Ok, I was wondering how to R&D and when I looked on the items list for 'Datacard' and 'Datapad' (which are vital for R&D) they were 'not yet implemented' and 'unavailable for production'. Is that an error, or is it true? And if it is true, is that why there have been no new designs in the combine for 10 years?
R&D is yet to be implemented. Datacards exist sort of - certain factions have datacards for entities but they are not a physical item like a gun - they act more like stocks in that regard. Any further speculation on R&D is not very helpful as the final result may be completely different.
Neither way. DCs are not items in the traditional sense of everything else. They remain with assigend faction and cannot be given or sold away. Those faction can however assign uses of those DCs to production facilities and stations to allow other factions and people to build from them. But they can recinde those uses at any time before production actually begins.
Only a few people would know that, and thats the people working on it, or who will be working on it. Its best not to ask questions about things like this that aren't implemented yet as many people will just say wait. Nothing in concrete, so what is said one day could be completely wrong the next, depending on what the developers want.