September 13, 2021

What’s the Difference Between R&D and Software Development?

R&D and Software Development

As the world embraces Industry 4.0, physical products and software are becoming more and more interconnected. From development and optimization to application and operations, innovative products would never be possible without the underpinning R&D and software development. As research in the Harvard Business Review points out, there’s no good alternative to investing in R&D.

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As a software consulting company,  Aksiio specializes in AI/ML, Computer Vision and 3D technologies. From our team’s 12+ years of practical experience, we know first-hand how complex the product life cycle is. This article will cover the differences between software development and R&D and why they are so important.

Goals and results

Software development involves working on a specific product or feature to deliver a functioning result or resolve a particular problem. As such, the scope of work is defined before the development process begins. For products without a clear roadmap and multiple unknowns, dedicating more time to R&D almost always delivers better results.

R&D involves designing and developing new or existing products that have increased effectiveness and better functionality. This scope of improvements depends on the project and can change depending on the research. However, in some cases, the ideas and technologies generated during the R&D process may not become the final product but a part of it or even point towards another better solution.

The experimental nature of R&D means that a wide range of possible solutions is researched and evaluated rapidly to find and test the best match. At Aksiio, our team members specialize in different technical disciplines, allowing us to tackle complex problems from multiple perspectives. Even though our clients have some of the strongest specialized in-house R&D teams in the industry, the diversity of our expertise has been instrumental in generating unique ideas and solutions for them.


Software development projects usually have structured deadlines and timeframes for different stages. Whereas, for R&D, deadlines and limits are far less applicable. Depending on the nature and objective of the research, the timeframe can vary significantly from months to years. Many companies rely on constant R&D to improve their product offerings and market performance. Tech giants, for example, spend tens of billions of dollars annually on R&D to stay ahead of the competition with pronounced results.

Given our productive history of long-term, R&D-heavy projects, Aksiio managerial structure was built to maximize the potential of our team. By prioritizing long-term cooperation, we build trust with our clients to create the best environment for our specialists to perform in. Knowledge is shared and reused quickly and efficiently during company-wide brainstorming sessions to find unique ideas and perspectives.


Unlike product development that is most often motivated by the potential for profit, R&D can result in breakthroughs that push the whole industry and society forward. The long-reaching benefits of successful innovation spill over into product development, driving growth and profits. Software development relies on existing techniques and technologies to develop products in the present, while R&D provides the means to create software for tomorrow.

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R&D for our clients on 2D/3D scene understanding, UAV and aerial imagery, augmented/mixed reality, 3D custom-fit production, and sensor fusion yielded genuinely unique solutions that translated into significant improvements in performance and new lucrative opportunities. Besides client work, Aksiio is proud of its ongoing independent R&D that leverages our combined expertise to propel the industry forward.

Hypothesis building

Software development generally follows a predetermined path with slight deviations to accommodate for unexpected changes. R&D, on the other hand, is an unpredictable process that consists of creating, building, and testing hundreds of hypotheses to find the best possible solution. With so much room for error, the only controllable variable is how we approach the problem.

At Aksiio, this method involves systematically working through hypotheses and meticulously recording the process, results, and metrics our decisions are based on.  Whether successful or not, each processed idea generates valuable experience for each member of our team and adds to the team’s knowledge base. After a dozen years in R&D, each mistake brings us much closer to a solution because instead of discarding a single hypothesis, we can reject whole approach vectors.

R&D is demanding in all fields, but especially so for the niche technologies Aksiio specializes in. With so many outsourcing and outstaffing companies on the market promising to deliver quick and easy results in any industry, we choose to let our experience and client cases demonstrate our proficiency with Industry 4.0 technologies for us.