Research and development, better known as R&D, plays a major part in advancing technology in nearly every type of industrial pursuit. R&D systems are organizations that may be private or public, part of a company or separate entities that perform guided experimentation geared toward inventing or discovering new ideas and finding practical means of application. R&D systems are common in electronics, biomedics, and pharmaceuticals, but may also be used to study consumer or financial trends.
Technology moves exceedingly fast, especially at the commercial level. Companies that have produced one innovative product, such as a computer, must put out more and more advanced versions of the product in order to keep a constant flow of business. R&D systems are often the means used to keep up with consumer demand for improvements; by constantly testing new theories, creating improved designs, and trying new techniques, R&D systems can help fuel the next generation of nearly every available product.
The actual process of R&D systems may be frustrating to those who expect research to follow a business model. Unfortunately, with the most dedicated workers, the best equipment, and the largest budget, advances can still not be simply willed to occur, nor can scientists promise results from an experiment. This can lead to a business vs. science catch-22, where R&D experiments can't get funding unless they promise results, but scientists can't be sure if there are going to be positive results until the experiments are run. Some believe that this leads to the corruption of pure science, as scientists are forced into the uncomfortable and often unethical position of having to guarantee results without any data.
Some R&D systems work towards specific goals, which can be as large as improving chemotherapy success, or as small as making letter keys on keyboards more durable. Others have broader perspectives on a large subject, such as the development of new types of alternative energy plants. Large or small, narrow or wide, most R&D systems follow a constantly revolving cycle. Developments or improvements are theorized, designed, tested, and implemented. Once the product or idea is implemented, the cycle begins all over again, using the knowledge gained in the last development process to fuel the next research period.
R&D systems may be privately owned or funded by the government. Some private companies qualify for government grants, since development is generally seen to be beneficial for the general population even if it starts as a proprietary concept. Universities commonly have R&D groups that contribute to various programs and projects on campus. Since trade secrets are a major part of the commercial realm, many large corporations own and operate R&D systems that are exclusively devoted to the technology and development needs of the company.