Research and development, also known in Europe as research and technological development, refers to innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, or improving existing services or products.
A company's research and development department plays an integral role in the life cycle of a product. While the department usually is separate from sales, production and other divisions, the functions of these areas are related and often require collaboration. A thorough understanding of the functions of the research and development department allows you to maximize those duties at your small business, even if you don't have a big department.
New Product Research
Before a new product is developed, a research and development department conducts a thorough study to support the project. The research phase includes determining product specifications, production costs and a production time line. The research also is likely to include an evaluation of the need for the product before the design begins to ensure it is a functional product that customers want to use.
New Product Development
The research paves the way for the development phase. This is the time when the new product is actually developed based on the requirements and ideas created during the research phase. The developed product must meet the product guidelines and any regulatory specifications.
Existing Product Updates
Existing products of the company also fall under the scope of research and development. The department regularly evaluates the products offered by the company to ensure they are still functional. Potential changes or upgrades are considered. In some cases, the research and development department is asked to resolve a problem with an existing product that malfunctions or to find a new solution if the manufacturing process must change.
In many companies, the research and development team handles the quality checks on products created by the company. The department has an intimate knowledge of the requirements and specifications of a particular project. This allows team members to ensure the products meet those standards so the company puts out quality products. If the company also has a quality assurance team, it may collaborate with research and development on quality checks.
The research and development team aids the company in staying competitive with others in the industry. The department is able to research and analyze the products other businesses are creating, as well as the new trends within the industry. This research aids the department in developing and updating the products created by the company. The team helps direct the future of the company based on the information it provides and products it creates.