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Sciences careers

Research & Development

What industries need research & development scientists?

Every area of academic and applied science requires professional research and development scientists, from pharmaceuticals and physics to defence engineering and biotechnology. These clever people conduct innovative research studies, develop their knowledge and understanding of scientific principles and then develop new-fangled products, ground-breaking processes and other amazing things that will change the world forever.

Without research and development scientists, the world would never progress and scientific innovation would be non-existent. There would be no exciting technological advances, we would still be using Atari computers, medicines wouldn’t have progressed since the Middle Ages and the New Scientist magazine would certainly never have anything to write about!

Why do companies need research & development scientists?

Private companies rely on the hard work of research and development scientists to keep them on the ball. Organisations must adapt their products and services in order to remain competitive. Otherwise, they will lose revenue and fall behind in the market.

Similarly, public sector organisations, such as the NHS, rely on research and development scientists to make sure that they provide the very best services.

What exactly is research & development?

Well, according to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, “the activities which directly contribute to achieving this advance in science or technology through the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty are research and development.”*

If you break into this line of work, you might be working in diverse sectors and performing an array of tasks, such as:

What are the responsibilities of a research and development scientist?

Research and development scientists don’t only work for commercial organisations; they also often work for higher education institutions and publicly-funded research bodies.

If you pursue a career as a research and development scientist, your responsibilities will vary depending on the specific area of science you work in. However, the basic principles and processes of research and development are similar across all areas. 

You will spend your day working alongside other scientists, conducting tests and experiments and carrying out other research projects. You will be recording your results and then presenting your findings to senior staff members, clients and other professionals.

Furthermore, you will be involved in the development of prototypes or samples, which will be tweaked, revised, refined and then eventually produced on a larger scale.

How do you get into research and development?

Understandably, you will need to have an excellent academic background to build a career in this area. Most research and development scientists will have a degree (usually an MSc) in a relevant science subject, such as chemistry, biology, pharmacology, biotechnology, physics, biomedical sciences, engineering or computer science.

This career takes tinkering to a whole new level, so if you’ve got book smarts as well as practical skills (hand smarts?) and a seriously hardcore will (after all, these things ‘develop’, so they don’t necessarily go right the first time!), there might just be a job in research and development for you!