Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Research and development (R&D)

Technological progressTechnological breakthroughs start with research and development. Find out where it happens and how to get involved.

What is research and development?

Research and development is the first step in the creation of new technology. So while a technology company's designers are creating a new phone or laptop that will appeal to customers, the R&D department might be inventing a new touchscreen that lets you feel what's on the display.

R&D is done by various organizations. Many large technology companies have R&D departments to try to stay ahead of the competition. For example, Microsoft spends over $9 billion a year on R&D, and has labs all over the world. Although companies focus their research on areas connected to their business, there is lots of room for more unusual work, like Google's self-driving car project.

The government also does R&D, particularly for military purposes. But military R&D isn't all based around new weapons: technology including the internet and GPS came from military research projects.

Both companies and the government work closely with universities, and sometimes fund R&D in universities rather than doing it themselves. Universities also do R&D of their own; in fact, Google's search algorithms started life as a university research project.

Even outside universities, R&D can be quite similar to academic research, with researchers publishing papers in the same way that an academic researcher would.

Getting into R&D

Being at the cutting edge isn't easy, and even researchers outside universities often have a PhD, along with plenty of experience in the area the organization specializes in. However, there are other jobs available in R&D: for example, the ideas developed by researchers may need work from other engineers or programmers to make them a reality or turn them into something that can be mass produced.

However, just as important as your qualifications is the ability to come up with new, creative ideas and work hard to make them a reality. This could be through your education and work, but it could also be through involvement with university societies or your own personal projects.

Related Links