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What Is R&D Technology?

Some companies, such as Bell Laboratories, specialize in developing technologies with the intent of licensing them to other businesses, as was the case when knowledge gained from the supersonic Bell X-1 was sold to several aircraft manufacturers in the 1940s.
Many automobile manufacturers use participation in motorsports to help drive and promote their R&D divisions.
The computer mouse, although developed in the 1970s by Xerox, was not widely used until a decade later.
Some of Thomas Edison's most successful inventions were ideas extracted from other inventions.
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  • Written By: John Kinsellagh
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
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  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2014
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Research and Development (R&D) technology is the practical application of knowledge, gained through systematic and methodical research, that allows a company to bring to market new and innovative products that they can exploit for commercial advantage. Utilization of the technical knowledge acquired during the research phase can be used for a specific purpose, to introduce new products or processes to the market through production and engineering techniques. It can also be used to improve existing products so as to increase a business's existing market share.

In order to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace and meet the changing preferences and expectations of consumers, new product design and development is often a critical factor in the survival of a company. In industries that are constantly evolving due to continuous technological advancements, such as computer hardware and software, businesses must continually revise their design and range of product offerings in order to stay competitive. R&D technology is one way companies seek to maintain their competitive edge.

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The funding source for most consumer-oriented companies' R&D technology efforts comes from their retained earnings. These companies forego short-term profit in order to maximize long term gain by acquiring a dominant market share for their products that successfully incorporate leading technological advantages. One of the attributes of a high tech company is the amount it spends on technology development. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, typically spend 15% of their revenues on average for research and development facilities in the hope that continuous research will lead to new patents being issued for some of their drugs in the development stages.

Some corporations focus their R&D technology efforts on recombining or experimenting with old ideas in new ways to see how existing technologies in one product market could lead to breakthrough innovations in another separate market. Often, innovative products introduced into the market have resulted from assessing consumer demand and then incorporating existing technology into a new product in a new and novel way. An early and exemplary practitioner of this type of research for commercial product development was Thomas Edison.

Many of Edison's inventions that met with commercial success were ideas that were borrowed from existing patents of other scientists or from inventions that others had created. Edison was able to constantly innovate because he how to adapt and improve existing technologies. This put him ahead of his competitors, who could not yet envision such innovations.

Similarly, the concept underlying the computer mouse first appeared in Xerox’s Palo Alto R&D technology research facility in the 1970s. These devices didn't become well-known until later, however. It was the founders of Apple computer, ten years later, who successfully incorporated this idea as an integral aspect of the user interface of the first Macintosh computers.

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