The basic definition for applied research is any fact gathering project that is conducted with an eye to acquiring and applying knowledge that will address a specific problem or meet a specific need within the scope of an entity. Just about any business entity or community organization can benefit from engaging in this type of research.
When most people think of applied research, there is a tendency to link the term to the function of research and development (R and D) efforts. For business entities, R and D usually is involved with developing products that will appeal to a particular market sector and generate revenue for the company. The research portion of the R and D effort will focus on uncovering what needs are not being met within a targeted market and use that information to begin formulating products or services that will be attractive and desirable. This simplistic though systematized approach may also be applied to existing products as well, leading to the development of new and improved versions of currently popular offerings. Thus, applied research can open up new opportunities within an existing client base, as well as allow the cultivation of an entirely new sector of consumers.
Non-profit organizations also can utilize the principles of applied research. Most of these types of organizations have a specific goal in mind. This may be to attract more people to the organization, or to raise public awareness on a given issue, such as a disease. In this scenario, the research involves finding out what attracts people to a cause, and then developing strategies that will allow the non-profit entity to increase the public profile of the organization, and entice people to listen to what they have to say and offer.
Applied research can be very simplistic within a given application or it can become quite complicated. While the principle of this type of research is easily grasped, not every organization contains persons who are competent in the process of actually doing applied research. Fortunately, there are a number of professionals who are able to step in and help any entity create a working model for this activity.
In some cases, this may be the most productive approach, since an outsider often notices information that may be easily overlooked by those who are part of the organization. Whether implemented as an internal effort or outsourced to professionals who routinely engage in applied research, the result is often a higher public profile for the organization, and improved opportunities for meeting the goals of the entity.