What is research and development and its purpose? Why are competitive industries investing in research and development? This article provides answers to these questions by giving an example of R&D endeavor.
The words “research and development” or plainly R&D are a buzzword in universities and colleges in many countries nowadays. Developing countries, in particular, have to invest more in productive activities through research and development to become more competitive in an increasingly globally-oriented economy.
But what is research and development? Why are these two words usually linked together?
What is Research and Development?
The ultimate purpose of research is to produce new information or discover new relationships that can address human needs. Research, therefore, is the discovery of something new through the application of logical processes or procedures.
New findings through research mean the possibility of producing new products, processes, or procedures that use or integrate these new findings. The application of research findings is the development part. Development, therefore, is the application of research findings to productive uses to address a specific human need.
If we combine the two purposes and processes, research and development or R&D as a unified concept emerge. They are closely intertwined or linked. Iteration in the processes is implied. Research informs the development part and vice-versa.
Example of the Result of Research and Development
The R&D concept can be clarified using a research finding and its application through development activities. A classic example is the discovery of Gatorade, a popular liquid and electrolyte mix.
The Gatorade Story
Gatorade is the ultimate example of successful R&D originating from a university that got into commercial uses. Through royalties from Gatorade, the University of Florida (UF) was able to fund countless research ventures.
The research component of this story is the discovery by a team of UF scientists of two key factors that caused players to tire and succumb to illness caused by a hot environment. These are the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating. Recognizing that these fluids and electrolytes are not replaced simply by water, the university scientists initially concocted a mix of salt, sugar, and lemon juice.
On the first try, the mix was not perfect. However, the researchers have found significant results. The players who took the drink had better stamina. Thus, their performance improved in the games.
The UF researchers refined the product (the development part) until they developed a product that has the correct proportion of salt, sugar, and lemon (primarily for taste). From then on, the players of the University of Florida keep on winning their games. Eventually, they came on top of the games and were heralded as champions.
Later, some other universities followed suit to maximize the capacity of their players. Gatorade became well-known in the world of athletics. Not only athletes drink Gatorade but also people who want to perform better in their physical performance.
Why Invest in Research and Development?
Many commercial ventures, especially those that engage in product manufacture, invest in R&D. Research and development enable them to be more competitive by delivering new or improved products in the market for the public’s use.
Without good research and development support, a company will lag behind and eventually lead to possible bankruptcy unless they merge with another company with competitive products where research and development may play an important role.
Therefore, the universities and colleges aim to improve existing products and discover new ones through their R&D activities. This endeavor is one of the reasons why the government encourages its faculty to engage in research.
Ultimately, the aim is to provide for the needs of its ultimate clientele—the general public or the human race.
© 2012 November 10 P. A. Regoniel | Updated 16 December 2021