What We Can Learn from Formula 1 About Innovation
“Going head-to-head with your competitors every two weeks for 10 months a year requires a lot of innovation.” – University of Nottingham
Formula 1: The world’s most prestigious motor racing competition. In 10 months, 10 teams compete in 21 races across 21 countries.
Famous for its two second pitstops, ground-breaking technology, and the ‘drive’ to continuously improve performance, companies can learn an awful lot from F1 racing teams, especially when it comes to innovation.
Why does F1 prioritise innovation?
“Formula One has become the automotive NASA, the unofficial collective home of research and development for the motor industry.” – Redbull
Back in 1946, when formula 1 first began, teams like Maserati and Ferrari were competing in racing cars that you had to push to get started. Seven decades later and those F1 cars can now go from 0 to 100mph in 2.6 seconds.
F1 teams never stop tinkering and tweaking the downforce levels, aero settings, tyre pressure, roll stiffness, differential settings and brake shapes of their vehicles. They do whatever it takes to get their car, pitstop process and driver to perform better whilst they’re out on the grid.
“Innovation will always be at the core of Formula 1…This is what we do and it’s part of the DNA.” – Toto Wolff (Chief Principle, Mercedes), Race Fans
Why do they go to these great lengths to optimise performance?
Because of the F1 spectators.
“It is not unusual for race day spectators to be well in excess of 100,000, but it is the television viewers that matter and they now number around 600 million for each race...The ability of F1 to attract such audiences 19 times a year proves the strength of the brand.” – Motorsport
People obsess over the fierce competition out on the grid, the exhilarating speed the cars fly around the track, the fraught pitstops, and the unshakeable team dynamics.
And it’s the constant movement to change, adapt and continuously improve using break-through technology and innovative ideas that gives the spectators what they’re looking for, and explains why F1 is loved by everyone around the world.
“Formula 1’s success relies on a unique combination of factors that allow it to differentiate itself, and among those factors that are high on the list are technical excellence and innovation.” - Motorsport
How do they do it and what we can learn from F1 about innovation?
The secret to F1’s success lies in the culture of innovation they’ve built-up around the sport. Every member of every F1 team wants their team to be the best. They’re starving hungry for the win and will stop at nothing to beat their rivals.
“There's a very clear operational structure in F1 but when it comes to executing decisions and innovation, those with the knowledge and information always had a voice.” – Karl Surmacz (Mclaren), University of Nottingham
Here are some of the way F1 achieves this culture of innovation and how you, as a business can do the same to become the best in your industry, keep your customers happy and beat the competition:
Don’t point fingers
F1’s culture of innovation is largely nurtured by the lack of blame culture. Mistakes aren’t seen as failures, only opportunities to learn and become better. This allows people to try new ideas and gives them the space to take risks without feeling anxious.
Respect the whole team
In a typical F1 team everyone, from those on a five-figure salary to those on a more ‘normal’ one, is treated equally and with respect. This creates empowerment, builds loyalty and inspires a commitment to the cause of winning through innovation.
Develop an obsessive mindset
“Even when we win a race, we spend two hours at the track discussing what went wrong!” – Niki Lauda, Cranfield
It might feel borderline obsessive, but F1 wouldn’t be the success it is today without its teams having a dogged determination to win every single race. Every single decision that’s made, action that’s taken, and task that’s completed is all geared towards winning. If something doesn’t contribute to winning, then it’s considered irrelevant and a waste of time.
Recruit blue-sky thinkers
F1 teams only recruit people that can demonstrate their ability to think outside the box. They need people who aren’t afraid to take risks, who are excited to try new ideas and who will continuously look for ways to improve performance through innovation.
“This sport’s unbelievable commitment to continuous improvement is a textbook lesson in “how to innovate” and “how to lead.” – LinkedIn
F1 teams create an innovative culture by prioritising R&D. They partner with respected universities and pioneering companies to develop cutting-edge tech that can shave milli-seconds off their lap times and pit stops.
The companies that work with F1 teams are often able to produce pioneering products, services and solutions because they have massive R&D budgets which allow them to do so.
But what if you don’t have a big R&D budget? It’s not always possible for a company to pour unlimited funds into an innovative project that has a high potential to fail.
So, what do you do in that case?
How do you prioritise R&D without a budget?
With the government-funded R&D tax credit scheme, companies of all types, any size and across all industries are able to claim tax relief for their innovative projects and R&D work. Under the incentive, companies can claim up to 33.35% of their project costs as either a tax break or a cash repayment.
What is Tax Cloud?
Tax Cloud is the UK’s first online, self-service R&D tax credit claim portal which is powered by R&D tax specialists Myriad Associates. Tax Cloud carefully guides you through the entire R&D claims process and culminates with your R&D claim report, ready to send to HMRC. To make sure you get the maximum amount of R&D tax relief possible, the R&D tax experts at Myriad Associates will be with you during your entire R&D claims journey. They’re on hand to answer questions, give you advice and also check your report before it’s filed with HMRC.