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Scientist, industrial R&D

Works in the private sector to develop new products.

Job description

The purpose of scientific research is to gather information and generate knowledge using both theoretical and experimental means. This work is often divided into pure research (often referred to as basic research, where as yet there is no intended application) and applied research and development, which has a set purpose.

Industrial research and development (R&D) bridges the gap between science and business and starts with applied research directed toward solving some general problem. Development then refines the technologies or processes of applied research into immediately usable products. Most development is done by private industry and is generally oriented toward manufacturing. Nearly everything consumers use, from antibiotics to zoom lenses, is a product of applied research and development.

Important areas of research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences fields include biotechnology, nanotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemical and materials science, electronics, aerospace and automotive. Industrial R&D scientists work in the private sector, eg for pharmaceutical companies, where they are involved in developing and testing new drugs and other treatments; their work activities can differ from scientists working at a higher education institute. They normally have higher degrees (mainly at doctoral level) in their specific fields of study, such as Physics, Biology, Biotechnology or Chemistry.

Work activities

  • Discovering new drugs, antibiotics, and vaccines to treat or prevent a wide range of health problems
  • Designing and creating new molecules or materials with useful properties
  • Creating new vehicles and systems that are more efficient, powerful and reliable
  • Developing more efficient passenger aircraft
  • Understanding and using the fundamental processes of cellular life to develop more effective medicines, consumer products and industrial processes
  • Planning, designing and conducting experiments to investigate and analyse scientific phenomena
  • Extrapolating data to develop theories which aim to explain these phenomena
  • Keeping up to date by reading specialist literature
  • Managing a research team.