Research and development?

I often wonder what drives those in research and development. I can understand a high level of passion and enthusiasm at the upper levels but on big projects is it just the paychecks or are they able to instill in associate reasearchers and craftsman involved in these projects much of the passion that drives them?

Speaking as a person who fled academia for a corporate R&D job … you do it because it’s your job, and you aren’t qualified to do much else, and the economy sucks, so you do your job.

I would say there was any passion for the project, and barely any enthusiasm.

Compared to what other kinds of jobs? In my experience, R&D generally isn’t as bound to regulatory conformance as back end operations, which allows for a certain level of freedom and autonomy.

What part of any industry is more exciting than R&D?

I spent my years as a shop foreman in a truck repair shop, even at the level it was difficult and challenging to instill a passion for work in the mecahincs. We usually had a couple o star players and the rest were basicaly just picking up pay checks. I always did my best to steer them into situations where they might stand out and feel passionate about but it is difficult and efficiency really goes down with the level of passion.

Research and development of what? Virtually any company in a technical industry will have some kind of R&D. Some of it is really boring; I worked for a division of a consumer products company that considered R&D to be industrial design and “that other stuff…to you know…make a product”. (My response: “You mean engineering? Selecting materials, defining processes, performing analysis and generating drawings and specifications so someone can build this cartoon you drew up while sitting on the can?”)

Other types of R&D can be a blast. I mean that literally; I have a friend that works at a company that makes energetic systems to cut apart aircraft canopies, separate launch vehicle stages, and flight terminate errant rockets. So he spends his days figuring out new ways to cut, fracture, or shatter plastic and metal, and then takes it out to a blast cell or open field and tests it. It’s just about the next bset thing to being a cast member on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I asked him if he ever got tired blowing stuff up and he said, “What? I can’t hear you!” (I kid; they’re actually very dilligent about safety and hearing protection.)

I wish I were still doing R&D work rather than sustainment and project management. Making and breaking things and turning wrenches to figure out how to do it better is much more enjoyable than making schedules and presentations.


My hubby was a research scientist and what drove him was his endless curiousity. He really couldn’t have cared less what business he worked for or whether or not they had a solid bottom line. As long as he could indulge his curiousity, he was fine. His field was microbiology and there were a lot of really exciting breakthroughs being made in the last 30 years. There was a lot of work involved, but quite a bit of pay off in the long run.

As some who once filled out the R&D tax credit form for my company, many people have a skewed view of what R&D is. It covers both original research and being one of a thousand engineers on a development project. So the rewards you get from working on R&D vary greatly.
The fun for me is doing something new all the time, since this year’s project is advanced over last years project. Yesterdays breakthrough is tomorrow’s routine.
Also, you usually wind up with something completed at the end. Much better for me than pushing the same kind of paper day in and day out.

There is a thrill in problem solving, in finding something new.

I always get a kick after I discover something really cool that I am the only person on the planet that knows this.

Like doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles. This beats those by a factor of thousands. For one thing, I don’t get a Wikipedia article with my name on it for solving the Sunday NYT crossword.

This sums it up nicely. Without going into detail, I’m the first person in the world to have made a phone call on a particular release of a mobile OS. It was a major release, with tons of complete rewrites. We had to wrangle a lot of pieces together to make it happen. I’m proud of the team that made it happen.

I work for a tech startup these days. I get to work on some incredibly fascinating technology. Most of us at the office are driven by the combination of that. There are other jobs in the area, but they aren’t as fun.

The D part you may do on account of being the kind of person to whom process improvement comes automatically. You see something wrong with the process, you fix it, what?

One of my coolest projects was a process analysis for a company which had recently gone from local to multinational: they were starting their first international RnD project and needed to figure out what documents needed to go where at different times, how to ensure that they followed all applicable laws and regulations, etc. The guys working in the project generally seemed to think that designing airplane motors is the coolest thing EVER (well ok, designing whole planes may be slightly better, but only slightly). It was their dream job. I suspect there’s a lot more guys who go into naval or aeronautical engineering wanting to design and build than wanting to fix and maintain.

R&D was the most fun work I ever did, and the least profitable. For some people it’s been the other way round, and for a lucky few it was the most of both.

I’ve worked in production support as a process engineer, and I have worked in R&D.

Production is almost entirely trying to put out fires. There is always some problem that needs to be fixed, or some random hiccup that needs to be figured out. It is nonstop stress with a “get it done right now” attitude.

R&D has much less stress and much longer time lines. Instead of trying to figure out a stop gap fix, I am looking for solutions to problems that will fix things long term. R&D also has a variety of things to work on that involve getting a product to market, and it is often fun to see the product on the shelf of a store.

This is more like the atmosphere I came up in, I found the challenge of improving production machinery and output very motivating and exciting, I loved it.

I work in R&D for a healthcare analytics software company. Love it. I get to work on gaps in the software, based on current healthcare hot topics and trends. I get to work with really smart people who are passionate about the subject. We don’t have the pressures of the production team. What’s not to love?