R&D project management

R&D project management – overview

The drive for growth, the search for new ideas and new ways of doing things and increasing competitive pressures have transformed the R&D function into one of primary strategic importance. Research and development must operate strategically in the organisation, becoming a key driver of business success and no longer can a good R&D manager rely only on technical expertise. Effective management of R&D projects is a ‘business critical’ issue for many organisations today.

This intensive two-day course specifically deals with the management of R&D projects, which require some differences in approach from conventional project management.

Research and development management throws up specific challenges for the professional engineer or science leader. The formal disciplines of project management provide a means of planning, organising and controlling multi-disciplinary projects without stifling innovation. Managing the uncertainties and non-predictables of R&D projects is integral to this course, as are advanced project management techniques specifically designed around the research environment.

Full details below or download course outline.

Learning objectives

Participants will learn:

  • The elements of a sound process for setting up and managing a project. This draws on well-established project management methodology, but also recognises the special characteristics of R&D project work
  • Effective management of R&D projects, so that objectives and key success criteria are established and efficiently achieved
  • How to clarify the scope of work required to meet project objectives
  • How to ensure resources for research and development projects are properly identified, justified and costed
  • How to ensure project responsibilities and accountabilities are defined and allocated
  • The planning and scheduling of the activities needed to carry out a project
  • Progress: how to track, manage and report project performance
  • Knowing when and how to wrap up a project
  • Stakeholder management: how to manage relationships and information flows
Who should attend?

All levels of managers, supervisors and team/group leaders who wish to improve their leadership, management, motivational, and communication skills for creating optimum individual and team performance in any R&D environment – commercial, public or academic. It is particularly useful to scientists, engineers, project leaders and other technical personnel who intend to make a transition to management positions in an R&D environment or who want to improve their own leadership skills. It is also beneficial for academic members, group leaders, project leads, research administrators, managers responsible for sponsoring research, and policy makers in science and technology.

Course format

This practical two-day programme is highly participative, with numerous exercises and examples. Participants will be encouraged to raise issues concerning their current projects to enable discussion of how principles can be implemented in practice.


See what participants have said about this particular programme:

‘This course/workshop is based on years of experience, of project planning and is packed with ‘golden nugget/ learnings’.’

‘John breaks down a large, somewhat daunting subject into manageable chunks. He gave us lots of opportunities to tackle real-life, ongoing projects within the company. I think we all feel much more equipped and positive about facing our next project head on.’

‘Real life knowledge and sensible approach.’

‘John is incredibly knowledgeable and presented what could be seen as slightly dry material in a very engaging way.’

‘Lots of useful models to assist with planning/scoping/risking/monitoring your project.’

‘Laid-back, knowledgeable and easy to get along with.’

‘Excellent trainer, great and friendly presenter.’

‘Enlightening course on the fundamentals of project planning for R&D.’

‘John was clearly very knowledgeable and was able to articulate this knowledge well. His training style was engaging and made the course very enjoyable.’

‘John has a talent for getting powerful messages across in a relevant and easy-to-remember format.’

‘Experienced project manager with excellent teaching skills and approachable, friendly disposition.’

‘Pretty intensive two days but broken up well by group activities and practice applications of the teaching.’

‘It was a really useful course, we crammed so much information into 2 days, it’s going to completely change how I think about my work.’

‘A great introduction to R & D project management covering the essential skills and techniques required to be a good PM!’

‘Great presentation style, the time passed very quickly. Use of personal anecdotes, breaks up the content.’

‘Clearly had substantial experience which is put to good use to contextualise the models.’

‘Extremely valuable skills that are suitable for scientists at any level in industry.’

Special features
  • For maximum benefit, this programme can be tailored to incorporate internal procedures and practices and popular methodologies (eg, PRINCE2, APM Body of Knowledge), if appropriate
  • Designed to bring the attendees to a stage that they can comfortably and rapidly proceed beyond the depth and the breadth covered in the course
  • Tailored for engineers, technical professionals and scientists
  • Extensive use of team and syndicate work on case studies
  • Full course notes with targeted list of references
  • To facilitate the knowledge transfer and performance improvement process, we recommend that the programme sponsor both introduce the course and be present for the final session
Expert trainer

John is a highly qualified (BSc, MSc, CEng, MIMechE, MAPM, AMInstP) independent consultant specialising in project and change management. He established his consultancy practice in 1990, following 20 years of industrial management experience, and now offers a wide range of management training and team development programmes. He also provides facilitation and consultancy services to help clients with specific projects or to assist them with staff and management development programmes.

