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Meet the Team - Andrew Cowan

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Meet the Team - Andrew Cowan

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In the first of our 'Meet the Team' series, we sit down with Andrew Cowan, Technical Director here at Momentum Group and discuss his professional experience as well as what keeps him busy when he's not in the office.

How did you end up working in R&D Tax Credits?
I trained as a Chartered Accountant in PwC Consulting and during a decade or so managed to visit a fair chunk of the world, working on all sorts of projects for companies in various industries and phases of their lives.

I then made a somewhat rash decision to go it alone and headed off into the world of self-employment and contracting with a focus on helping clients with business process optimisation and rolling out modern software tools, through to operational strategy and securing funding. Admittedly I had not a single client and didn’t even own a laptop at that point in my life, but sure sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone!

Much like many of the business owners I meet these days, I was aware of the existence of R&D Tax Credits but hadn’t really given it much consideration, thinking it was mostly an accounting thing, looked at when tax returns are being completed.

It was while I was working on a local start-up project, developing a new generation of non-touch IR thermometers for medical professionals, that the penny dropped as to how R&D Tax Credits can make a massive difference to a business. It was then that my interest piqued as I realised this was an area which could genuinely help people that are trying to turn their ideas in to reality, which is what I was all about at that time.

The more involved in this world of R&D I got, the more I enjoyed meeting the ‘ideas people’ and having technical conversations, and I seemed to develop a bit of skill around translating the work being done by businesses into meaningful and understandable technical reports. And really I’ve just kept following this path until one day I knocked on Momentum’s door to ask for help, and somehow Tom convinced me to join the team and hasn’t been able to get rid of me since!

What is the most fulfilling part of your role at Momentum?
Interesting question. I think as I’ve got older, I have started to understand my own personality better, and on the one hand I can be quite introverted, but almost simultaneously I am a social creature, and I enjoy meeting new people and seeing new cool stuff that companies are working on. I’m someone that gets bored easily so I guess this line of work appeals in terms of keeping my attention!

Equally it is nice to hear from clients who express genuine gratitude when an R&D claim is processed and seeing them buying a new bit of kit or hiring a new person, or getting a prototype device into production as a result of my work, is pretty fulfilling.

Why would you recommend R&D Tax Credits to a potential client?
Clearly there is the obvious benefit of financial gain. The government introduced R&D Tax Credits to help spur on innovation in the UK and encourage businesses to pursue ideas and projects that they may have previously thought too risky or too expensive.

Reducing the risk and cost of pushing the boundaries is usually rationale enough for most people to get on board with R&D Tax Credits, but I am finding that creating and instilling a mindset of innovation, or even entrepreneurship, within an organisation really stimulates idea growth which ultimately filters down into improved processes, products and performance. Call these secondary benefits if you like, but with some guidance from us and a willingness to think differently, there is a wider impact from getting involved with R&D Tax Credits than purely the financial gain.

What is the most important piece of business advice you’ve been given?
People have given me all sorts of advice over the years but the one bit of advice that sticks in my mind, and I refer to every day, is “communicate clearly and precisely”.

It was advice given to me early in my career when working with a chap who came across as a bit arrogant and a bit scary, but his advice was sound. He simply could not tolerate indecision, people that mmmm’d and aaahhh’d, or those who used the words “sort of” or “maybe”.

Again, over time, and from hanging out with technical oriented people, I’ve realised that the ability to communicate clearly and with precision and can take you a long way.

What do you do when you are not at work?
I’ve always been a big petrol-head and Porsche fanatic and can usually be heard complaining about some kind of car related problem. Albeit that has taken a back seat as I have recently assumed the role of “equestrian Dad” for my two daughters, so the majority of my free time is now spent scooping stuff, cleaning tack, towing horse trailers and generally directing my salary towards looking after a couple of long faced furry creatures.

If you were able to tell your 18 year old self one thing, what would you say?
Believe in yourself. I think when young it is easy to follow what others tell you and in essence conform to what society or family expect from you. Sometimes though it’s important to have the self-belief to follow your gut and see where it leads you.

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