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Let's all speak the same language


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Let’s all speak the same language

I’ve heard a lot of talk in the last few weeks about “R&D”. Which got me wondering if we’re all on the same page.

R&D stands for Research and Development: Two words that mean different things to different folks.

Research can be fundamentally scientific, like smashing particles into each other to see what happens. Then there’s secondary research, trawling the scientific literature for information on a specific topic. It's not only about science. Market research applies techniques from the humanities. Technologists research practical stuff, such as modelling techniques and manufacturing processes. Then you get humanities researchers looking into something called "R&D".

The word “Development” is just as vague. And to make sure we totally confuse each other, researchers and management books in the past decade or two have been talking about “RD+D”, and “RDD+D”. Sometimes I wonder if that's some kind of hint about our personalities. If it is, I don’t care. During new product development technologists do lots of activities with names that begin with “D”, as well as some that start with other letters. Like “T”. Don’t be surprised if you come across a management text book that talks about “RDDDT+T”: Research, Design, Development, Demonstration, Tooling up, Testing. You can throw in some “V”s if you like: Verification, Validation...

R&D is pretty-much anything we have to do to convert an idea into a profitable new product. I notice common patterns of R&D activities within specific industries, but there seem to be large differences between one industry and another. For example, there are specialist companies in the pharmaceutical industry whose job is to design, develop, and document manufacturing processes for new drugs. Electronics companies usually do their own process development. One electronics manufacturer told me a lot of his “IP” is tied up in test jigs. That guy has a big investment in product design and development. As is often the case, he also has a very large investment in process development, and a chunk of that is tied up in those test jigs.

An important issue for Technology Valley will be making sure people understand what we’re talking about. I can’t assume your idea of R&D is the same as mine.


Kevin Cudby is a Wellington-based Freelance Writer and Parametric Modelling Consultant who loves writing about cool new technology. Email him to discuss your requirements: hello {a}

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