Blog - Company

Jan 24, 2023 | Read time 4 min

Why Research and Development Will Always Be Crucial

Speechmatics' CEO Katy Wigdahl turns her attention to the importance of research and development in speech-to-text, arguing this is an area that should see investment, not cuts.
Katy WigdahlCEO

Why Research and Development Will Always Be Crucial

At Speechmatics, we aim to unlock human potential, increase the inclusivity of speech recognition engines, and lower bias through natural interaction with intelligent machines. We’ve made significant headway in making this aim a reality by unlocking the potential of millions of hours of unlabelled data by integrating self-supervised learning into our technology. Leaps forward like this could only have happened thanks to the research and development of our machine learning team.

Whilst the UK Government announced an increased budget for Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) to encourage more investment into UK R&D by large companies, the announcement of R&D tax relief cuts then countered it. The proposed tax cuts will block great start ups from investing and growing.

The Heart of our Technology

From our data scientists to our machine learning engineers, research and development is crucial to moving our product forward. Their work is why we have the most accurate and inclusive speech-to-text on the market. Their contributions make features like our Financial Language Pack possible. Because of their breakthroughs we can offer language coverage for over half the world’s population.

It’s because of our commitment to R&D – and the benefits we know it can bring – that the proposed R&D tax cuts recently announced made little sense. R&D tax relief was a huge help when Speechmatics started its journey. Tax relief for early tech start-ups plays a pivotal part in assisting the incoming generation, and we want to see as many new and innovative companies given the same support we were. The R&D tax relief is also still hugely beneficial to Speechmatics today as a Series B tech scale up. The proposed tax relief cuts could cost our business around £1.5m per year, slowing down our investment into our own technology and R&D.

On a global scale, the UK has historically fared reasonably well when it came to investing in R&D. Back in 2019, the UK spent approximately 1.71% of GDP. For comparison, in 2020, the United States spent 3.45%. When you breakdown that figure, the proposed cuts (relief reduced from 14.5 percent to 10 percent) become even tougher to take. Even before this announcement, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research found R&D investment had dropped from 4.2% to 3.4% over the last eight years in the UK.

Investing for the Future

Thankfully, a letter from SME business leaders may yet see the cuts overturned. In the letter, signed by executives from several startups, business leaders made a case that “Startups and scaleups like ours rely on R&D tax credits to develop cutting-edge technology and bring high-skill jobs to the UK.” At Speechmatics, we can vouch for that.

It’s not just businesses that see these cuts as unhelpful. Universities that supply much of the workforce in tech also see the long-term damage R&D cuts can bring. In an open letter to the UK government, the Universities Alliance called for the government to “recommit to investing £20bn every year in research and development by 2024 – 2025.” The letter cites the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) which produces a return of £8.30 for every £1 of public money invested.

As a UK-based tech company, Universities play a large part in our own eco-system. We’re fortunate enough to have students from the prestigious Cambridge University on our doorstep, and graduates often come to work with us. We see first-hand what research and development helps achieve. Considering universities contribute 22% (£13.9bn) of R&D funding, the business sector contributes £44bn, is it too much to ask that the government’s contribution – around £3.1bn - doesn’t go down any further?

To see the benefits of what excellent R&D can do for accuracy in speech-to-text, visit our portal and try it for free.

Katy Wigdahl, CEO