Research and development is known as R&D or research and technological development (RTD). It is the way companies develop new services or products through innovative activities.
The way a company or institution performs R&D will vary from place to place, but the fundamental goal remains the same.
How research and development is performed
People often wrongly think that R&D is a simple case of conversations and focus groups, but it is more complex than that.
Engineers or industrial scientists will often be tasked with the research, after all it is experts who are needed to properly conduct such an important task.
Many large companies have incredibly large research and development departments whose jobs solely revolve around R&D of new products or services.
Research and development can be financially risky as it doesn’t necessarily lead to profit or indeed a product or service. There are many cases where significant amounts of money have been invested in R&D only to discover that the original idea wasn’t actually viable. The risk shouldn’t put companies off performing it, however, as it prepares for success through marketing of new products.
The importance of research and development
R&D, while costly, can be invaluable. As well as developing a new product or service, part of the research aspect will teach companies about their potential customer base, marketplace and facilitate the launch of a successful marketing campaign to target buyers in the right areas.
Research and development if conducted correctly means that a company or institution should have foreseen every possible aspect relating to their product and service and are 100% prepared to launch it in a professional manner.
It also teaches a business about any rival product. Knowledge of how another company has created and launched a product similar to theirs can be valuable and should help to avoid any pitfalls or mistakes others may have made.
Research conducted into research and development shows that organisations who invest heavily in R&D outperform those who don’t, which shows how important it actually is. Technology firms rely even more on R&D than other businesses.
Profit, profit, profit
While we have said that R&D can be risky, it certainly has its advantages. The negative side as well as if it doesn’t lead to a successful product being launched is the cost. It is often impossible, particularly with brand new ideas, to budget effectively. Experience can tell a company what it should cost, but it won’t be exact and there is no point in cutting corners in this regard.
Successful R&D will lead to a successful product and a successful business. Profits will increase as will share prices and it’s all thanks to research and development.
In many countries there are government subsidies available for R&D and it’s something which is taken very seriously. After all, successful and booming businesses within a country are great for its economy and many people will benefit from it through employment, product availability and dividends, so the power of research and development cannot be underestimated.
Science and technology are fields which often depend upon each other and are ever changing. In particular catalytic technologies are moving forward and expanding at quite a rate.
What is catalysis?
Catalysis is a chemical process where a chemical reaction is increased in rate thanks to adding a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance which aids the process. The catalyst is not consumed during the chemical reaction and can act again and again.
A catalyst will speed up reaction times due to needing less activation energy and will generally regenerate following the reaction in order to maintain the cycle of catalysis.
There are two kinds of catalyst: heterogeneous and homogeneous. Heterogeneous catalysts are generally liquid or gas forms and their molecules which aren’t in the same phase as the reactant molecules. Conversely, homogeneous catalysts’ molecules are in the same phase as the reactants and are also liquids or gases.
In addition there are enzymes and biocatalysts which are viewed as a third and separate group of catalysts.
Use of catalysts
Within technology catalysts have been used in the petrochemical industry for refining of fuel and for making various kinds of polymer. The process helps develop better techniques and better products.
This is probably the best known use of catalytic technology. It’s not that many years since fuel emissions from vehicles wasn’t consider a problem or environmental threat. Once this threat was realised it was understood that the production of toxic gases by motor vehicles needed to be addressed. Catalytic converters reduce poisonous emissions by employing a platinum and rhodium catalyst with a high surface area in order to speed up the reaction between carbon monoxide, oxygen and the vehicle’s unburnt fuel. This results in a much more environmentally friendly end product of carbon dioxide and water.
The petrochemical industry in general faced harsh criticism some years ago from environmental groups and has addressed these issues thanks to catalytic technology. Catalysts have helped produce a safer, greener product and aids in the process of making them. Refining has been made much easier thanks to co-operation between petrol companies and catalytic technology companies. ExxonMobil and Symyx Technologies is an example of such co-operation and their commit to development has resulted in greater productivity as well as the aforementioned advantages.
Polymers are part of our everyday life thanks to the packaging in which most things we buy are packed. Polythene and polystyrene are ubiquitous and are widely and effectively produced thanks to catalytic technology. Without the development of the technology tings would be very different indeed.
The future of catalytic technologies
The future is notoriously hard to predict, but you can rest assured that catalytic technologies will play a part. As research is done within the field, so are new developments made and there are great minds at work ensuring that processes based upon their findings can be implemented. Catalytic technology could be more and more prevalent as we look to continue to produce more environmentally friendly products and make the world a greener place.