Career Development

What Does the Research and Development Department Do?

April 26, 2021

It's important for businesses to create useful, functional products and services that meet the expectations of clients and customers to help them stay relevant in the market. Research and development, or R&D, is important for understanding what consumers need and developing products that meet those standards.

Understanding what responsibilities a research and development department typically has is helpful in determining whether your business might benefit from one. In this article, we define research and development, describe research and development department responsibilities and list some benefits of research and development.

Related: FAQ: How To Turn an Idea Into a Product

What is research and development in business?

Research and development includes the many tasks a company undertakes in order to invent and introduce new products and services for consumers or clients. Most of these tasks involve tasks to better understand which specific products and services are most desired, useful and marketable to their clients or consumer base. These tasks may include:

  • Analyzing consumer data
  • Testing product builds
  • Designing and implementing surveys
  • Reviewing market research

There are usually two types of research and development departments found in most companies. One type of department includes engineers who develop new products or services and perform market tests to discover their overall usefulness and popularity. The other type of department has industrial scientists who complete technological and other scientific research in order to help discover which products and services it would benefit the company to develop.

Related: Guide To Understanding Product Development

What does the research and development department do?

The research and development department helps their company decide which products and services would most likely find success if offered to their clients and customers. There are several R&D job responsibilities and functions the department performs to produce usable data to help develop these products and services.

Some responsibilities of most R&D departments may include:

Product research

The research and development department performs product research after a product or service proposal. This may include conducting a series of tests, surveys and other research. The purpose of the research is to find what makes the product useful, the specifications of how the team should build it, the best methods of marketing it and the product's predicted success.

Product development

Product development uses the data and research to design and create a product using specifications that make it most useful. For example, a company is developing a new mobile phone. The research and development team may seek to understand what size the phone should be to sit comfortably in users' hands, where they should place buttons for easy access, how it might fit in users' pockets and how big the screen should be for comfortable viewing.

Using these specifications, the product development team often conceives many designs for the product and may create several prototypes for testing.

Related: How To Become a Product Developer

Product updates

The research and development team also tests and analyzes current products in order to discover ways of improving them for comfort and usability. This may include more tests and surveys to learn what customers think about the product, followed by testing new designs that implement the proposed solutions.

Quality control

R&D often includes a phase of testing to ensure the quality of the product. Since the research and development team understands the intended specification standards of each product, they can ensure the product meets or exceeds those standards. This may include testing the products themselves or conducting research using the product's target user base for feedback. R&D uses their findings to help improve the product design before finalizing it for production.

Market research

Research and development is also often responsible for conducting research on the market for the new product. This may involve discovering:

  • What stores might carry the product
  • How much the product should cost
  • How to alert consumers about the availability of the new product
  • How much of the product to produce
  • What type of packaging most likely to attract new customers

Related: A Guide To Conducting Market Research

Benefits of research and development

A well-managed research and development department offers many benefits to businesses. Some of the most important benefits research and development can have for a business include:

Promoting innovation

Research and development is important for determining what clients and customers need. By understanding this, businesses can better determine whether any current products on the market fulfill those needs. If there aren't any current products available, they can introduce an innovative new product that does or improves current products to do so. For example, voice control on phones and applications is an innovative service that simplified consumers' daily lives.

Helping businesses stay relevant

By developing new products or improving existing ones, research and development helps businesses offer the most up-to-date products for consumers. In today's market, new products from other companies may offer minor improvements that consumers desire. Research and development can find useful ways of implementing those improvements in your own product, such as developing their own version of voice control for their brand of mobile phones.

Providing effective customer service

Research and development so often involves what is most useful for customers. It allows businesses to offer improved usability of their products consistently, potentially increasing customer satisfaction.

Ensuring quality products

Through the process of research and development, the team often discovers the best way of building a product. The department completes testing to ensure the product is of high quality before it ever reaches the market.

Offering potential tax breaks

Businesses can often deduct expenses related to research and development from their taxes. However, this depends on several things, such as the location of the business and the type of research and development used. It's important to research your local laws and regulations deducting any of these expenses from your taxes.

Helping find investors

Effective research and development may help find investors by displaying the usefulness, marketability and consumer desire for a product. Businesses often use data collected by their research and development team when seeking investors to help finance the production of a new product.

Helping secure patents

The research and development team often creates designs and documents that are useful when filing for a patent. The team may also discover how to build a product in a way unique enough to qualify it for a patent of its own even if it's a version of an existing product. However, local laws and regulations on this may vary, so it's important to research the laws in your area before patenting a new product.

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