What is the R&D Process?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The research and development (R&D) process is a process in which new products are developed. Manufacturers of everything from pharmaceuticals to personal computers use this process to identify new ideas, take those ideas through development, and eventually release them on the open market for sale. The R&D process can take months or years, involving contributions from a number of company employees with various areas of interest and skill sets.

Brainstorming sessions can foster ideas during the R&D process.
Brainstorming sessions can foster ideas during the R&D process.

The R&D process starts with the fostering of ideas. Employees may meet to brainstorm, talking about various issues in their field and products which could be used to address particular areas of need or concern. Generally, a large field of ideas is generated, and staffers begin to sift through then to identify ideas with potential which should be further explored. This may include research into existing products and technology, to determine how feasible an idea is, whether or not the idea is original, and how well it may be received.

New pharmaceutical products go through an R&D process.
New pharmaceutical products go through an R&D process.

As researchers narrow down ideas suggested during the earliest phase, they may also conduct market research to learn about how well an idea will be accepted by the public or by potential clients. Using this information, ideas with potential are singled out, and the R&D process moves into the next phase, which involves bringing those ideas to life. At this stage, product developers start figuring out how the idea can be executed, and they work on prototypes. As the R&D process continues, prototypes become more and more sophisticated, and designers start thinking about issues like mass production, identification of problems with the prototype, and so forth.

New drugs need to be taken through clinical trials as part of the research and development process.
New drugs need to be taken through clinical trials as part of the research and development process.

With something approaching a final product, the R&D process branches out. Branches of the company concerned with regulatory issues start exploring the regulations which could impact the product and the tests which the product may need to pass in order to sell, as in the case of pharmaceuticals which need to be taken through clinical trials. Advertising departments, meanwhile, start to think about advertising campaigns, branding, and product naming so that the company can experience a successful product roll out. The company also thinks about issues like pricing, distribution, and so forth.

Drug R&D is typically conducted in a laboratory setting.
Drug R&D is typically conducted in a laboratory setting.

The culmination of the R&D process ideally involves the introduction of a product to the public. However, many roadblocks can be encountered along the way; ideas may be taken quite far through development before being abandoned, and many ideas are quickly cut at the start of the process. Most companies want to encourage R&D innovation, so they support input from employees at all stages of the process, under the assumption that everyone may have a good idea which could benefit the company.

Allowing the public to interact with mock-ups at trade shows is part of the R&D process, as it enables engineers to see how consumers will interface with products.
Allowing the public to interact with mock-ups at trade shows is part of the R&D process, as it enables engineers to see how consumers will interface with products.
Research and development (R&D) managers are responsible for supervising staff members and overseeing the development of research projects.
Research and development (R&D) managers are responsible for supervising staff members and overseeing the development of research projects.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Ceptorbi

@SimpleByte - I agree. I have participated in pharmaceutical development by participating in a couple of clinical trials for potential new diabetes drugs. Patient experiences in these tests help the drug companies improve their medications and learn about their effectiveness before putting them out into the market.

SimpleByte
I've participated in some market research surveys which I think helped the companies conducting the surveys with their improvement process as well as their survey process. I once got to test a household cleaning product, for example, and then had to complete a written survey about the product's effectiveness, scent, packaging, etc.

This was for a new product not yet out on the market. I've also taste tested a new flavor of potato chips before it was brought out onto the market and a new shampoo. I enjoyed testing these products and offering my opinions, and I have tested one edible product that I thought tasted terrible, and I felt that my feedback helped the company improve the product before it appeared on the market. In my opinion, market research surveys and consumer opinion polls and product tests are an important part of research and development.

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