HMRC reference the concept of a 'Competent Professional' working in the field several times within the BEIS guidelines and associated guidance. Although they have not explicitly defined the term within the BEIS guidelines themselves (as they believe that the term is self-explanatory) they have issued guidance within the Corporate Intangibles Research and Development Manual, that is provided below.
"In respect of their field of expertise, one would expect such a person to:
be knowledgeable about the relevant scientific and technological principles involved,
be aware of the current state of knowledge, and
have accumulated experience and be recognised as having a successful track record.
Simply having worked in a field or having an intelligent interest in it does not, by itself, make a person a competent professional.
There may be differences of opinion between competent professionals in a particular field. Where the view has been reached by a competent professional by properly exercising his or her expert judgement then it should normally be accepted.
To enable an opinion to be properly assessed as to its contents and reasoning, an opinion offered by the company as being that of a competent professional would need to explain clearly, without the use of jargon, what the advance in science or technology being sought is, and why it an advance in the overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology, rather than just in the company's own state of knowledge or capability, and so should objectively review the current state of knowledge, and the work carried out. A simple assertion as to the R&D nature of the project is unlikely to be satisfactory.
While due weight will be given to an opinion offered by the company's competent professional as to whether there is an advance in science or technology being sought, it will not necessarily be conclusive of the issue, and further enquiry may still be needed."
Hence the competent professional is somebody within your company who understands the R&D undertaken within (one or more of) the company's projects and is also is knowledgeable about the current state of science and/or technology within the industry (and often at competitor companies).
Responsibilities of the Competent Professional
The competent professional will be responsible for assessing the eligibility of your companies R&D projects (or in the case of larger claims, the subset of projects that they are close to the scientific or technological details of). The will also be responsible for providing supporting information for the claim, to articulate the scientific or technological advance and uncertainty of the project/s.
This person will need to understand both the scientific or technological details of the project and the what work was done by different individuals (and third-parties) to overcome the project uncertainties.
There are no mandated credentials for competent professionals (thus they could potentially come from any possible background). However, it is often useful to provide HMRC with some narrative to the background of your competent professionals, to illustrate that they are experts in that field of science or technology and that they have the ability to apply a reasonable assessment of what the scientific/technological challenges were rather than the more routine parts of the project.
RD Relief has the industry-leading R&D Tax Credits Software solution and industry experts. Should you require, our experts are always on hand to help you identify the right person/s within your company to act as the competent professional/s. The RD Relief software has been developed to support different logins for different competent professionals within a company. Each login will provide guidance tailored to that competent professional's field of science or technology.