Before setting up his consultancy and training business, John was a senior manager with Ilford Limited, a leading manufacturer of specialist photographic products. Having starting as a development engineer, he progressed through technical and team leadership roles to become Manager of Engineering Development. In this role he was directly involved in a major company restructuring programme whilst managing a diverse portfolio of multi-disciplinary engineering projects. His project management role subsequently grew to include a range of business projects, including manufacturing improvement programmes and new product introductions. John was also involved in co-ordinating international technology transfer activities and in strategic business development studies within the Ilford Group.

John’s project management experience includes the design and installation of new manufacturing equipment, the development of new products, the improvement of manufacturing procedures, the relocation of offices and staff and organisation restructuring. John has also co-ordinated international project teams and carried out assignments in support of strategic business development programmes.

Prior to joining Ilford Limited, John trained in the automotive industry and gained an honours degree in Applied Physics. He went on to conduct post-graduate research in cryogenics at Oxford University for which he was awarded an MSc in Engineering Science. John is a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, The Institute of Physics and The Association of Project Management.

John’s client base includes leading organisations in Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Defence, IS/IT and Education. He is an associate with Loughborough Business School and is a senior consultant and course director with a number of well-known training organisations. Whilst his work is centred in the UK, he frequently works internationally in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

A highly experienced, popular and professional trainer, John’s courses are always much appreciated by the participants, as the following comments show:

‘I really liked the practical exercises’

‘There was certainly a lot to think about’

‘John’s experience was excellent’

‘The group was encouraged to interact very well’

‘A very useful course’

‘A very worthwhile, productive and enjoyable two days’

R&D project management – course outline

1 Key concepts

  • The world of R&D; particular challenges of R&D projects
  • Projects and project management; the ‘triangle of balance’
  • Key phases in an R&D project lifecycle; the ‘STAR’ stage-gate process
  • Success and failure: the critical factors and role of the project leader
  • The key management roles and responsibilities

2 Initiating projects

  • Opportunity appraisal and validation; getting early decisions right
  • Getting organised: identifying and managing project stakeholders
  • Understanding and managing expectations; articulating project goals
  • Preparing preliminary estimates of time and cost; recognising risk
  • Financing the work; estimating the costs, cash flow and financial risks
  • Project leadership, sponsorship and team structures

3 Defining projects

  • Developing project strategy; linking long term and short term goals
  • Defining the deliverables for each phase; using scope charts
  • Converting customer needs into a design brief; the role of specifications
  • Setting priorities for development; the needs/benefit matrix
  • Detailing the work to be done; using ‘rapid team thinking’
  • Defining ‘who does what’; identifying resource requirements

4 Planning the work

  • Avoiding the classic pitfalls, especially ‘hopeless optimism’
  • Planning the plan: choosing the format and deciding the level of detail
  • Mapping out the logical sequence; creating the summary Gantt chart
  • Estimating activity durations, resource requirements and costs
  • Alternative methods for dealing with estimating uncertainties
  • ‘Concurrent engineering’ – challenges and benefits

5 Identifying and managing project risks

  • Understanding and defining risk; focusing on the risks that matter
  • Classifying risks and agreeing boundaries for risk ownership
  • Identifying risks (and opportunities); deciding how to best manage them
  • Monitoring and controlling risk exposure; keys to successful risk transfer

6 Project execution, monitoring and control

  • Initiating work assignments and mobilising resources; delegating tasks
  • Pro-active and re-active control – striking the right balance
  • Minimising ‘scope-creep’ and managing change
  • Monitoring for pro-active control; avoiding blame culture mentality
  • Creating a systematic control process; project reviews and meetings
  • Tracking performance; trend monitoring techniques that give early warning

7 Exploiting the results of R&D

  • Defining the boundaries between R&D and operations departments
  • Managing the transitions between conceptual design and manufacture
  • Planning for scale-up; involving production departments and suppliers
  • Managing/supporting commissioning activities; resolving problems
  • Transferring know-how to operations groups; planning an exit strategy
  • Completing and closing projects; de-briefing the team

8 Project leadership and teamwork

  • The teamwork challenges of a typical R&D multi-project environment
  • Defining team member roles and responsibilities; the team leader’s role
  • Building effective communication throughout the project team
  • Understanding team dynamics and building team performance
  • Developing and using the most appropriate project leadership style
  • ‘Managing upwards’ – working with and influencing senior stakeholders