Many items in the MPO Mars colony can be researched at Herbert Research using either the Tech Research System or the Bio Research System. Albert West only needs to bring the item to the appropriate machine to begin the research; afterwards, he simply needs to wait for the machines to complete their research of the item. Items can be queued up to be researched, so that, after the machine researches one item, it will immediately begin researching the next.
An item can be identified as researchable by hovering over it in the inventory; under its main information, it will have the text "Researchable Tech" or "Researchable Bio", depending on which machine can research it, if it can be researched. This text is subsequently removed once research for that item is completed.
Researching items allows West to produce the researched item and possibly an improved version of it at either the MPO 3D Printing System or the MPO Bio Combine System. The improved version can also be researched, and this cycle of research can continue until no more improvements can be made (generally after either 4 or 12 items in total).
Better items eventually require a higher level research chip in order to be researched. In addition, most improved items will require a higher level engineering chip in order to make it.