In the 21st century, software creation plays a large role in business. Due to global digitalization and fast technological progress, companies are urged to invest time, effort, and funds into developing software in order to stay competitive and thrive.

However, although software creation is an integral part of modern business, simply adopting it in your enterprise is not enough. Just like everything related to technology, this field is ever-changing. So, in order to stay afloat, companies have to adapt to changes, keep an eye on trends, and try different approaches.

Currently, the two most talked-about directions are product development and R&D. What do they stand for and how are they different? Read on to find the answer!

What Is Development?

To understand the difference, it is vital to define both terms. So, let’s take it from there.

In a nutshell, product development is the term that spans over the entire life cycle of a software. That is, development entails the whole process of creating an item from the researching stage and all the way to introducing it to the market.

Although this term is widely used to define the life cycle of a new project, it’s not exactly true. In fact, this term is also applied to define the process of revamping the existing items when they need to be improved, for example, when there is a need to add new features, fix bugs, or perform other tasks in order to deliver more value to end-users or help it sell better.

What Is R&D?

Whereas the term we discussed earlier refers to the entire life cycle from identifying the product’s conception to selling it, R&D is only one stage in this process.

The abbreviation R&D stands for Research and Development. This stage of the entire life cycle can be used both when creating a product or service, as well as enhancing it. As a rule, this practice is involved exclusively in conceptualizing brand new items.

As you can guess from its name, R&D consists of two portions – research and, respectively, development. The first part of the process focuses on testing the viability. During the research stage, specialists are looking for new sciences, methods, and practices that can be used for implementing a project.


The second stage comes right after research. It implies the act of turning the discovery into a useful product that can be marketed and sold.

There are a few reasons why companies adopt the research and development system. First of all, the R&D approach helps companies revamp their product lines. That is, when the company notices that its line has become outdated, it can invest in R&D in order to regain or maintain a competitive edge. Another case is when competitors release superior or similar products. In this case, the research stage is used to define the opportunities for outdoing competitors.

One more thing vital to know about the R&D software practice is that companies often delegate this matter to contracted third parties. Today, there is a wide range of high-quality Research & Development Software Services like the ones offered by Develux. Outsourcing R&D teams is an easy way to ensure sustainable growth while saving your in-house team’s time.

Development Vs. R&D: What’s the Difference?

Now that you know the definition of the product development and research and development software practices, the only question that is left there is – “what is the difference between the two?”.

To help you sort this out, let’s look at the five biggest distinctive features:

  1. Role in the process – As already mentioned, development is what encompasses the entire life cycle. It is the process of creating (or improving) the product from the point of idea and all the way to its launch to the market. R&D, on the contrary, is just one stage in this life cycle. This stage plays a vital role in the success of the entire process. But, it is still just a part of the bigger mechanism.
  2. Approach – While most companies have their own, in-house teams that are responsible for creating their products, R&D is often being outsourced. The main reason why the approach is different is that outsourcing the entire life cycle can be rather risky and complicated. At the same time, delegating certain stages of the process (such as the R&D part) is a popular practice for minimizing the time to market and reducing the load on the in-house teams.
  3. Goals – The goals that lie at the core are also different. As mentioned above, the goal of the product’s full life cycle is to take the idea and transform it into a marketable item. The goal of the R&D stage is to conduct research that would allow the team to find effective ways, methods, and tools for implementing the idea. Simply put, the ultimate goal of development is to create a product, whereas the goal of the R&D portion is to conceptualize it and find the opportunities.
  4. Laboriousness – Clearly, since R&D is just one part of the process, it is not even quite as laborious as the whole life cycle. The entire life cycle from the stage of idea and all the way to the launch takes hard and dedicated work of a large number of specialists.
  5. Time consumption – Finally, the last difference is the amount of time taken by each process. It’s not hard to guess that R&D takes only a bit of time compared to the whole process of creating a new product (or even improving the existing one).

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better idea of what is product development, what is R&D, and how these two activities differ.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that both concepts can’t exist without each other. Though they are not the same and you shouldn’t confuse them, you now know that R&D is an integral part of the big process called product development. Thus, they are closely interlinked and can only bring your company the best result when applied together.

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