Rivals join R&D forces

Fennell Betson reports

TWO leading legal IT suppliers have decided to pool their resources so they can undertake a common research programme.

Edinburgh-systems company HG Usher & Co and Hull-based AIM Professional are at the early stages of a joint approach which has surprised the legal market.

AIM managing director John Wilde says the two companies, which are often in competition but have a good relationship, decided to look at what could be achieved if they co-operated on research and development.

"Ask any supplier, their biggest item is the R&D spend. If you put our two together, it is well over u500,000 a year. This is serious money," says Wilde.

Charles Duthie, business development manager of Usher, says it is a question of exploring their areas of software development and then deciding about undertaking basic research jointly. But he is not prepared to discuss what they might be doing. "We would then go and design our competitive products," he says.

Wilde points to the economic advantages of the approach. To maintain technical expertise is a very expensive matter and to tackle research separately could mean a duplicating of effort and costs. "It must be to the benefit of the end users, as our operating costs are reflected in the prices they have to pay."

He adds that the good working relationship and trust between the two groups makes this co-operation workable, but he does not rule out working with other IT suppliers as well.

Some legal IT observers felt the move might be partially defensive, with the inroads being made by suppliers, such as Elite. But one commented that the amount being invested by the two firms was welcome.