Research and development or R&D can be categorized into three activities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Developing new products, basic research for expanding scientific knowledge and applied research for improving existing products make up the primary activities of R&D. More than 600,000 jobs were held by personnel working in R&D department in 2008. The median weekly income for persons working in non-supervisory position was $1,269 as of 2008, but wages varied considerably between industries.
New Product Development
All industries utilizing research and development have an area that concentrates on producing new products. The ever-growing technologies require that companies expand the products with new and improved products. New drugs, new electronics and other advanced technology is being developed and researched by a host of different organizations. All products only have certain amount of commercial viability and new products maintain a companies growth. An example of this new product development is found in the automobile industry where producing a vehicle that uses a different power source is an ongoing research project.
Improved Product Development
A product only sells for a certain amount of time, so improving a successful product can extend the commercial life of that product. R&D departments spend a lot of time researching new ways to improve a successful product. Enhancing drugs, improving computer software and applications as well as increasing services already being provided by a company is part of the duties of R&D. A good example of improving existing products is found in the pharmaceutical industry where the improvement of medications is an growing development field.
The quality of any commercial product is an important duty of R&D. Complying with the ever-changing government regulations requires R&D to ensure all new and existing products meet these guidelines. The R&D department provides the quality manager with a plan to ensure that products meet all regulations in the countries the product is sold. For example, Europe has a different regulatory body than the United States or China. Each product must meet the regulations of each country and some countries have stiffer compliance requirements than others.
A section of R&D spends time on researching topics or activities that have no application. The purpose of this type of R&D is to increase or expand scientific knowledge. Most of research done in this area does not develop into useful products, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reason most of this type of research and development is established, concerns the possibility that major advancements will be produced. A lot of successful products, medical technologies and drugs have been discovered through this type of R&D activity.