Firms that employ professionals, including architects, engineers, general contractors and sub-contractors, to perform qualified research as part of their project activities qualify for this credit. Qualified research is most often found in projects that present one or more technical challenges that must be overcome. The firms that provide the best credit opportunity are the ones that perform engineering and design work in-house (e.g., design-build firms).
Much of the experimentation in these types of projects involves using advanced modeling software to develop and test virtual mock-up designs. Other potential qualifying activities could include the testing and experimentation of designs in new or unique environments and the improvement of construction processes or practices for increased efficiency or reliability. Conversely, research conducted outside of the United States (or its possessions), ordinary product testing, market research, and aesthetic or cosmetic design activities do not qualify for the credit.
Some examples of the types of projects most likely to contain qualified research include the following: