What is Research and Development? - Definition, Methods & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition: Research &…
  • 1:00 Pure Research
  • 1:40 Applied Research
  • 2:27 Development Activities
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rodney Michael

Rodney has taught university accounting classes and has a doctorate in accounting.

In this lesson, we will explore the concept of research and development. You will also learn about its different forms and how it affects our daily lives.

Definition: Research & Development

Let's begin with a question that has an obvious answer. What's the difference between a wall phone (circa 1907) and an iPhone 5? A couple of things come to mind: email, digital photos, Internet, Wi-Fi, GPS, texting, and mobile conversations. But, the real question is: How did we get from the wall phone to the iPhone 5? The answer is, of course, research and development (R&D).

Let's take a closer look at the concept. Research and development refers to a wide range of business, governmental, and academic activities designed to gather new knowledge. Sometimes, the new knowledge leads to new products or processes, and sometimes it doesn't. The purpose of R&D is to expand the frontiers of human understanding and to improve our society as a whole. In other words, to supply the innovations that took us from the wall phone to the iPhone 5. R&D activities can be subdivided into three categories: pure research, applied research, and development activities.

Pure Research

Pure (or basic) research is directed at understanding what something is or how it works. There is no immediate expectation of a short-term payoff. Basically, pure research is an attempt to satisfy our curiosity about something unknown. Hopefully, there will be marketable products further down the line, but there is no guarantee. For example, a federal agency recently announced a $70 million dollar research program to develop brain implants to help people with brain injuries and disorders. The initial research is to be directed at learning how the medical issues are reflected in brain activity. If that can be determined, then perhaps advanced medical technology can be invented. But first, they have to find out more about how the brain works.

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