outsource, you have no limitations about how many firms are brought on board (albeit the monetary ones). Hiring dedicated teams make upscaling less time-consuming and produce more short-term benefits.
  • Companies with small or expensive talent pools. Finding research and development for developers specialists in the local market is challenging as the company manager has to rely on colleges. If there are no R&D program graduates or courses that help acquire a needed skill set, recruiting will be times more challenging. Going with outsourcing, you get to choose a location that has either the cheapest or the most high-quality talent to offer.


Advantages of research and development are in the fact that the practice is highly incentivized in modern IT markets. As a rule, companies that invest in an implement innovation are more likely to improve their presence or count on investments.

Outsourcing and starting in-house teams are the two most popular research and development trends. Choosing the approach to implementing innovations depends heavily on the company’s budget, objectives, and internal values. After analyzing the benefits and risks of both approaches, you will be able to make an informed choice. Be sure to carefully weigh the long-term applications of either option and match them against your vision and business goals.

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