A research and development (R&D) department is responsible for innovations in design, products, and style. This department is responsible for creating innovative new products to keep companies a step ahead of the competition. Many companies also rely on the R&D department to improve existing consumer products, and to explore new ways of producing them.
Companies thrive and succeed by creating innovative products, as well as by increasing company profit and utilizing cost-efficient methods. A research and development department is primarily responsible for ensuring that these goals are met. This is an especially important function in the fields of manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, but can be applied to virtually any industry.
Often, research and development works closely with the marketing department. Marketing studies consumer trends by surveying and researching consumer demands, purchasing methods, product sales, and the existence and development of technology across the relevant market. The marketing department gathers all the data, and makes this information available to the R&D department, which will take action in response to the findings and proceed to keep the company on top of current market needs.
Consumer demands often change very quickly, and the research and development department must be alert and adapt to these market fluctuations accordingly. Companies often allocate millions of dollars to research and development so that they can continually modify and update their products to preserve a brand's position within the market. Leading products — whether a drug, or a laundry detergent, or anything else — usually will not remain in the number one market position forever without some type of improvement and advancement.
An R&D department may also be tasked with ensuring that products are manufactured within an appropriate time frame, and that they meet specific quality and cost requirements. For example, a particular ingredient or component of a product suddenly may become too expensive or outdated, and the department will need to explore other means to replace the missing pieces. Therefore, R&D departments often maintain close ties with engineers, chemists, and other product specialists.
Research and development departments will provide advancements in products that range from simple updates of features to dramatic discoveries of new cures for diseases, depending on the field and the company's needs. The aim, in most cases, is to ensure that each product meets all regulations, legal requirements, and the highest standards in quality control. Research and development works in conjunctions with other departments to achieve these aims.