Research & Development (R&D) refers to three activities that share a common characteristic of the quest for knowledge expansion.
Basic research (or pure scientific research): this is experimental or theoretical work undertaken mainly to generate new knowledge about the foundations on which observable phenomena and facts are based. It is not intended for any specific application or use.
Among all the organizations involved in research, universities in particular focus on fundamental research. A good example of fundamental research in the canton of Vaud is the work of the 2017 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, UNIL professor Jacques Dubochet, on the molecular structure of proteins.
Applied research follows a specific goal, generally the development of applications (products, processes, services or their improvement) based on the deployment of new knowledge. For example, the Scala programming language, developed at EPFL by Martin Odersky, was intended to be both more concise and simpler than the flagship Java Internet language (while being compatible) in order to facilitate the evolution of Web applications. This language has been adopted by several Web giants, including Twitter.
Development comes after research. By nature, this activity is more oriented towards the implementation and consideration of operational contingencies related to the environment in which the technology will be deployed (dust, vibration or temperature for example). Although a significant number of potential problems remain to be overcome, the development phase is largely based on existing knowledge and skills. The result is new or improved products, processes or services. And, potentially, in application-specific know-how.
For example, the Institute of Energy and Electrical Systems (IESE) of the University of Applied Sciences of the Canton of Vaud is currently developing a storage and management system for electrical energy from renewable sources for the SolarStratos solar aircraft.
The private sector in Switzerland is very active in basic research